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Abstract

Cordyceps species, including C. sinensis, C. militaris, C. pruinosa and C. ophioglossoides, are prized traditional medicinal materials. The aim of this article is to review the chemical constituents and pharmacological actions of Cordyceps species. The chemical constituents include cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine) and its derivatives, ergosterol, polysaccharides, a glycoprotein and peptides containing α-aminoisobutyric acid. They include anti-tumour, anti-metastatic, immunomodulatory, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, insecticidal, antimicrobial, hypolipidaemic, hypoglycaemic, anti-ageing, neuroprotective and renoprotective effects. Polysaccharide accounts for the anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumour, anti-metastatic, immunomodulatory, hypoglycaemic, steroidogenic and hypolipidaemic effects. Cordycepin contributes to the anti-tumour, insecticidal and antibacterial activity. Ergosterol exhibits anti-tumour and immunomodulatory activity. A DNase has been characterized.