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Cordyceps and Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD): A Meta-Analysis

11/19/2019 12:36:30 PM
Cordyceps sinensis is a rare fungus that grows in high-latitude areas of China. Cordyceps has been shown to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and immunomodulatory effects. Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners have used cordyceps for lung conditions for centuries. Modern capsule preparations of cordyceps in China include Jin Shui Bao and Bai Ling. These products are commonly used to support patients with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).
Numerous clinical trials have evaluated cordyceps in patients with COPD. Two previous systematic reviews reported that cordyceps could improve lung function, exercise ability, quality of life, and arterial partial pressure of oxygen. To add to the literature on cordyceps and COPD, researchers conducted a third systematic review and meta-analysis, which was published in 2019.

Review examines cordyceps for COPD

The review included 14 randomized controlled trials, involving 1192 patients with GOLD stage 2-3 COPD. All studies were conducted in China.  The duration of COPD in all subjects ranged from 5-15 years. The duration of the interventions ranged from 1-12 months.
The intervention in all studies was either cordyceps alone (6 studies) or as part of a formulation with other herbs (8 studies). The control in all studies was either routine Western medicine care (13 studies) or nonpharmacological respiratory therapies (1 study).
Outcome measures included spirometric parameters (FEV1% predicted or FEV1/FVC ratio), six-minute walk distance (6MWD), St. George’s Respiratory Questionnaire (SGRQ) total score, and frequency of exacerbation.

Results find cordyceps helpful for COPD

Results showed that cordyceps increased both FEV1% predicted and FEV1/FVC ratio when combined with Western medicine. Cordyceps alone was more effective at improving spirometric measures than cordyceps in combination with other herbs. Also, improvements in the FEV1/FVC ratio were more apparent in studies that lasted longer than 6 months versus 3 months. 
Cordyceps alone and in combination with other herbs improved the distance walked in 6 minutes by a mean of 45 meters, which is more than the minimum clinically important difference. Scores on the SGRQ improved by 3-6 point with cordyceps alone and in combination, reflecting an improved health-related quality of life. Cordyceps significantly reduced acute exacerbations of COPD by 1-2 episodes per year.
The results of this analysis were consistent with previous reviews. The analysis was unique because it included only randomized controlled trials and evaluated different formulations of cordyceps. The authors concluded that cordyceps could benefit patients with GOLD stage 2 to 3 COPD in terms of exercise tolerance and quality of life, with a potential effect of improving lung function.

Yu X, Mao Y, Shergis JL et al. Effectiveness and Safety of Oral Cordyceps sinensis on Stable COPD of GOLD Stages 2-3: Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2019.