BACKGROUND: This study aims to test whether Cordyceps sinensis (CS), the most expensive Asian nutrient supplement might stimulate growth of prostate cancer cells. METHODS: Impact of CS on growth of prostate cancer was determined in vivo and in vitro. RESULTS: Firstly, the serum testosterone level was significantly elevated in mice fed CS. Prostate glands were significantly enlarged (weight index 0.53 ± 0.04 mg/g vs. 0.31 ± 0.04 mg/g, P = 0.006). Furthermore, cell viability was increased twofold in the androgen-responsive prostate cancer cell line (VCaP) after CS treatment. This promoting effect disappeared after bicalutamide was added. In addition, serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) in mice bearing VCaP xenografts was significantly elevated (0.66 ± 0.04 ng/ml vs. 0.26 ± 0.06 ng/ml, P < 0.001) after treatment with CS. Finally, VCaP tumors in mice treated with CS grew much faster (479.2 ± 78.74 mm3 vs. 283 ± 58.97 mm3, P = 0.074). However, the above promoting effects of CS were not observed in parallel studies using the PC-3 cell line which lacks AR expression. CONCLUSIONS: These results suggest that CS promotes growth of prostate cancer cells by increasing production of testosterone and stimulating the AR-dependent pathway. Additional studies are required to see whether CS is safely consumed by patients with prostate cancer.