The Ultimate Guide To Cordyceps Mushroom
Mushrooms have been used for health, food, and religious practices since at least 5000 BC. Many ancient healing practices—especially from Eastern cultures—include various species of mushrooms to enhance overall health and well-being. Modern scientific studies are increasingly providing evidence to back up the use of fungi.
Within the large mushroom family, one specific genus has shown great potential for supporting health. This guide will examine the properties of Cordyceps and the potential benefits of incorporating them into a wellness routine. (1, 2)
What Are Cordyceps?
High above the clouds in the Himalayas—at altitudes over 14,700 ft—the unique Cordyceps mushroom can be found. From ancient times, Chinese and Tibetan healers have used this mushroom to support health, believing it to increase the vigor and vitality of those who ingest it.
There are two particularly powerful species of Cordyceps that are most often researched: Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. These fungi contain rich nutrients, including essential amino acids, vitamins B1, B2, B12, and K, and the special compounds adenosine and cordycepin. It’s believed that these last two compounds are what give Cordyceps its most active biological properties. (3)
Cordyceps are prepared in a variety of ways. Traditional Chinese and Tibetan preparations include teas, powders, and infusions. These usually come from hand-collected cordyceps grown naturally in the Himalayas. In recent times, growing these fungi by artificial means has become a common practice in order to prevent overharvesting. A variety of supplements are available, offering the mushrooms whole and dried or in capsule form. (2, 3)
Five Benefits Of Cordyceps
Scientific and anecdotal evidence has been collected that shows Cordyceps have supportive health benefits.
- Cordyceps Has Anti-Aging Properties* - The most potent, active compound in Cordyceps is cordycepin. This--and the included compounds in the mushroom--has been shown to act as an antioxidant and support healthy inflammation levels in the body, neutralizing free radicals. A study in mice showed that these could all contribute to healthy aging when Cordyceps are taken as an extract. (4) Another study on human blood cells showed that Cordyceps sinensis had a marked impact in supporting healthy DNA. When combined with its longtime use in traditional Asian medicine, this evidence is promising. (5)
- Cordyceps Can Support Healthy Inflammation Response* - In scientific studies, Cordyceps has been shown to support healthy inflammation levels in the body. In mice, two additional studies of Cordyceps militaris showed healthy inflammation levels in both the airways and on the skin when applied topically. These results are promising for supporting overall health. (6, 7)
- Cordyceps May Support Heart Health* - Herbalists in China have long used Cordyceps sinensis to promote cardiovascular health. Researchers attribute these positive effects on the heart to adenosine, a key compound contained in Cordyceps. (8) Researchers have also found the cordycepin contained in the fungi helps support healthy cholesterol levels, when administered to hamsters and rats in a clinical study. Because healthy circulation supports a healthy heart, Cordyceps could contribute to balancing heart health. (9)
- Cordyceps Can Help Increase Energy* - Chinese medicine often uses Cordyceps sinensis to support healthy energy levels. Because Cordyceps affects the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body, balanced energy levels have been noted in scientific studies. Additionally, the antioxidant effects of the mushroom may help muscles better recover after exercise, balancing energy levels. (8) In a scientific study conducted on mice, polysaccharide from Cordyceps militaris was administered for 28 days. Afterward, an exhaustive forced swimming test was conducted on the mice. Those who were given the highest concentration of polysaccharide from Cordyceps militaris showed favorable energy levels. (10)
- Cordyceps May Support The Immune System* - The polysaccharides from Cordyceps sinensis have been shown to positively impact immune response. A similar study on mice showed an increase in immune function, such as an increase in white blood cells and better spleen and thymus function. These all show that Cordyceps can help support the immune system to better function. (11, 12)
Should I Take Cordyceps?
As we can see, science and Chinese herbalism backs up a variety of potential benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms. Traditional Chinese Medicine has employed Cordyceps for thousands of years, with little to no adverse reactions or toxicity reported. Current dosage recommendations for humans range from 1,000-3,000 mg. (2)
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Are Cordyceps mushrooms safe to eat?
A: A long history of use in traditional Asian medicine suggests no adverse effects when eating these mushrooms. In Asia, Cordyceps are approved for use in clinical settings. (2, 8)
Q: Where can I buy Cordyceps?
This mushroom is traditionally found high in the Himalayas, carrying an expensive price tag due to its rarity. Thankfully, modern fermentation and cultivation techniques have allowed Cordyceps to be grown commercially in a variety of ways.
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1. Panda AK, Swain KC. Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2011;2(1):9-13.
2. Van De Walle G, MS, RD. 6 benefits of Cordyceps, all backed by science. Healthline.com.
3. Tuli HS, Sandhu SS, Sharma AK. Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin. 3 Biotech. 2014;4(1):1-12.
4. Ji D-B, Ye J, Li C-L, Wang Y-H, Zhao J, Cai S-Q. Antiaging effect of Cordyceps sinensis extract. Phytother Res. 2009;23(1):116-122.
5. Vasiljevic JD, Zivkovic LP, Cabarkapa AM, Bajic VP, Djelic NJ, Spremo-Potparevic BM. Cordyceps sinensis: Genotoxic potential in human peripheral blood cells and antigenotoxic properties against hydrogen peroxide by comet assay. Altern Ther Health Med. 2016;22 Suppl 2:24-31.
6. Hsu C-H, Sun H-L, Sheu J-N, et al. Effects of the immunomodulatory agent Cordyceps militaris on airway inflammation in a mouse asthma model. Pediatr Neonatol. 2008;49(5):171-178.
7. Won S-Y, Park E-H. Anti-inflammatory and related pharmacological activities of cultured mycelia and fruiting bodies of Cordyceps militaris. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005;96(3):555-561.
8. Lin B-Q, Li S-P. Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, eds. Oxidative Stress and Disease. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press; 2011:73-105.
9. Gao J, Lian Z-Q, Zhu P, Zhu H-B. Lipid-lowering effect of cordycepin (3’-deoxyadenosine) from Cordyceps militaris on hyperlipidemic hamsters and rats. Yao Xue Xue Bao. 2011;46(6):669-676.
10. Xu Y-F. Effect of polysaccharide from Cordyceps militaris (ascomycetes) on physical fatigue induced by forced swimming. Int J Med Mushrooms. 2016;18(12):1083-1092.
11. Wang Z-M, Peng X, Lee K-LD, Tang JC-O, Cheung PC-K, Wu J-Y. Structural characterisation and immunomodulatory property of an acidic polysaccharide from mycelial culture of Cordyceps sinensis fungus Cs-HK1. Food Chem. 2011;125(2):637-643.
12. Liu J-Y, Feng C-P, Li X, Chang M-C, Meng J-L, Xu L-J. Immunomodulatory and antioxidative activity of Cordyceps militaris polysaccharides in mice. Int J Biol Macromol. 2016;86:594-598.