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< class="article__title title"> Cordyceps Benefits: 9 Science-Backed Benefits, Side Effects, And Usages>
Cordyceps Benefits: 9 Science-Backed Benefits, Side Effects, And Usages
Jan 10, 22
This article has been vetted by the Onnit Advisory Board. Read more about our editorial process.
Author: Sony Sherpa

Cordyceps Benefits: 9 Science-Backed Benefits, Side Effects, And Usages

Mushrooms are an amazing part of nature. There are so many different types, and they all offer their own set of benefits. If you're not familiar with mushrooms, or if you've only heard about a few types, this post is for you. We'll be discussing the cordyceps mushroom, including its benefits, side effects, and uses. 

This detailed guide will help you discover how using Cordyceps pre-workout boosts your exercise performance. We will let you know whether the compounds in cordyceps can help humans treat diseases. You will know if you use the right cordyceps dosage you will enjoy immunomodulatory, antibacterial, nephroprotective, adaptogenic, and antidepressant benefits. Keep reading to learn more!

What's Cordyceps—Are Cordyceps Benefits Backed by Science?

The Cordyceps mushroom is an important component of traditional Chinese medicine, widely popular for its various health benefits. The cordyceps mushroom benefits are backed by scientific evidence, although most of the cordyceps extract experiments and studies were performed on animal models or in vitro. 

The scientific evidence, however, is vast and the use of the cordyceps mushrooms has shown great promise. Due to this, cordyceps mushroom products, specifically two species of mushrooms—that is Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps Militaris—have become an active ingredient in many dietary supplements. 

If you are still wondering what is cordyceps, you are not alone. In most parts of the world, very few people use this type of mushroom regularly. Cordyceps mushrooms are also known as Himalayan gold as they grow on the plateaus of the Himalayas and are an expensive medicinal mushroom. 

The mushroom usually grows as a parasite on the head of Lepidoptera moth caterpillars that are found naturally in these Himalayan plateaus. Also,cordyceps grows on different insects and spiders, feeding off of the organism and mummifying it in the process. The mushroom then causes these zombie insects and spiders to move to low-growing plants and trees which have the ideal conditions for the fungus to grow. 

Due to the costly nature of the mushroom, it is worth mentioning that the dietary supplements often consumed in the West do not contain cordyceps fungus extract. 

Instead, the cordyceps powder and supplements are made from an engineered fungal culture that can produce the Cordyceps Militaris benefits and Cordyceps Sinensis benefits without ever producing the mushroom itself. It helps increase the cordyceps benefit and performance of the fungi supplements without them costing a lot of money. 

In the following section, we will take a deeper look at the main benefits offered by Cordyceps mushroom—including, hepatoprotective and neuroprotective benefits. Read on to learn more about the role cordyceps played in traditional Chinese medicine

By the time you reach the end of the section below, you will know how Cordyceps and Lion's mane relate and you will also how the mushroom is used in the modern world. 

Cordyceps Mushroom Benefits: How Does Cordyceps Sinensis & Militaris Benefit Your Health?

The benefits of cordyceps are numerous. The Cordyceps mushrooms can help with:

  • Inflammation
  • Asthma
  • Arrhythmia
  • Type 2 diabetes 
  • Cancer
  • Improving athletic abilities 
  • Libido 
  • Age-related changes

1.Mushroom Cordyceps Militaris & Sinensis Fight Inflammation

The anti-inflammatory properties of the cordyceps mushrooms(1) are well-known and it is these properties that increased the popularity of the ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine. 

According to several different studies that have been used to prove that fighting inflammation is one of the cordyceps mushrooms benefits, the consumption of cordycep mushrooms results in the suppression of different inflammation-producing proteins in the body. This helps the mushroom users avoid excessive inflammation, which, in turn, results in better immune functions and a healthier lifestyle. 

The anti-inflammatory or modulatory effects of the mushroom were especially exaggerated in macrophages, special cells in the immune system of the body responsible for finding and engulfing foreign particles. However, a different study found that these effects are not as pronounced as the current anti-inflammatory medications. 

This suggests that fighting inflammation is one of those benefits of cordyceps mushroom that may not be too impactful on people with serious cases of inflammation. However, the medicinal mushrooms can still be used as they also have lesser side effects when compared to any pharmaceutical medication or product designed for use by people with inflammation issues. 

Due to the cordyceps militaris benefits on inflammation, the cordyceps supplement became widely used in anti-inflammatory supplements. In an animal study performed on mice, it was found that the cordiceps mushroom can reduce inflammation in the bronchial pathways of mice with asthma. This points toward the potential use of cordyseps mushrooms in the treatment of asthma or at least, the management of an asthma attack

Apart from reducing inflammation on the inside, the cordyceps benefit also includes topical anti-inflammatory effects. 

Using the mushrooms topically can help reduce inflammation in the applied area as proven by a study performed on animal models(2). The mice studied in the experiment were given a topical dose of cordyceps mushroom for their inflammation and they showed a significant improvement by the end of the study. 

2. Cordyceps Supplements Improve Cardiovascular Health

One of the most vital cordycep benefits is its ability to improve heart health. Natural cordyceps Sinensis and militaris mushrooms are rich in adenosine, a component crucial for proper heart health. The mushroom's nutrients, bioactive compounds, amino acids, etc. can help you avoid heart disease. 

The high adenosine content of the cordyceps mushroom is helpful as the compound dilates blood vessels to ensure proper blood flow through the coronary arteries. In addition to improving proper blood flow, this is one of the few cordyceps health benefits that result in improved heart rate and contractility of the heart, which overall, has a cardioprotective effect on the body(3)

Health authorities in China have approved the use of cordyceps mushrooms for the treatment of arrhythmias due to the effects of the mushroom on cardiac health. These effects are further supported by a study performed on animal models with kidney injury. 

The use of cordycepts mushroom in these mice showed a reduced incidence of heart injuries which are usually seen with kidney injuries. These cardiac injuries usually increase the risk of developing heart failure, hence, it can be concluded that the use of cordycep prevents the development of heart failure in those with chronic kidney disease.

Mushrooms cordyceps also improve cardiac health, indirectly, by affecting the levels of triglycerides and harmful cholesterol in the body. 

In mice, cordyseps mushroom significantly decreased the levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream while also decreasing LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol. Accumulation of both in the blood vessels can decrease the blood flow to the respective organ, resulting in further health complications. 

3. May Help Lower Blood Pressure

The benefits of cordyceps mushrooms also include anti-hypertensive properties. These properties of the medicinal mushroom further promote the cardioprotective properties of the mushroom—they make the cordycep mushroom benefits for heart health even more pronounced. 

When combined with other functional mushrooms—for example, Chaga is used for blood pressure—the mushroom may even offer better results when it comes to blood pressure management. 

In traditional medicine, these health benefits cordyceps provide have been used as a means of lowering blood pressure which is the effect of the compound known as cordycepin. The effects of cordycepin are similar to adenosine, which results in improved contractility of the heart and dilation of the blood vessels. 

This, in turn, helps with better blood flow, which essentially reduces the pressure put on your heart to pump blood throughout the body. Since the heart doesn’t have to work too hard, it retains optimal health. 

Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory properties of the cordyceps mushrooms help lower blood pressure in the body, along with the antioxidants produced with the consumption of the mushroom. 

4. Cordyceps Mushrooms Enhance Libido

The mushroom cordyceps benefits that allow the cordiceps mushroom to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow through the body is what contributes to the aphrodisiac effect of the cordyceps. 

In Chinese medicine, the cordyceps mushroom has been commonly used as a means of increasing libido and improving sexual function. The cordycepts benefits result in increased blood flow with the result being noticed in the penile region—this results in an erection. 

This is why the cordyceps sinensis benefits are also used for the management of erectile dysfunction. As a natural way of managing erectile dysfunction, Cordyceps is usually considered a better solution than using pharmaceutical drugs

In the past, researchers have leveraged studies to look at the benefits of cordyceps on Libido. One such study was conducted in 2021. In the research study(4), the researchers used diabetic rats to study the impact of the mushroom on their libido and copulatory behaviors. 

The research study concluded that the use of a cordyceps product on diabetic rats significantly improved the epididymal sperm parameter and serum testosterone level and, in turn, their copulatory behavior. 

A second research study conducted in 2016(5), showed that cordyceps supplementation increased the total sperm number, the percentage of motile sperm cells, and serum testosterone. This resulted in enhanced libido.  

These studies suggest that much like Lion’s mane improves testosterone, cordyceps may also help with boosting the level of testosterone in men, resulting in better sexual performance. 

5. Beneficial In Blood Sugar Management

Beneficial In Blood Sugar Management

Much like Chaga is used for diabetes, cordyceps also carries numerous benefits for people who are dealing with diabetes. The health benefits of cordyceps play a key role in the management of diabetes and high blood sugar levels. 

Cordyceps supplements have specific sugar components and proteins that mimic the action of insulin in the body. What's more, cordyceps may help improve insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes. 

Type 2 diabetes mellitus develops as a result of decreased levels of insulin in the body which further causes increased blood sugar in the bloodstream and decreased uptake of glucose by cells. 

As one of the organic cordyceps mushroom benefits involves cordyceps mimicking the actions of insulin in adults with type 2 diabetes, it promotes the uptake of glucose by peripheral cells, resulting in significantly low blood sugar levels—this helps with the management of the disease. 

Health research has shown that cordyceps is very effective when it comes to the management of diabetes and other health problems that are closely associated with high blood sugar levels. The mushroom even helps with improved kidney function, which is extremely helpful considering reduced kidney function is often a result of unmanaged blood sugar levels. 

In a study performed on animal models to determine what is cordyceps good for when it comes to diabetes, it was found that the medicinal mushroom significantly lowered the blood sugar levels in the mice. 

A similar study, also performed on animal models (diabetic mice), showed that the use of cordeceps mushroom could also reduce the risk of developing complications of diabetes mellitus type 2, such as kidney disease. This is a result of the cordyceps mushroom helping diabetic people regulate their blood glucose level.  

A review performed on 22 different studies(6) showed that 1,746 people suffering from chronic kidney disease saw a significant improvement in their kidney function after the consumption of supplements containing cordyceps as their primary ingredients. This means that the mushroom can reduce kidney damage caused by out-of-control blood sugar levels. 

Boosting the kidney function of people with diabetes, taking cordyceps mushroom reduces the risk of suffering from chronic renal failure as one of the long-term complications of diabetes. 

When used regularly in a dosage recommended by a professional doctor, the caterpillar fungus can ensure diabetics do not deal with complications over their lifetime—this goes beyond just contrast induced nephropathy to include other complications like diabetic neuropathy, loss of vision, and much more. 

With a reduced risk of contrast induced nephropathy, it means that you would reduce your risk of needing a kidney transplant. Kidney transplants cost over $440,000—this means that by using cordyceps to improve your blood sugar management you could save a lot of money. 

6. Potential To Fight Tumor Cells

While this vital benefit of cordyceps is still not fully proven, research into the herbs' capabilities shows that the mushroom may help with the treatment and protection against tumors. This means that the mushroom may have the ability to fight human cancer cells. 

If combined with other medicinal mushrooms which have shown beneficial impacts when it comes to dealing with tumors—for example, Chaga has been proven effective for Cancer and people have used Reishi for its cancer benefits—cordyceps could even have a better impact on cancer protection. 

The anti-tumor properties(7) of the cordyceps mushroom are being studied currently as they show great promise and can be the next breakthrough in the field of medicine. With the direction that most of the studies are taking, it is becoming clearer that at some point, cordyceps may be used as part of cancer treatment. 

One of the most serious health problems, the ability to treat cancer with a fungus instead of expensive treatment solutions could mean more affordable treatment options that do not carry significant side effects like the modern cancer treatment methods.

Human studies have shown that the cordyceps fungus benefits inhibit or stop the growth of cancer cells in different organs in the body such as the lungs, colon, skin, and liver(8). Protecting the liver from cancer, cordyceps also improves liver function if the liver already has cancer cells. 

In the studies, the cordyceps mushroom supplement benefits on cancer show that the fungus doesn’t just attack one specific type of cancer cells but multiple different types of cancer cells, inhibiting their growth and reducing the incidence of cancer drastically. Whether you are using the fruiting body of the mushroom or you are using the more affordable supplements, you will end up enjoying the same benefits. 

The anti-tumor cordyceps extract benefits are especially of interest concerning specific cancers such as melanoma and lymphomas. Multiple animal studies have shown that the mushroom has an inhibitory effect on the growth of these cancers specifically. Furthermore, the fungus can reverse the side effects of chemotherapy, specifically, leukopenia(9)

If you are still trying to figure out what does cordyceps help with when it comes to fighting cancer, you should note that not only does the mushroom stop the growth of tumors, but it also combats the side effects of the cancer treatment, further increasing the interest in this compound in cancer research. This shows that the cordyceps benefits for cancer can be combined with modern treatment options to generate results faster. 

In a study(10) performed on animal models, cordyceps was given to mice that were treated with radiation and Taxol, a common chemotherapeutic agent. Leukopenia that developed as a result of the treatment modalities showed a marked improvement after the use of cordyceps. 

7. Increases Athletic Abilities

If you are into athletics and are not sure what are the benefits of taking Cordyceps, you should consider taking the fungi for its ability to improve athletic capabilities. Cordyceps mushroom benefits also include increased athletic abilities which are a result of improved endurance. 

The fungus increases the production of adenosine triphosphate or ATP, the energy currency of the human body. This explains the increased energy seen after the use of cordyceps supplements. 

The ATP produced not only acts as the source of energy but also improves the way the body uses oxygen during exercise and physical training. 

Taking Cordyceps pre-workout has a positive effect on the stamina of athletes and bodybuilders, hence explaining the rising popularity of the fungus amongst this population. The mushroom essentially boosts athletic performance and helps with improved lactate energy metabolism.  

Several studies have been performed to show the impact that cordyceps mushrooms have on athletic capabilities and athletic performance. All of these studies have produced very positive results, showing that people using the mushroom before their training had improved athletic performance during their sessions.

Scientists and researchers found that the mushroom can help improve tolerance and improve physical performance during high intensity exercise. 

One interventional study conducted on 30 healthy, adult males to determine the cordyceps capsules benefits divided the participants into two different groups; the interventional group and the placebo group. The former was given 3 mg of a synthetic strain of cordyceps and the latter was given placebo pills, for six weeks. 

The participants were required to use stationary bikes and their VO2, a marker of fitness level was measured. By the end of the study, the interventional group showed a significant increase in VO2 hence supporting the use of the fungus to improve athletic abilities. 

When it comes to athletic performance, cordyceps is also known for its ability to enhance lactate clearance. This benefit of Cordyceps mushroom has been proven using research studies. 

A research study conducted in 2011(11) concluded that the research group given most of the cordyceps product experienced the most improved lactate clearance. Researchers concluded that lactate clearance improved due to improved lactate energy metabolism within the cell.   

Another research study published online in 2016(12) determined that the caterpillar mushroom increases oxygen consumption and blood flow to the liver and skeletal muscles. From these results, the researchers concluded that the mushroom can improve lactate clearance when working out.

The study confirmed that this may allow athletes to maintain a higher intensity of exercise, while the reduction of oxidative stress from high intensity exercise may delay and reduce fatigue.  

8. Restores Ageing Associated Changes

Most adults often want an answer to the question, "what does cordyceps do for aging?" In traditional medicine, fatigue, and decreased strength of the elderly were combated with the use of the cordyceps mushrooms. 

Researchers now believe that these effects may be more than just placebo effects and may arise as a result of the antioxidant properties of the fungus.

In a study performed on animal models(13), elderly mice were given cordyceps which resulted in a drastic improvement in memory and sexual health. These effects were seen as a consequence of increased antioxidants in the body of the elderly mice. 

Aging causes physiological changes that are worsened by free radicals which are components that are free to take part in harmful chemical reactions in the body. Antioxidants in cordyceps mushrooms fight these free radicals and reduce their levels in the body, hence having an anti-aging effect on the body. 

9. Cordyceps Improves the Immune System

Cordyceps mushrooms can boost your immune system, helping your body fight diseases and stay healthy in the long term. This means that by simply leveraging the vitamins, minerals, bioactive compounds, and any other ingredient you get from consuming cordyceps, you can reduce your visits to the doctor. 

Traditional Chinese medicine suggests that the combination of the mushroom's benefits—and the health benefits offered by Lion's mane mushroom and other functional mushrooms—can kick up the body's ability to fight off infections. 

Recently, research has further been used to prove Cordyceps' effectiveness when it comes to boosting the immune system. According to information published in the National Library of Medicine(14), studies have revealed that cordyceps feature positive impacts on both adaptive and innate immunity

What's more, studies have discovered that the mushroom has a modulatory effect on the gut immune system. A research study published in 2020(15) confirmed that the cordyceps mushroom carries immuno-stimulatory effects. 

What Are Cordyceps Side Effects?

What Are Cordyceps Side Effects?

While the benefits of cordyceps are numerous and extremely vital for the health of a human being, you should talk to a health practitioner before taking Cordyceps. It is worth noting that cordyceps mushroom has very minimal side effects—however, a health professional should help you determine the ideal dosage that will give you all the health benefits of cordyceps mushrooms without hurting your well-being. 

Keep in mind that irrespective of the reason you are adding Cordyceps into your diet, the mushroom will always have lesser side effects than most of the commonly prescribed drugs. However, be sure to stop by our detailed guide on cordyceps dangers to see some of the side effects often associated with the mushroom. 

Cordyceps mushrooms are all-natural components of traditional medicine that are widely used for their energy enhancing and memory improving functions.Cordyceps mushrooms are generally safe for human consumption and are classified as safe natural drugs when taken in non-toxic amounts. Some common side-effects associated with the use of Cordyceps mushroom are:

  • Stomach discomfort
  • Constipation 
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth 
  • Slows the clotting of blood (people with bleeding disorders are particularly at risk)
  • May increase the symptoms of autoimmune disease
  • Can increase the levels of sex hormones
  • May decrease blood sugar levels leading to hypoglycemia

These side effects, however, are extremely rare and will only show if cordyceps mushrooms are taken in extremely high dosages. Taking an ideal cordyceps dosage can help you avoid these side effects. 

If you are planning to give cordyceps mushroom to your dog, consider talking to your veterinary first. This should help your dog avoid dealing with the side effects mentioned above. 

How Do I Use Cordyceps Mushrooms?

Cordyceps mushrooms can be consumed in the form of tea. This is one of the oldest and most traditional methods of incorporating the mushroom into your daily life.

The mushroom can also be taken as a health supplement in the form of capsules. For mild to moderate immune support, you can take up to two capsules in the morning and evening. You can increase it to 3 capsules if it is being taken for specific immune-suppressed conditions.

A spoonful of Cordyceps mushroom powder can be added to your favorite recipes.

Cordyceps mushroom is also available as tinctures. You can take 1/3 to 1 dropper daily to enjoy its benefits. The tincture can be taken directly or added to water, tea, coffee, or juice

What Is An Appropriate Cordyceps Dosage?

It is recommended to start with 2 mg of cordyceps as the initial dose and continue with the same dose as a maintenance dose if the expected results are achieved. Taking 2 mg of cordyceps mushrooms regularly is necessary to receive maximal benefits. 

Final Thoughts

Cordyceps mushrooms, also known as Himalayan gold, are the most expensive mushrooms in the world. They are also widely popular due to their medical benefits, all of which are backed by scientific evidence in the form of animal and in vitro studies. 

The anti-tumor properties of the fungus are currently of the highest interest in the field of medical research as the compound not only prevents cancer growth but also manages the side effects of the treatment of cancer. 

Given its safety and lack of reported toxicities, the use of the medicinal mushroom as a dietary supplement is also widely supported. However, it is important to not cross the daily limit of 3000 mg when consuming the supplements.

We’ve outlined nine science-backed benefits of cordyceps mushrooms, as well as some potential side effects and ways to enjoy them. Have you tried incorporating cordyceps into your routine? Let us know how you’ve enjoyed them in the comments below!

We Would Love To Hear Your Comments Leave A Comment

References

  1. Pharmacological actions of Cordyceps, a prized folk medicine,  (1)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16354395/
  2. Anti-inflammatory and related pharmacological activities of cultured mycelia and fruiting bodies of Cordyceps militaris, (2)https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0378874104005148?via%3Dihub  
  3. Cardiovascular Protection and Antioxidant Activity of the Extracts from the Mycelia of Cordyceps Sinensis Act Partially Via Adenosine Receptors, (3)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23192916/
  4. A study of the aphrodisiac properties of Cordyceps militaris in streptozotocin-induced diabetic male rats, (4)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7994127/
  5. Review of Naturopathy of Medical Mushroom, Ophiocordyceps Sinensis, in Sexual Dysfunction,  (5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791983/
  6. Cordyceps sinensis (a traditional Chinese medicine) for treating chronic kidney disease, (6)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25519252/
  7. Cordyceps militaris (L.) Link Fruiting Body Reduces the Growth of a Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cell Line by Increasing Cellular Levels of p53 and p21, (7)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26263965/
  8. Cardiovascular protection and antioxidant activity of the extracts from the mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis act partially via adenosine receptors, (8)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23192916/
  9. Cordyceps sinensis Health Supplement Enhances Recovery from Taxol-Induced Leukopenia, (9)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775070/
  10. Cordyceps sinensis Health Supplement Enhances Recovery from Taxol-Induced Leukopenia, (10)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775070/
  11. Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim, (11)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3121254/
  12. Cordyceps militaris improves tolerance to high intensity exercise after acute and chronic supplementation, (12)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5236007/ 
  13. Effects of Cultured Cordycep militaris on Sexual Performance and Erectile Function in Streptozotocin-Induced Diabetic Male Rats, (13)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7683110/
  14. Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug, (14)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92758/
  15. Cordyceps spp.: A Review on Its Immune-Stimulatory and Other Biological Potentials (15)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7898063/
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