Have you ever heard of a mushroom that keeps you younger and goes boosts your athletic abilities? Well, you've got one in cordyceps.
While more than 400 species of this mushroom have been discovered, only two have been investigated—Cordyceps Sinensis and Miliatris. In this detailed guide, we explore these two species and show you their full range of benefits and the science backing the benefits. We will go one step further to help you discover whether you should expect any side effects while using the mushrooms.
Keep reading to learn more!
What's Cordyceps Mushroom?
The Cordyceps mushroom is an essential component of traditional Chinese medicine, widely popular for its various health benefits. In scientific studies, the use of Cordyceps mushrooms has shown great promise. Due to this, cordyceps mushrooms have become an active ingredient in many dietary supplements.
Cordyceps mushrooms are also known as Himalayan gold as they grow on the plateaus of the Himalayas and are expensive medicinal mushrooms.
Cordyceps mushrooms behave like a parasite. Growing on the head of Lepidoptera moth caterpillars, extremely common in the Himalayan plateaus, cordyceps feed on the caterpillar’s head. Though not so common, cordyceps may also feed on spiders and insects. The mushroom mummifies the caterpillars, spiders, and insects, forcing them to move to low-growing trees and plants with favorable growing conditions.
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.
Read More: Learn the best time to take Cordyceps supplements.
Instead, the cordyceps powder and supplements are made from an engineered fungal culture that can produce the mushroom's benefits without ever producing the mushroom itself. The fungal culture makes the Cordyceps benefits accessible to more people as it lowers the fungus cost.
Below, we look deeper into the main benefits of cordyceps mushrooms. We will also analyze the scientific research backing these benefits.
Cordyceps Mushroom Benefits: How Does Cordyceps Sinensis & Militaris Benefit Your Health?
The benefits of cordyceps are numerous. The Cordyceps mushrooms can help with:
- Type 2 diabetes
- Improving athletic abilities
- Age-related changes
1. Cordyceps Militaris & Sinensis Fight Inflammation
The anti-inflammatory properties of cordyceps mushrooms(1) are well-known, and it is these properties that increased the popularity of the ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.
Consuming cordyceps mushrooms suppresses different inflammation-producing proteins in the body.
Read More: Can you take Cordyceps before bed to fight inflammation?
The anti-inflammatory or modulatory effects of the mushroom are especially exaggerated in macrophages, special cells in the body's immune system 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.
Due to the cordyceps militaris benefits on inflammation, the cordyceps supplement is widely used in anti-inflammatory supplements. An animal study on mice found that the cordyceps mushroom can reduce inflammation in the bronchial pathways of mice with asthma. This points toward the potential use of cordyceps mushrooms in treating asthma or, at least, managing an asthma attack.
Read More:See how Cordyceps lung benefits improve respiratory health.
Apart from reducing inflammation inside, cordyceps also has topical anti-inflammatory effects.
Using the mushrooms topically can help reduce inflammation in the applied area, as proven by a study 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
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. This improves heart rate and contractility and offers 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 mushroom cordyceps in these mice showed a reduced incidence of heart injuries usually seen with kidney injuries.
Read More:See how Cordyceps improves kidney health.
Mushrooms cordyceps also improve cardiac health indirectly by affecting the levels of triglycerides and harmful cholesterol in the body. In mice, cordyceps mushroom significantly decreased the levels of triglycerides in the bloodstream while also decreasing LDL cholesterol, the bad cholesterol.
3. Helps Lower Blood Pressure
Cordyceps, through a bioactive compound known as cordycepin, helps with blood pressure management. Cordycepin improves heart contractility and blood vessel dilation.
This, in turn, improves blood flow, reducing the pressure on your heart to pump blood throughout the body. Since the heart doesn't have to work too hard, it retains optimal health.
Read More: See how Chaga mushroom treats high blood pressure.
Furthermore, the anti-inflammatory properties of cordyceps mushrooms help lower blood pressure in the body, along with its antioxidants.
4. Cordyceps Mushrooms Enhance Libido
Traditional Chinese medicine has used cordyceps mushrooms to increase libido and improve sexual function. A natural aphrodisiac, cordyceps increases blood flow to the penile region, resulting in an erection. Cordyceps is effective in treating erectile dysfunction.
Read More: See how cordyceps enhances libido.
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.
Using a cordyceps product on diabetic rats significantly improved the epididymal sperm parameter and serum testosterone level. The mushroom also improved the mice's copulatory behavior.
A second research study conducted in 2016(5) showed cordyceps supplementation increased the total sperm number, the percentage of motile sperm cells, and serum testosterone. This resulted in enhanced libido.
Read More: See how Cordyceps increases testosterone production.
5. Blood Sugar Management
Cordyceps supplements have specific sugar components and proteins that mimic the insulin's action in the body. Additionally, cordyceps may help improve insulin sensitivity in people with type 2 diabetes.
Type 2 diabetes mellitus develops due to decreased insulin levels in the body, leading to increased blood sugar in the bloodstream and reduced glucose uptake by cells.
Cordyceps mimics insulin's action in adults with type 2 diabetes, promoting glucose uptake by peripheral cells and lowering blood sugar levels—this helps manage the disease.
In a study on animal models, researchers found that the medicinal mushroom significantly lowered the blood sugar levels in the mice. A similar analysis performed on diabetic mice showed using cordyceps mushroom could reduce the risk of developing complications of diabetes mellitus type 2, such as kidney disease.
Read More: See how Lion's mane fights diabetes.
A review of 22 studies(6) showed that 1,746 people suffering from chronic kidney disease improved their kidney function after consuming supplements containing cordyceps as their primary ingredients. 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.
6. Potential To Fight Tumor Cells
While this vital benefit of cordyceps is still not fully proven, research into the herbs' capabilities shows the mushroom may help treat and protect against tumors.
The anti-tumor properties(7) of the cordyceps mushroom are being studied as they show great promise and can be the next breakthrough in the field of medicine. Cordyceps inhibits the growth of cancer cells(8).
Read More: Learn more about the cordyceps cancer treatment benefits.
The anti-tumor cordyceps extract benefits are mainly of interest concerning specific cancers such as melanoma and lymphomas. Multiple animal studies have shown that cordyceps mushroom has an inhibitory effect on these cancers' growth. Furthermore, the fungus can reverse the side effects of chemotherapy, specifically leukopenia(9).
In a study(10) performed on animal models, cordyceps were given to mice treated with radiation and Taxol, a common chemotherapeutic agent. Leukopenia that developed as a result of the treatment modalities showed a marked improvement after using cordyceps.
7. Increases Athletic Abilities
Cordyceps increases 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 acts as an energy source and improves how the body uses oxygen during exercise and physical training.
Read More: See why more people are using Cordyceps pre-workout.
Scientists and researchers have found that the cordyceps mushroom can help improve tolerance and improve physical performance during high-intensity exercise.
One study involving 30 healthy adult males divided the participants into interventional and placebo groups. The former received 3 mg of a synthetic strain of cordyceps, and the latter received 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, supporting the fungus's use to improve athletic abilities.
Cordyceps also enhances 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 products experienced the most improved lactate clearance. The mushroom improved lactate energy metabolism within the cell, enhancing lactate clearance.
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 could improve lactate clearance when working out.
8. Restores Ageing Associated Changes
Most adults often want an answer to the question, "what does cordyceps do for aging?" In traditional medicine, cordyceps combated the elderly's fatigue and decreased strength.
Researchers now believe these effects may be more than just placebo effects and may arise due to the antioxidant properties of the fungus.
In an animal model study(13), elderly mice received cordyceps, resulting in a drastic improvement in memory and sexual health. These effects resulted from increased antioxidants in the body of the elderly mice.
Aging causes physiological changes worsened by free radicals. Free radicals are components free to take part in harmful chemical reactions in the body. Antioxidants in cordyceps mushrooms fight these free radicals, resulting in an anti-aging effect.
Read More: See how Chaga improves skin health, helping you look younger.
9. Cordyceps Improves The Immune System
Cordyceps mushrooms can boost your immune system, helping your body fight diseases. 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 cordyceps mushroom has a modulatory effect on the gut immune system. A research study published in 2020(15) confirmed that cordyceps mushrooms carry immuno-stimulatory effects.
What Are Cordyceps Side Effects?
While the benefits of cordyceps are numerous and highly vital, you should talk to a health practitioner before taking Cordyceps. Talking to a health professional should help you determine the ideal dosage to give you all the benefits of cordyceps mushrooms without hurting your well-being.
Remember that mushrooms always have fewer side effects than most commonly prescribed drugs. Additionally, Cordyceps mushrooms are generally safe for human consumption and are classified as safe, natural drugs.
However, some infrequent side-effects associated with Cordyceps mushroom are:
- Stomach discomfort
- Dry mouth
- Slow blood clotting (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 infrequent and will only show if you take cordyceps mushrooms if you overdose on the mushroom. Taking an ideal cordyceps dosage can help you avoid these side effects.
How Do I Use Cordyceps Mushrooms?
You can consume cordyceps mushrooms as tea. This is one of the oldest and most traditional methods of incorporating cordyceps mushrooms into your daily life.
You can also take the mushroom as a health supplement in capsule form. 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 for specific immune-suppressed conditions.
You can add a spoonful of Cordyceps mushroom powder to your favorite recipes.
Read More:See our top-rated Lion's mane mushroom 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?
Start with 2 mg of cordyceps as the initial dose and continue with the same maintenance dose if you achieve the expected results. Take the mushroom regularly to receive maximal benefits.
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.
The anti-tumor properties of the fungus are currently of the highest interest in medical research as the compound not only prevents cancer growth but also manages the side effects of cancer treatment.
We've outlined nine science-backed benefits of cordyceps mushrooms, potential side effects, and ways to enjoy the fungus.
Have you tried incorporating cordyceps into your routine? Let us know how you've enjoyed them in the comments below!
- Pharmacological actions of Cordyceps, a prized folk medicine, (1)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16354395/
- 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
- 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/
- 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/
- Review of Naturopathy of Medical Mushroom, Ophiocordyceps Sinensis, in Sexual Dysfunction, (5)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4791983/
- Cordyceps sinensis (a traditional Chinese medicine) for treating chronic kidney disease, (6)https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25519252/
- 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/
- 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/
- Cordyceps sinensis Health Supplement Enhances Recovery from Taxol-Induced Leukopenia, (9)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775070/
- Cordyceps sinensis Health Supplement Enhances Recovery from Taxol-Induced Leukopenia, (10)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775070/
- Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim, (11)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3121254/
- Cordyceps militaris improves tolerance to high intensity exercise after acute and chronic supplementation, (12)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5236007/
- 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/
- Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug, (14)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92758/
- Cordyceps spp.: A Review on Its Immune-Stimulatory and Other Biological Potentials (15)https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7898063/