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Cordyceps Sinensis vs Militaris: How Do They Differ?
Jan 17, 22
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Author: Sony Sherpa

Cordyceps Sinensis vs Militaris: How Do They Differ?

Cordyceps Sinensis and cordyceps militaris are both types of fungus that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. But how do they differ, and which one is better for you? In this blog post, we'll take a closer look at these two fungi. 

The information in this guide should help you compare the Cordyceps Sinensis benefits against the Cordyceps militaris benefits. By the time you reach the end of this guide, you will know which cordyceps is best when it comes to performance

Cordyceps Medicinal Mushrooms: Two Major Cordyceps Species on Sale

Cordyceps mushrooms have become an important ingredient of many supplements that guarantee an energy boost. The rising popularity of these fungus products is due to their common use in traditional Chinese medicine which is now being supported by scientific evidence. 

While traditional Chinese traditional medicine used what can be considered general cordyceps, modern science has revealed that more than one species of cordyceps exists. 

Today, in the modern world, it is not actual mushrooms that are being used in the supplements, unlike in traditional medicine. People nowadays rely on lab-produced supplements that are usually turned into powders, tinctures, capsules, and much more

The reason why modern cordyceps mushroom products are produced in labs is to reduce the cost of the mushroom. Since actual cordyceps mushrooms are too expensive, lab produced supplements make the benefits of cordyceps accessible to everyone at a more affordable price.   

When people are looking to buy cordyceps militaris, they are often confused when they also come across cordyceps Sinensis for sale. For the first time, these people realize that there is more than one variety of the best cordyceps supplement. 

While there is a difference between cordyceps sinensis and militaris, one thing that stands out is that the two sub-species of the mushroom feature almost similar function. To give you an example, Cordyceps has benefits for cancers—irrespective of whether you leverage the beta-glucans in cordyceps militaris or you take advantage of the ingredients in cordyceps sinensis—are the same. The same case applies to cordyceps pre-workout benefits. 

When it comes to the side effects of the medicinal mushroom, research studies show that the dangers of cordyceps are almost similar in the two subspecies. 

What's more, research indicates that when using Cordyceps and Lion's mane, you can leverage either cordyceps sinensis or cordyceps militaris depending on your preference. The safety and efficacy will be the same when combining the two mushrooms—all you will have to do is use the same Lion's mane dosage.

Many cordyceps enthusiasts are eager to understand who wins in the battle of Cordyceps Sinensis vs militaris and cordyceps mycelium vs Cordyceps Sinensis. In this article, we expand further on the Cordyceps militaris vs Sinensis topic to answer these questions and help you understand each product better. By the time you reach the end of this detailed guide, you should have a deeper and more detailed understanding of the two cordyceps species. 

Types Of Cordyceps: Over 600 Known Species

One of the best medicinal mushrooms, Cordyceps mushrooms—that is, both the cordyceps sinensis species and the cordyceps militaris species—are native to Himalayan plateaus, and other Asian countries such as Vietnam, Nepal, India, Bhutan, Tibet, and Thailand. If you are wondering how many types of cordyceps are there, research articles show there are over 600 species(1) of cordyceps mushrooms. 

Most of these species are entomopathogenic fungi meaning that they grow as parasites on other insects and anthropods. When it comes to cordyceps mushroom cultivation, the Cordyceps species are generally found to grow in humid temperatures, and on the head of other insects, hence, the name cordyceps. Ceps is derived from the Greek word, cephali, meaning head. 

The genus cordyceps has two subgenera, namely, Cordyceps subgen cordyceps, and Cordyceps subgen Cordylia. Two species amongst the 600 species of the cordyceps fungus stand out and are most commonly associated with the many benefits of the parasitic fungus. 

These two species are wild Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. Through the years, wild cordyceps sinensis and militaris have received much more attention compared to the other cordyceps species—this is why the two are the most commonly used. 

Cordyceps Sinensis fungus, since DNA sampling was performed in 2007, is not considered to be a part of the Cordyceps genus. This is because the nuclear DNA of this species was highly variable than other species, resulting in a change in the genus of this specific species. Cordyceps Sinensis has since become Ophiocordiceps Sinensis and is now placed in the Ophiocordycipitaceae family. 

However, this does not mean that the medicinal compounds in cordyceps Sinensis are way too different from what the other species of cordyceps carry—you can still use the cordyceps Sinensis for your dog and expect the dog to get maximum benefits. What's more, you can use the Sinensis cordyceps supplement for yourself and enjoy maximum benefits from the mushroom 

Both Cordyceps Sinensis and cordyceps militaris are called Himalayan gold because of their high price of $9,000 per pound of medicinal mushroom. This is the reason why using actual cordyceps Sinensis or militaris mushrooms in the supplements is not feasible. Moreover, these mushrooms grow as parasites on the head of moth caterpillars and insect larvae, making them unsuitable for vegans

In the following section, we will take a deeper look at how cordyceps sinensis vs militaris differ in different aspects. Taking a deeper look at sinensis vs militaris cordyceps supplements in different perspectives, we should be able to help you choose a form that gives you maximum health benefits. 

Cordyceps Militaris Vs Cordyceps Sinensis

Ophiocordiceps Sinensis (Prev. Cordyceps Sinensis)

Cordyceps Sinensis has become Ophiocordiceps Sinensis, and is made up of two parts; a stroma and a fungal endosclerotium. The latter is inside the caterpillar that the fungus grows out of like a parasite. 

More commonly known as the caterpillar fungus, for obvious reasons, Ophiocordiceps Sinensis is an important part of Chinese herbal medicine. The health benefits associated with the Ophiocordyceps Sinensis are due to the presence of cordycepin in the fungus. 

Wild cordyceps sinensis relies on caterpillars to grow and mature. Often considered the best cordyceps supplement, the Ophiocordiceps Sinensis takes over the ghost caterpillars and mummifies the host while deriving all nutrients from the host body. 

Once the caterpillar is dead and mummified, a thin stalk grows from the host, known as a fruiting body. It is important to note that this cordyceps Sinensis fruiting body is not suitable for human consumption as it contains high amounts of arsenic. 

This specific species is classified as medicinal and is of high importance in Chinese and Tibetan traditional medicine. Due to the cost of the caterpillar and the mushroom, host, and parasite complex, being able to afford its use has been seen as a sign of status in both cultures. 

The growth of Ophiocordiceps Sinensis requires infection of the ghost caterpillar with the spores of the species. The spores are activated by the chemicals on the caterpillar, resulting in the growth of mycelium into the caterpillar. 

However, increased demand and cost for the Ophiocordiceps Sinensis have had researchers looking for a synthetic version of the species. Today, most cordyceps Sinensis supplements are usually produced in a laboratory. 

While it is easy to assume the wild species have more beta glucans or more essential amino acids, surprisingly, the health benefits in both the wild cordyceps sinensis and the lab grown version are similar. 

That is, when you consume a product developed in the lab and one that has mummified a caterpillar in the wild, the active compounds and the bioactive compounds in both versions of the edible fungi will be the same—this will result in the same results for you. 

The synthetic version is created using the mycelium and overuse of this has caused the Ophiocordiceps Sinensis species to be put on the list of endangered species in China. It is worth noting that the best brand cordyceps Sinensis uses high-quality synthetic cordyceps when manufacturing cordyceps products. This means that when you consume the synthetic version, you get the same benefits—or even better benefits—as the wild cordyceps benefits. 

Cordyceps Militaris

Cordyceps Militaris

Cordyceps militaris is an important ingredient in Tibetan traditional medicine. The cordyceps militaris mushroom is considered to be a cheaper alternative to Ophiocordiceps Sinensis as they both have similar benefits. 

Each of them has its specific benefits as well. However, most of the benefits are shared among the species. The shared benefits are because both of them contain cordycepin, an adenosine derivative.

Cordyceps militaris(2) also contains CMP-18 which is the reason why the mushroom cannot be eaten raw. This protein is highly toxic, like the fruiting body of the Ophiocordiceos Sinensis. As the protein is denatured by heat, cooking and eating the fungus does not result in fatality. 

The Cordyceps militaris cultivation involves using silkworm pupae. The orangish-red fruiting body of Cordyceps militaris grows from the silkworm pupae that have been parasitized by the mushroom. The pupae are usually underground, giving the illusion that these mushrooms are growing from the ground.

Much like Ophiocordiceps Sinensis, the host is surrounded by hyphae or mycelium but in the case of Cordyceps militaris, the hyphae are not necessarily those of the latter. More commonly known as Earth tongue, the militaris extract is widely used for its benefits in supplements and traditional medicine  

Benefits Of Cordyceps Mushrooms

Both cordyceps militaris and sinensis are loved for the numerous benefits they carry. And when comparing the cordyceps benefits—whether you are looking at militaris or cordyceps supplement—the benefits are usually almost the same. The benefits of Cordyceps militaris or cordyceps Sinensis are mostly due to the effects of cordycepin, an adenosine derivate in the fungus. 

Adenosine is produced naturally in the human body and is used as an inhibitory neurotransmitter in the brain. Moreover, it is also useful in the production of ATP, the natural energy currency in the body. 

Since adenosine increases the energy levels in the body, and cordycepin is an adenosine derivative, cordyceps militaris or ophiocordyceps sinensis can produce an energy boost which is especially helpful to an athlete’s stamina—this is one of the reasons a lot of people use cordyceps pre-workout

More often than not, people who are involved in athletics often use cordyceps mushrooms. Much like Lion's mane offers pre-workout benefits, cordyceps—both militaris and sinensis—are known to improve athletic performance. 

A recent study performed by scientists in 2020 has credited cordycepin with a lot—almost all—benefits of the mushroom. According to the researchers, the anti-viral, immuno-modulatory, anti-aging, energy-enhancing, and male libido-boosting properties of cordyceps mushrooms are due to the adenosine-like effect of the compound, cordycepin. The fact that both Ophiocordiceos Sinensis and Cordyceps militaris are rich in cordycepin, explains why most of their benefits are also the same. 

Cordyceps has been scientifically proven to help with diabetes. Much like Chaga helps with diabetes, cordyceps has been shown to help with improving blood sugar levels in diabetic people. Research shows that the mushroom features effects that are very similar to those offered by insulin in the human body.

A research study dating back to 2004(3) showed that the mushroom was able to treat high blood sugar levels in diabetic rats. What's more, another research study showed(4) that the mushroom was able to treat chronic kidney disease—which is one of the leading complications of diabetes—in over 1,700 people involved in the study. 

Irrespective of whether you are taking Cordyceps Sinensis or militaris, you will enjoy blood pressure benefits. The mushroom cordyceps helps lower high blood pressure in people suffering from hypertension. In people who do not have hypertension, the mushroom has been shown to prevent a spike in blood pressure. 

Cordyceps has been shown to help with the treatment of different types of cancer. Studies in test tubes have demonstrated that cordyceps can stop the growth of a variety of human cancer cells, including those that cause liver, skin, lung, and colon cancers. Additionally, studies on mice have demonstrated that cordyceps has anti-tumor effects on lung cancer, melanoma, and lymphoma. Much like Chaga mushroom offers cancer benefits, these benefits are produced by both cordyceps militaris and sinensis. 

Both cordyceps militaris and sinensis boast anti-aging effects. A look through history shows that one of the reasons cordyceps was so popular in traditional Chinese medicine is its ability to slow down aging in elderly people.

A powerful antioxidant, the cordyceps fights free radicals, reducing oxidative damage which often contributes to aging. What's more, a top-rated mushroom for brain health, cordyceps slows down memory decline in elderly people. Just like Chaga mushroom has benefits for the skin, cordyceps is also known to keep the skin youthful. 

One research study showed that(5) mice that were given cordyceps lived several months longer than mice that were taking a placebo. Another research study(6) showed that cordyceps extended the lifespan of fruit flies, further supporting that the mushroom has anti-aging benefits. 

The synthetic version of cordyceps has the same benefits as the mushroom without the need for thousands of dollars. The synthetic cordyceps are also vegan, meaning that everyone can enjoy the benefits. 

However, there are specific benefits of both O. Sinensis and C. militaris that can be used to differentiate amongst themselves. 

Cordyceps Sinensis

Cordyceps Sinensis, or more appropriately Ophiocordiceps Sinensis has been found to have a profound effect on male reproduction. According to a functional study(7), O. Sinensis has a stimulatory effect on Leydig cells in the male reproductive system. These cells are responsible for the process of spermatogenesis, hence, increasing the number of sperm and improving fertility. 

In traditional medicine, especially of Chinese origins, Ophiocordiceps Sinensis has been frequently used as a treatment for kidney disease. This has led to researchers studying the effect of parasitic fungus on people with chronic kidney disease(8)

A significant number of participants who had chronic kidney disease, and were not on dialysis, showed a marked reduction in their serum creatinine level after consuming the best cordyceps Sinensis supplement. 

Cordyceps Militaris

Cordyceps militaris is also rich in cordycepin and has several benefits that have made it popular in folk medicine. However, it is the immunomodulatory effects of the fungus that make it stand out in the pharmacological field. 

A study(9) was performed to further understand the immunomodulatory effects of the fungus and determine which aspect of the mushroom was responsible for these effects. The three aspects or extracts the researchers focused on included a total extract, a polysaccharide extract, and an extract containing cordycepin.

According to this study, the total extracts combined with around 70 percent ethanol and cordycepin extracts had immunomodulatory effects on type 2 immunity in the body. Similarly, total extracts combined with either water or 50 percent ethanol and polysaccharides were found to be beneficial against tumors, allergies, and viral infections as they increase the functioning of type 1 immune system. 

This study proved that bioactive compounds of Cordyceps militaris have different effects on the immune system and will drive the immune response towards different immune system types. However, the main point to remember is that this research backs the immunomodulatory effects of cordyceps militaris for which it was used frequently by Tibetans.

Cordyceps militaris has been shown to promote relaxing sleep. A study conducted in 2021(10) revealed that depressive symptoms were reduced for the study subjects who were using Cordyceps militaris. The research study also determined that the symptoms of insomnia reduced over time as a result of cordyceps militaris use. 

Dosage Of Cordyceps Mushrooms

Cordyceps mushrooms are all-natural compounds that have had zero toxicities or adverse effects reported. They are considered safe for human consumption, although it highly depends on the part of the mushroom being consumed. 

To avoid any gastric disturbances, it is recommended that cordyceps consumption begins at an average Cordyceps dosage of 2000mg or 2 grams per day. It can be increased to 3 grams, but that is after the body has gotten used to 2 grams and has proven that it can be tolerated. 

Is Cordyceps Sinensis Good?

Cordyceps Sinensis has several health benefits that make it stand out amongst all species of parasitic fungus. 

What Are The Different Cordyceps Types?

Cordyceps mushrooms have over 600 species of different mushrooms. These mushrooms are all parasitic but the organism they choose as a host may vary. Two important species of cordyceps, although one of them no longer belongs to this genus, are Cordyceps militaris and Ophicordiceps Sinensis.

Final Thoughts

In the battle of cordyceps sinensis vs militaris, the result appears to be a draw as both cordyceps militaris and sinensis have their benefits. As most of these benefits are shared by both the two species, it can be said that neither one is better than the other. 

Economically speaking, cordyceps militaris is cheaper and easier to manufacture on a large scale. So, for those seeking to reap the benefits of cordyceps in a cost-efficient way, cordyceps militaris may be the way to go.

Cordyceps Sinensis and cordyceps militaris mushrooms are both great for your health, but there are a few key differences. How have you tried cordyceps mushrooms? Let us know in the comments!

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  1. The genus Cordyceps: An extensive review of its traditional uses, phytochemistry and pharmacology, (1)  
  2. Medicinal uses of the mushroom Cordyceps militaris: Current state and prospects, (2)  
  3. The anti-hyperglycemic activity of the fruiting body of Cordyceps in diabetic rats induced by nicotinamide and streptozotocin, (3) 
  4. Cordyceps sinensis (a traditional Chinese medicine) for treating chronic kidney disease (4)  
  5. The lifespan-extending effect of Cordyceps sinensis Cs-4 in normal mice and its molecular mechanisms, (5) 
  6. Cordyceps sinensis oral liquid prolongs the lifespan of the fruit fly, Drosophila melanogaster, by inhibiting oxidative stress, (6)  
  7. Functional study of Cordyceps sinensis and cordycepin in male reproduction: A review, (7)  
  8. Cordyceps sinensis (a traditional Chinese medicine) for treating chronic kidney disease, (8)  
  9. Trends in the Immunomodulatory Effects of Cordyceps militaris: Total Extracts, Polysaccharides and Cordycepin, (9)  
  10. Efficacy and Safety of Cordyceps militaris as an Adjuvant to Duloxetine in the Treatment of Insomnia in Patients With Depression: A 6-Week Double- Blind, Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial, (10)

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