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Last modified on November 24th, 2022
Cordyceps mushroom benefits can be powerful, which is true of many other Chaga mushrooms. While cordyceps and other mushrooms have been used for centuries for their healing powers, we’re just starting to notice these benefits in the modern world. Many of the most exciting cordyceps mushroom benefits are backed by science, as is true of mushrooms like reishi, lion’s mane, and Chaga mushrooms.
What Are Cordyceps Mushrooms?
Cordyceps mushrooms are parasitic fungi that grow on the larvae of insects, which can sound off-putting but is fascinating. When the fungi attack a host, they replace the tissue. They then sprout long, thin stems that grow outside the host’s body. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, the remains have long been hand-collected and dried for sicknesses, fatigue, kidney disease, and low sex drive. Traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine also looked to cordyceps mushrooms to help with improving longevity.
Tibetan herders working at high altitudes often took the fungi to help them with the effects of low oxygen.
In the west, the world first heard about the powerful effects of the cordyceps mushrooms when Chinese female athletes attributed their record-breaking performance to their use of cordyceps supplements.
There are hundreds of discovered species of cordyceps, but two are the most consequential in health research—cordyceps Sinensis and cordyceps militaris.
Cordyceps are believed to support endurance, stamina, and vitality, largely because they have naturally occurring compounds that make oxygen more available in the blood. Some people use them as pre-or post-workout fuel or to power them through busy days.
If you’re an athlete and want a clean energy source, you might find that cordyceps give you that. They’re also recognized for their benefits on mood and cognitive health.
The mushrooms contain amino acids, vitamins, and minerals. They also contain cordycepin and other beneficial bioactive compounds.
Overview of Cordyceps Benefits
Below we go into more specific details about some of the benefits of cordyceps mushrooms, but a brief overview includes:
- Natural energy booster
- Can protect against depression
- May help reduce fatigue
- Can help stimulate the immune system
- Reduced upper respiratory tract infections
- Boosted libido
- Slowed aging process
- May help reduce blood pressure
- Potential cancer protection, especially lung, skin, and blood cancers
- Promote liver health
Research-Backed Cordyceps Mushroom Benefits
The following are some of the cordyceps mushroom benefits backed by various research and studies.
- Boost exercise performance: Cordyceps is believed to boost your production of ATP, which delivers energy to your muscles. The result can be improved oxygen use, especially during exercise.
- Anti-aging benefits: Cordyceps mushroom benefits include anti-aging properties. Studies have found cordyceps increase antioxidants in older mice, improving memory and sexual function. In one study, mice given cordyceps lived several moths more than mice who took a placebo.
- Anti-tumor effects: Researchers believe cordyceps has the potential to inhibit the growth of many types of cancer cells, including skin, colon, lung, and liver. These properties have been demonstrated in test-tube studies. In mice, cordyceps have had anti-tumor effects on lung cancer, melanoma, and lymphoma. There’s also a potential benefit of the mushrooms in reversing the side effects of cancer therapy. For example, some studies have shown that cordyceps helps raise the number of white blood cells someone has when receiving cancer therapy, which otherwise lowers white blood cells and impairs the immune system.
- Type 2 diabetes management: A particular type of sugar in cordyceps may help with fatty liver in a woman. It can potentially keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range by replicating the effects of insulin. In other studies on diabetic mice, cordyceps helped reduce blood sugar levels. There’s evidence these medicinal mushrooms might protect against kidney disease, a common diabetic complication.
- Heart health: Cordyceps are approved in China to treat arrhythmia, where the heart beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly. In a study of rats with kidney disease, cordyceps significantly reduced heart injuries. Injuries from chronic kidney disease are believed to increase the risk of heart failure, so this is important. The reason cordyceps mushroom benefits impact the heart may be because they contain adenosine, which is a natural compound with heart-protective effects.
- Inflammation-fighter: When human cells are exposed to cordyceps, special proteins that vitamin D deficiency and inflammation are suppressed in research.
- Nootropic properties: Cordyceps may boost cognitive performance. In a study on mice, there were statistically significant benefits for learning and reduced memory impairment associated with cordyceps. The mushroom may have neuroprotective properties in the hippocampal region, where dementia is found. Cordyceps contains tryptophan, which is a precursor of serotonin and an amino acid. Tryptophan may help reduce insomnia symptoms.
How to Take Cordyceps Mushrooms
There are some great cordyceps mushroom supplements available. You can find them as a powder, tea, capsule, or tablet. You can also find dried whole cordyceps, which make tinctures and extracts. If you take powdered cordyceps, you can blend them into smoothies and shakes.
Are Cordyceps Mushrooms Safe?
Cordyceps is possibly safe for most people when taking daily doses of three to six grams for up to a year. If you take large doses of cordyceps, it may cause:
- Stomach discomfort
There isn’t enough reliable information to know if cordyceps are safe if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. If you have an autoimmune disease such as multiple sclerosis, lupus, or rheumatoid arthritis, talk to a healthcare provider before taking cordyceps because they could stimulate the immune system more.
If you’re preparing for surgery, cordyceps can increase the risk of bleeding, so stop taking them a few weeks before your procedure.
Top Cordyceps Supplements
Our favorite cordyceps products that we’ve tried include:
- Host Defense Cordyceps Capsules for Energy and Stamina
- Genius Mushrooms with Lions Mane, Cordyceps, and Reishi
- Om Mushroom Superfood Cordyceps Organic Mushroom Powder
- Host Defense Breathe Extract Respiratory Support with Cordyceps, Reishi, and Chaga
- Gaia Cordyceps Mushroom
Cordyceps Mushroom Benefits Frequently Asked Questions
Below are answers to some common questions about the uses and benefits of cordyceps mushrooms.
What does cordyceps mushroom do?
Cordyceps mushroom is used primarily to boost energy and exercise performance. It can also increase oxygen in the body, reduce fatigue, and help with stamina and sexual performance. Certain types of cordyceps may also benefit immunological disorders like cancer, hepatic, renal, and cardiovascular disease.
Is cordyceps good for health?
There is evidence that cordyceps is good for health, vitality, and longevity. Cordyceps has potential biological activities and pharmacological potential. Folk healers use it for asthma, diabetes, cough and cold, nitric oxide, cancer, and more.
Is cordyceps a medicinal mushroom?
Cordyceps is considered a medical mushroom. It has long been used in traditional medicine. Researchers are starting to learn more about the pharmacological benefits of cordyceps, which are similar to conventional medicines. These pharmacological and medicine-like benefits stem from the mushroom’s bioactive polysaccharides and metabolites.
Many natural products have been identified from the fruiting bodies and mycelium of cordyceps. The major chemical constituent is cordycepic acid, and the mushroom contains other vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.
What does cordyceps do for the body?
The following are some of the things cordyceps might do for the body:
- May have anti-fatigue effects
- Increases ATP levels. ATP is a chemical that provides energy to our cells.
- Antiaging effects perhaps because of improved antioxidative enzyme activity
- Improvements in brain function
- Better sexual function (it’s nicknamed Himalayan Viagra)
- Mimics insulin to decrease blood sugar levels
- May improve kidney function
- Could boost the immune system and help the body’s innate ability to combat new diseases
- High in B vitamins and vitamin K
When should cordyceps be taken?
Cordyceps can be taken in the morning or at night. Some people like to take it in the morning to boost their energy throughout the day and improve athletic performance. Since cordyceps can be like an adaptogen, helping balance your body, you might also be able to take it at night, and it can help with sleep. It can also be used as a natural pre-workout.
Does cordyceps raise blood pressure?
Cordyceps likely doesn’t raise blood pressure, which may have the opposite effect, helping to lower it. The cordycepin compound in the mushroom is similar to adenosine. As is true with adenosine, cordycepin may be able to relax blood vessels. When blood vessels are relaxed, it can improve circulation, which lowers blood pressure.
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Phull, Abdul-Rehman, et al. “Cordyceps militaris as a Bio-Functional Food Source: Pharmacological Potential, Anti-Inflammatory Actions, and Related Molecular Mechanisms.” MDPI, 2022. Accessed September 8, 2022.
Stierwalt, Sabrina. “The Scientific Evidence for the Health Benefits of Cordyceps.” Scientific American October 2, 2019. Accessed September 8, 2022.
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Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. “Cordyceps.” February 10, 2022. Accessed September 8, 2022.
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Ashraf, Syed Amir, et al. “Cordycepin for Health and Wellbeing: A Potent Bioactive Metabolite of an Entomopathogenic Medicinal Fungus Cordyceps with Its Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Potential.” NIH National Library of Medicine, June 2020. Accessed September 8, 2022.
Das, Gitishree, et al. “Cordyceps spp: A Review On Its Immune-Stimulatory and Other Biological Potentials.” Frontiers, February 2021. Accessed September 8, 2022.