Benefits of Cordyceps
is a type of medicinal mushroom said to offer antioxidant
Long used in traditional
cordyceps is available in the United States as a dietary supplement.
are 400 species of cordyceps, most of which are native to Bhutan,
China, Korea, Nepal, Thailand, and Vietnam. The most well-known
medicinal species is Cordyceps
known officially as Ophiocordyceps
The mushroom has a long, finger-like body and is usually a brown or
valued is wild cordyceps in China that a kilogram often costs in
excess of $20,000. Most supplements today are made from an engineered
fungal culture that has the biological characteristics of C.
cannot produce the mushroom itself.
is often referred to as the caterpillar fungus because of its thin,
tubular shape. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is called dong
chong xia ca.
alternative medicine, cordyceps is often touted as a natural energy
booster. Proponents also claim that cordyceps can protect against
health problems like asthma, depression, diabetes, fatigue, high
cholesterol, and upper respiratory tract infections.
is also purported to boost athletic performance, a claim that grabbed
headlines in 1993 when Chinese track and field athletes shattered
multiple world records, a feat their coach attributed to C.
herbalists also believe that cordyceps can boost libido, slow the
aging process, and protect against cancer. Few of these claims are
strongly supported by research.
far, research into the performance-enhancing effects of cordyceps has
yielded mixed results.
in the Journal
of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, a daily
cordyceps supplement appeared to improve exercise performance, albeit
modestly, in a small group of older adults, ages 50 to 75.
a 2016 study from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
showed that daily cordyceps supplementation gradually increased the
maximum oxygen intake (VO2 max) in young adults after three weeks.2
it didn't change was the time to exhaustion (TTE) or the stage in
exercise when breathing becomes labored (ventilatory threshold).
short, an improvement in oxygen consumption didn't translate to
improved performance. It is unclear whether long-term supplementation
might further improve upon these results.
has long been used as a traditional treatment for diabetes
China. While there are few quality studies investigating these
effects in humans, several animal studies have been conducted,
usually with disappointing or inconclusive results.
Taiwan reported that a four-week course of a cordyceps extract was
able to improve cholesterol levels and reduce weight in diabetic mice
but did nothing to alter blood sugar levels or improve insulin
this, the researchers suggested that the benefits of weight loss in
controlling diabetes may be significant. Moreover, an improved
cholesterol profile is generally associated with increased insulin
are believed to have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant
effects, both of which may help prevent or treat high blood pressure
Many of these benefits have been attributed to a compound known as
cordycepin, which is similar in molecular composition to adenosine.
Like adenosine, cordycepin appears able to relax blood vessels,
improving circulation and lowering blood pressure.
same benefits may be extended to the respiratory tract, according to
a 2017 study from China.
taken daily, a cordyceps extract appears to relax airway constriction
and improve quality of life measures in people with moderate to
studies suggest that cordyceps may offer protection against certain
types of cancer.
to a 2008
in the Journal
of Microbiology and Biotechnology, a cordyceps
extract was able to trigger apoptosis (cell death) in breast cancer
cells in test tube studies.
results have been seen with colon cancer cells. The cordycepins in
the cordyceps mushroom also appear to be toxic to leukemia cells
is considered safe for short-term use. Some users may experience mild
side effects, including stomach ache, nausea, diarrhea, or dry
typically resolve once the treatment is stopped. Other have reported
a lingering metallic taste after using a cordyceps product, which may
take longer to resolve.
its relative safety, the action of the herbal medication is poorly
understood and may cause problems in certain users. If you are
allergic to molds
you will likely be allergic to cordyceps and should steer well clear
need to avoid cordyceps as the combined use may result in an extreme
drop in blood sugar (hypoglycemia).
with bleeding disorders or who take anticoagulants
thinners") or anti-clotting drugs may need to avoid cordyceps as
well. Taking them together may increase the risk of bleeding or easy
also applies if you are scheduled to undergo surgery. You would need
to stop taking cordyceps at least two weeks beforehand to prevent
is known about the long-term safety of taking cordyceps. While the
supplements are assumed to be safe, there remain concerns about the
general safety of imported traditional Chinese medications.
to the lack of research, cordyceps products of any sort should not be
used in children, pregnant women, or nursing mothers.
the United States, cordyceps is usually available in capsule, tablet,
or powder formulations. Dried whole mushrooms can often be found
online, although you can't always be sure if you're getting C.
a related cordyceps species.
whole cordyceps are often used to make tinctures and extracts, while
powdered cordyceps can be blended into smoothies and protein shakes
or brewed into tea.
are no universal guidelines for the appropriate use of cordyceps or
cordyceps supplements. As a rule of thumb, never use more than the
recommended dosage on the product label. If you develop any unusual
symptoms after consuming cordyceps, stop and let your doctor know. Be
sure to keep the product packaging to show the doctor.