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Cordyceps Mushrooms: Unveiling History, Benefits, Dosage

Today, we're embarking on a fascinating journey into the world of Cordyceps mushrooms, a topic that has been gaining considerable attention in health and wellness. 


Cordyceps mushrooms, often called "nature's miracle," are fungi used for centuries in traditional medicine, particularly in Asia. 


Recently, they've been making waves in the West thanks to a growing body of scientific research highlighting their potential health benefits.


In this comprehensive guide, we'll delve into the intriguing history of Cordyceps, explore the Science behind their health benefits, and provide practical advice on dosing and usage.


Whether you're a health enthusiast looking to expand your knowledge or someone curious about natural remedies, this guide is designed to provide valuable insights into the world of Cordyceps mushrooms.


So, please sit back, relax, and join us as we unravel the mysteries of Cordyceps mushrooms, a truly remarkable gift from nature.



1. History of Cordyceps Mushrooms


Cordyceps mushrooms have a long history of use, particularly in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine. Here's a brief overview:


1. Ancient Use: The use of Cordyceps dates back to ancient China and Tibet, where it was used for a variety of medicinal purposes. It was highly valued for its potential to improve energy, appetite, stamina, and sleeping patterns.


2. Discovery in the West: Cordyceps came to the Western world's attention during a track and field event in Beijing in 1993. The Chinese women's track and field team broke multiple world records, and their coach attributed their success to a diet that included Cordyceps.

3. Modern Research and Use: In recent years, Cordyceps has been the subject of numerous scientific studies exploring its potential health benefits. These studies have found that Cordyceps may have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-tumour effects. It's also being studied for its potential to improve kidney health and balance the immune system.


Cordyceps Mushrooms on a table 


2. What are Cordyceps Mushrooms?


Cordyceps mushrooms, often referred to as "caterpillar fungus," are a unique and fascinating variety of mushrooms known for their peculiar growth habits and potent medicinal benefits. 


Unlike most other types of fungi, Cordyceps are entomopathogenic, meaning they grow and derive nutrients from insects. 


The lifecycle of these mushrooms begins when their spores infect an insect host, gradually consuming it from the inside out before sprouting a long, slender fruiting body from the insect's carcass. This fruiting body is the part of the Cordyceps mushroom that we typically see and use.


This genus of fungi contains over 400 different species, each with distinct characteristics and host preferences.


However, two particular types of Cordyceps – Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris – are most commonly recognized for their medicinal uses.


 1. Cordyceps Sinensis: The most well-known species of Cordyceps, Cordyceps sinensis is native to the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. It is famous for its use in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine, where it has been valued for centuries for its potential to improve stamina, lung capacity, and kidney function. It typically grows on the larvae of the Hepialidae family, earning it the name "caterpillar fungus."


 2. Cordyceps Militaris: Cordyceps militaris is another highly sought-after species of Cordyceps, known for its bright orange colour. Unlike Cordyceps Sinensis, Cordyceps militaris is easier to cultivate, making it a more accessible and sustainable source of the beneficial compounds found in Cordyceps. It has a broad host range and can parasitize various insects, but it is commonly found on pupae and larvae of lepidopteran species.


The fascination with Cordyceps mushrooms extends beyond their unique biology. These fungi are rich in bioactive compounds like cordycepin, polysaccharides, and ergosterol, which have been linked to various potential health benefits. From boosting immune function to enhancing athletic performance, Cordyceps mushrooms remain a subject of scientific research and growing popularity in natural health and wellness.


Cordyceps Mushrooms on plate 



3. The Science Behind Cordyceps Mushrooms


Cordyceps mushrooms contain various bioactive compounds, including cordycepin, polysaccharides, sterols, proteins, amino acids, and polypeptides.1


  • Cordycepin is a well-known compound with broad-spectrum biological activity, including anti-bacterial, anti-fungal, and larvicidal properties2


  • Polysaccharides are another significant component of Cordyceps, contributing to their pharmacological properties1


  • These polysaccharides can be intracellular or extracellular and have been shown to possess antitumor properties3


  • Cordyceps mushrooms have been the subject of numerous studies focusing on their potential health benefits. Some of the most researched species include Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps militaris4


  • Research has shown that Cordyceps may have immune-stimulatory, antitumor, anti-metastatic, antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, insecticidal, antimicrobial, hypolipidemic, hypoglycemic, anti-aging, neuroprotective, and renoprotective effects5


  • In test-tube studies, Cordyceps have been shown to inhibit the growth of various human cancer cells, including lung, colon, skin, and liver cancers4


  • Cordyceps polysaccharides have also demonstrated antitumor properties3


  • Additionally, cordycepin has been found to have immunomodulatory effects6


Health benefits backed by Science


1. Improved physical performance: Cordyceps have been shown to enhance physical performance in some studies5 


2. Antitumor effects: Cordyceps have demonstrated antitumor effects in test-tube studies, inhibiting the growth of various human cancer cells4


3. Anti-inflammatory properties: Cordyceps have been shown to reduce inflammation7


4. Blood sugar control: Cordyceps may help control blood sugar levels and improve insulin resistance8 


5.Heart health: Cordyceps have been found to have cardioprotective functions, potentially enhancing fitness capacity through improved heart health and circulation9 


6. Immune system support: Cordyceps have been shown to have immunomodulatory effects, which can help support the immune system6


It is important to note that much of the research on Cordyceps is limited to animal or lab studies, and more research is needed to draw conclusions about their effects on humans4


However, the existing evidence suggests that Cordyceps mushrooms may offer a range of potential health benefits.


Cordyceps Mushrooms in a pile



4. Health Benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms


Over the years, Cordyceps mushrooms have been increasingly studied for their potential health benefits. As a result, several advantages have been documented, supported by an array of scientific studies.


1. Fighting Muscle Fatigue


One of the critical benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms is their potential to combat muscle fatigue. A study involving Cordyceps Militaris demonstrated its anti-fatigue effects in mice. In this experiment, the mice underwent forced swimming and running tests. The mice treated with Cordyceps showed an increase in ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) levels, a chemical that provides energy to our cells for actions like muscle contraction. Additionally, the treated mice had lower levels of lactic acid than untreated mice, suggesting better endurance and recovery from physical exertion​1​.


 2. Enhancing Athletic Performance


Several studies involving non-athlete participants showed a slight increase in VO2 max for individuals taking Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris supplements over those taking a placebo. VO2 max is a measure of how efficiently the body delivers oxygen to the muscles, which the muscles can then use to produce energy. This increased efficiency potentially leads to improved athletic performance, enhancing endurance and stamina​1​.


 3. Anti-aging Properties


Research has also indicated that Cordyceps mushrooms may have anti-aging effects. In studies involving mice tested for learning and memory, taking extracts of Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris improved brain function. Furthermore, these extracts boost antioxidative enzyme activity, which can help combat cell damage typically associated with aging. Interestingly, the same extract was found to improve sexual function in castrated rats, earning the fungus the nickname "Himalayan Viagra"​1​.


 4. Management of Type 2 Diabetes


Cordyceps mushrooms might also play a role in the management of Type 2 Diabetes. For people with diabetes, the body struggles with making or using insulin, leading to excess sugar in the blood. Several studies involving mice have shown that taking Cordyceps supplements can act similarly to insulin, helping decrease blood sugar levels. Some mice even showed improved kidney function, an issue often accompanying diabetes​1​.


It's important to note that while these studies provide good insights into the potential health benefits of Cordyceps, many of the studies have been conducted on animals, primarily mice. Therefore, more research is needed to understand how these benefits might translate to humans.



5. Dosing and Usage of Cordyceps Mushrooms


Cordyceps mushrooms are available in different forms, including powder, capsules, and tincture. The recommended dosage of Cordyceps is 1,000-3,000mg per day, which is associated with providing health benefits without causing any side effects.12


Some experts recommend starting with a moderate dose of 2g (2000mg) per day and doubling it up for the first two weeks to allow your body to more quickly adapt to the supplement. 2


The best time to take Cordyceps is in the morning, as it can provide an energy boost and enhance stamina.1 3


You can also take it before working out as a performance enhancer if you work out in the morning or afternoon. It is not recommended to take Cordyceps before bed, as it may interfere with sleep.1 3


Cordyceps is available in different forms, including powder, capsules, and tincture. The powder can be added to smoothies, coffee, or tea, while capsules and tinctures can be taken orally with water.4 3 5


Cordyceps can also be used to make tea by steeping dried Cordyceps mushrooms in hot water for several minutes. 6


Remember that Cordyceps is not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women, and it is best to avoid using Cordyceps if you have bleeding disorders or are scheduled for surgery. 7


Overall, Cordyceps is a safe supplement with many potential health benefits. If you want to give Cordyceps a try, start with a moderate dose and take it in the morning or before working out.


Cordyceps Mushrooms in a picture



6. Potential Side Effects and Precautions


Cordyceps, a type of fungus, is generally considered safe for human consumption. It's used in over 50 medications and two dietary supplements approved by China's National Medical Products Administration.


It's not thought to be toxic to humans and is often used as a dietary supplement. However, there are some potential risks and precautions to be aware of:


 1. Mycotoxins and Arsenic: There is a possibility that cordyceps could contain mycotoxins, toxins that grow on fungi. There is also a concern that wild cordyceps could contain some levels of arsenic, a natural metal that can be harmful when too much is consumed. More safety studies are needed to ascertain the validity of these concerns​1​.


 2. Medication Interactions: Certain medications may interact with cordyceps. For instance, it has been shown in animal studies to lower blood sugar levels, so combining it with antidiabetic medications like metformin could potentially cause blood sugar to drop too low, resulting in hypoglycemia. Additionally, taking cordyceps with blood thinners and other anti-thrombotic drugs could lower the efficacy of these medications or increase the risk of bleeding. However, these interactions have only been reported in lab studies, not in humans. Human trials are needed to confirm these potential interactions​1​.


As for who should avoid cordyceps, I couldn't find specific information.


However, given the potential risks outlined above, individuals with certain medical conditions (like diabetes), those on certain medications (like blood thinners), or those with a known allergy to fungi might be advised to avoid it. 


Always consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement.



7. How to Choose Quality Cordyceps Products


If you're interested in incorporating cordyceps into your wellness routine, here are some factors to consider when choosing quality cordyceps products. 


Extraction Method


The extraction method used to obtain cordyceps from the mushroom can affect the quality and purity of the final product. Hot water extraction is the most widely used method for obtaining cordyceps polysaccharides, which are the primary active compounds in cordyceps.2

Other extraction methods, such as ethanol and water extraction, have also been used to obtain cordycepin, another active compound in cordyceps. 3


Brand Reputation


Consider purchasing products from branded and reliable manufacturers that have strict standards for the content of their products. 4




Choose certified organic products to ensure they are free from harmful chemicals and pesticides. Organic cordyceps is much more potent than wild cordyceps.5


Third-Party Testing


Look for products that have been third-party tested and DNA-certified through independent testing to ensure their quality and potency. 6


Recommended Brands/Products


 1. Real Mushrooms Cordyceps-M: This is the best overall cordyceps supplement according to SET FOR SET5It is made from 100% organic cordyceps mushroom extract powder and capsules.


2. Nootropics Depot Cordyceps: This is the runner-up best cordyceps supplement according to SET FOR SET5It is made from 100% organic cordyceps mushroom extract powder and capsules.


4. BulkSupplements Cordyceps Powder: This is the best cordyceps powder supplement according to SET FOR SET 5It is made from 100% pure cordyceps mushroom extract powder. 


6. Om Mushroom Superfood Cordyceps Organic Mushroom Powder: This is a vegan-friendly option made from certified organic cordyceps mycelial biomass and fruit body. 7


7. La Republica USDA Organic Cordyceps Powder: This is a dried cordyceps product recommended by DoubleBlind. 8


When choosing quality cordyceps products, consider the extraction method, brand reputation, organic certification, third-party testing, and recommended brands/products. 

We have our own vetted products on our mushroom collectionpage here. 


Cordyceps Mushrooms growing



8. Incorporating Cordyceps into Your Lifestyle


There are numerous creative ways to incorporate cordyceps into your lifestyle. Let's explore some of them.


Culinary Adventures with Cordyceps


Cordyceps Tea: One of the easiest and most common ways to consume cordyceps is in the form of tea. All you need is some cordyceps powder (or dried cordyceps if you can find them), hot water, and a bit of honey or lemon to taste. Steep the cordyceps in boiling water for 10 minutes, strain, add your preferred flavourings, and sip away!



Cordyceps Smoothie: If you want to add a nutritional punch to your morning smoothie, look no further. Add a teaspoon of cordyceps powder to your favourite smoothie recipe. Cordyceps can blend seamlessly into your routine, whether a green detox smoothie or a protein-packed post-workout drink.



Cordyceps Soup: In Chinese cuisine, cordyceps is often used in soups for its medicinal properties. Simmer cordyceps with chicken or vegetable broth, add your favourite veggies, herbs, and spices, and you have a nourishing and healing meal.



Cordyceps Energy Balls:

  1. For an on-the-go snack, try making energy balls with cordyceps.
  2. Mix oats, nut butter, honey, and a sprinkle of cordyceps powder.
  3. Roll into bite-sized balls and refrigerate.


Perfect for a quick pre or post-workout snack!


Personal Stories and Case Studies


Story 1: Sarah, a long-distance runner, sought a natural way to enhance her performance and stumbled upon cordyceps. After incorporating cordyceps tea into her daily routine, she noticed a considerable improvement in her stamina and recovery time. Inspired by her positive experience, she started making post-run smoothies with cordyceps, adding an extra health boost to her training regimen.


Case Study: A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine examined the effects of cordyceps on exercise performance. The participants who were supplemented with cordyceps showed significant improvements in their VO2 max (a measure of cardiovascular fitness) compared to the placebo group. This study reinforces the anecdotal evidence that cordyceps can enhance athletic performance.


Everyone's body responds differently to new supplements, so starting with small doses and monitoring your body's reaction is important.


Also, it's crucial to consult with a healthcare provider before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have underlying health conditions or are taking other medications.


Incorporating cordyceps into your lifestyle can open a new world of culinary adventures and health benefits. So why not give it a try and see how it works for you?



9. Conclusion 


As we draw this exploration of Cordyceps mushrooms to a close, it's essential to look back and take note of the key points we've covered. Cordyceps, a genus of parasitic fungi, are a fascinating group of species that captivate us with their unique life cycles and potential health benefits. They have long been recognized in traditional medicine, particularly in China and Tibet, and now are gaining global attention due to ongoing scientific research.


We delved into their intriguing biology, discussing the unusual life cycle where they parasitize insects and other arthropods. We also explored the different types of Cordyceps species, each with distinct characteristics and host preferences. This is a testament to the remarkable diversity within this group of fungi.


We also highlighted the potential health benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms. From boosting the immune system, and improving respiratory health, to potentially enhancing athletic performance, Cordyceps mushrooms are widely recognized for their medicinal properties. 


However, it's important to remember that while preliminary studies have shown promise, more research is needed to understand their effects and potential side effects fully.


There's so much more to learn about these fascinating organisms. Cordyceps mushrooms remind us of the incredible complexity and wonder of the natural world. They demonstrate the intricate relationships between different species and offer us potential benefits we are beginning to understand.  


Together, we can deepen our knowledge and appreciation of the remarkable world of Cordyceps mushrooms. Grab some today! 


Inner Atlas Cordycep Mushrooms