8 Surprising Cordyceps Mushroom Benefits (From A Nutritionist)
Cordyceps mushrooms are great for boosting immunity, preventing cancer, and improving exercise performance.
As a health coach and personal trainer – and someone who loves researching – I take these mushrooms personally and absolutely love the boost it gives me.
And yes, the research backs it (that’s what we’re going to go through in this article).
After you read this content, you will have the answers to these questions (and more), and you’ll be the cordyceps expert among your friends:
-What exactly are cordyceps mushrooms, and what are the different types of cordyceps mushrooms?
-What are the benefits of cordyceps mushrooms?
-How do I take cordyceps?
Let’s jump on in and see what the research has to say about these fascinating mushrooms!
What are Cordyceps Mushrooms?
Mushrooms have been used within traditional medicine for thousands of years, and the cordyceps variety is no different. With history dating back to usage in Asia and Europe, cordyceps comes from the Latin words “cord” and “ceps”, meaning cord and head.
There are between 400-600 documented species of cordyceps all over the world, and most of them are located in Asia, particularly in the Himalayans. Although we might hear about cordyceps mushrooms often, there are two distinct types that are more prominently a focus: this includes cordyceps sinensis, and cordyceps militaris.
Both of these types of cordyceps mushrooms are also known as medical mushrooms, and have been noted to provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties to the body.
Cordyceps sinesis is very difficult to find in a natural habitat; so difficult (and rare) in fact, that it can often be sold for upwards of $20,000 or more – making it one of the most expensive mushrooms on the whole planet – while cordyceps militaris is much easier (and cheaper) to obtain. Wild cordyceps mushrooms of the cordyceps sinesis variety typically look like a caterpillar, with a shape similar to a finger or a tube, and will not be present in a cordyceps supplement.
Cordyceps militaris have a similar biological makeup as the cordyceps sinesis version, but the cordyceps militaris are much easier to grow and harvest – making them the top choice for things like supplements, extracts, and powders.
Although wild cordyceps mushrooms can still be difficult to get, commercial use and emerging research has made these mushrooms some of the top contenders for natural medicine in the modern world today. Studies have shown us that several different areas of health can be positively impacted by cordyceps mushrooms (think, antimicrobial and anticancer, just to name a few), although research still needs to continue.
Let’s take a look at eight of the top 8 benefits of cordyceps mushrooms!
Benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms
Boosting Exercise Performance
One of the biggest benefits for cordyceps mushroom consumption is the increase in overall performance when it comes to physical exercise and conditioning.
Cordyceps have apparently been used in sporting events since the mid-90’s…. specifically, in 1993, when female runners broke multiple world records for running at the National Games in China. Running records for the 1500-, 3000-, and 10,000-meter races were broken, and all runners were have said to have eaten cordyceps mushrooms as part of their daily routine.
In the scientific realm, one study from The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine noticed that after 12 weeks of supplementing with cordyceps mushrooms, elderly participants improved both their metabolic baseline as well as their ventilatory threshold! This is amazing research, seeing as how the participants who were using the placebo noticed no difference in their VO2max over the course of the 3-month study. (1)
Another study done with younger individuals observed similar exercise factors; VO2max, ventilatory threshold, and the time it took the individuals to reach their fatigue level were all recorded and observed.
After supplementing with cordyceps mushrooms for 3 weeks, participants noted improvements in the above listed areas of fitness – showing us that this mushroom is able to give greater benefits within the realm of high intensity exercise (although more research will need to be done to see if these reactions remain the same over a longer period of time). (8)
Although more research needs to be done in this area, it seems promising that cordyceps mushrooms can help lower oxidative stress within the body – and this might not seem like much, but there appears to be a relationship between stress levels and oxidation! (2)
This can also be positive news since cordyceps mushrooms have been found to be adaptogens, which essentially allow the body to adapt to stressors more smoothly over time. That’s wonderful news, if our bodies can learn to be more resilient to stress!
Seeing as how cancer is one of the top causes of death throughout the entire world, placing a focus in this area for cures is critical. Thankfully, there is some research that might point in a positive direction in regards to cordyceps mushrooms and their anti-tumor effects.
While the majority of these studies are done with mice, the information gained is incredible – for instance, cordyceps mushrooms have been noted to have cytotoxic activity against cancer cells (layman terms, they essentialdly can promote cell death, which is what we’re looking for in regards to curing cancer) – and have also displayed this ability in melanoma tumor cells, lymphocytic tumor cells, and even colorectal tumor cells. (5)
More research will need to be done, but it appears that cordyceps mushrooms could be a gateway to improving health in this realm!
Managing Blood Sugar Levels
Honestly, so little research has been done in regards to the effect cordyceps mushrooms have on metabolic diseases such as diabetes; however, a study done using diabetic rats shows some potential benefits!
Within the study, these diabetic rats were given a dose of cordyceps over the course of a month; improvements were shown not only in their weight, but also with a decrease in their hyperglycemia – and although this was a study done on animals, it proves to be promising for humans as well! (3)
Interestingly enough, another animal study was done with rats who experienced damage to their reproductive system due to BPA (note, this is a chemical that is in a ton of food and health products that we use on the daily, and can be found in electronics, canned food products, toiletries, and items that are sealed or packaged in plastic). These BPA injected rats were then treated with doses of cordyceps militaris, and re-evaluated after four weeks. (4)
At the end of the study, it was determined that the cordyceps mushrooms decreased the damage that was done to the rats’ reproductive systems – not only by increasing their sperm count, but improving testosterone levels within their bodies as well. (4)
Again, a study done with rats…. however, promising information that could possibly be used to combat BPA damage, as well as potential decreases in testosterone!
We all have experienced fatigue at one point or another – whether due to a job, illness, or even due to a change in the seasons and the weather, fatigue can be a downer.
In China, cordyceps have been used for thousands of years….and one of the reasons they use it is because of its ability to help restore energy, especially after bouts of sickness (again, because of those adaptogens!).
This benefit is very similar to the performance boosting benefit listed above, although the correlation with fatigue and depression are another ball game all together. Fatigue can lead to depression (of which many people around the world suffer with), and the consumption of cordyceps has aided in reducing depression symptoms, as well as those of fatigue.
Cordyceps essentially help in the production of ATP within the body (adenosine triphosphate), which is the body’s quickest source of energy within a cell. With cordyceps being administered, the level of fatigue experienced by someone can decrease, as noted within lab studies with rats. (5)
If you are exercising and consuming a whole, nutrient-dense diet, then your cardiovascular system should be thanking you – but what if there was something else you could add into the mix to help protect your ticker even more?
That’s where cordyceps mushrooms come in…. studies have shown that they produce a positive effect on the cardiovascular system, since they have antioxidant properties! Research out of China has noted that cordyceps mushrooms can aid in strengthening and protecting the heart, blood vessels, and lungs through “enhanced adenosine receptor activation” – awesome news for those suffering from damage to the heart. (6)
Improved Sexual Function
Who would’ve thought a mushroom could increase libido? They certainly can, and all because of their ability to support hormones in a healthy, natural way. Sexual function and performance might not be something you would take into consideration at the moment, but as we age, it can definitely play a factor in both physical and mental health.
One review noted that sexual performance can be improved upon in both males and females with the addition of cordyceps mushrooms, and can also help with those who are dealing with fertility issues as well. (7)
Granted, more research needs to be done within the area of cordyceps mushrooms and libido, since there isn’t a ton of evidence available at the moment for current sexual issues – however, it does seem as though history has shown us that these mushrooms have a positive impact on hormones, which plays a huge part in sexual functioning, performance, and health!
How to Take Cordyceps
While you might think that you can eat cordyceps mushrooms (and you certainly can, if desired), the easiest way to absorb the benefits of these powerful medicinal mushrooms is to take them in a powdered form, a tincture, mixed into a tea, or in a capsule.
Some folks like to integrate their cordyceps supplement into smoothies, tea, coffee, soups, and even things like desserts!
If you are finding these mushrooms online and are wanting to start adding them into your daily routine, just be sure that you do your research and actually find what you are looking for…. that being said, you probably can’t always be 100% certain if you are getting the mushroom you are out to find, or if you are getting a look-alike.
Keep in mind that cordyceps sinensis (the rare version that looks like a caterpillar) is very expensive, and will typically not be in any supplements that you can buy in store or online. If you see a label that says that this version of cordyceps mushrooms is included, please delve a bit further into what is actually in the supplement.
While it’s not necessary to go organic with everything on the market, cordyceps mushrooms would be one of those items you want to be organic – and that would be the cordyceps militaris version.
Keep an eye on the product label and see where the powder/tincture/capsule is coming from, and what they consider best practices in regards to cultivating their mushrooms.
Put It into Practice: 3 Impactful Takeaways to Implement
- Incorporate cordyceps mushrooms into your diet to boost immunity, prevent cancer, and improve exercise performance: Consider taking cordyceps mushrooms as a supplement or adding them to your meals to reap their health benefits. As a health coach and personal trainer, I take these mushrooms personally and love the boost it gives.
- Choose between cordyceps sinensis and cordyceps militaris: Understand the differences between the two main types of cordyceps mushrooms, cordyceps sinensis and cordyceps militaris, and choose the one that is right for you. Both types provide anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
- Consider cordyceps militaris for a more affordable option: Cordyceps sinesis is very rare and expensive, while cordyceps militaris is much easier and cheaper to obtain. Cordyceps militaris has a similar biological makeup as cordyceps sinesis and is a top choice for supplements, extracts, and powders.
Wrapping It Up
Regardless of whichever way of consumption that you choose, pay attention to the dosing amount on the label or package, and note your symptoms, if any seem to be adverse. Keeping these factors in mind, you can explore different ways to consume the cordyceps mushrooms and reap the benefits for years to come! If you’re looking for the best cordyceps mushrooms supplement to eat based on in-depth research, check out our cordyceps buying guide.