Increased energy, libido, and sexual function
Boosting athletic performance and decreasing recovery time.
Antioxidant and anti inflammatory properties to live longer, and fight or prevent heart disease, cancer, and even Alzheimer’s.
Those are just some of the benefits attributed to Cordyceps.
And this is a shortened list–there are many more benefits that you probably already know about.
So it’s no wonder so many brands are quick to sell it, but which ones are legit and which ones are not?
That’s what you’ll find in the article below.
After testing out over 9 different brands based on 7 specific criteria (that we go into depth below), we created this review of the top 3 cordyceps mushrooms available.
In case you’re tight on time and can’t wait to get all the superpowers of Cordyceps, here’s the podium:
There you have it.
You can even jump right into the product sections if you want more info on those.
That said, I encourage you to read all the way till the end because you are going to learn how to identify what a high-quality Cordyceps supplement is on your own.
That way you don’t have to trust what any brand or any blog (including us) has to say.
You’ll be able to make the best decision for you based on what you need without falling for any marketing gimmick or labeling trick.
You’ll be able to spot bullshit from a mile, basically.
Here are just some of the thing you’ll find out:
Without much further ado, let’s get right into it.
As this scientific review of glucans (β-1,3-glucans) says:
“β-1,3-Glucans (hereafter referred to as glucan) are natural molecules able to significantly improve our health.”
Those are the most studied and researched compounds in medicinal mushrooms and they’re the ones that give these amazing champs (pun intended) all their healing properties.
There is other good stuff in mushrooms for sure, but until research catches up with them, a high Beta-D-Glucan content is what you really want.
But knowing which supplements have enough of them can be tricky.
Beta-D-Glucans are actually polysaccharides (long chain sugars) and that’s where the first problem comes in.
Some brands are quick to put a high content of sugars or polysaccharides on their labels (maybe as a way to fool consumers?) but polysaccharides in mushroom supplements can come from a lot of different sources, like fillers.
The most common one though, is mycelium on grain.
When you think of a mushroom, what you’re really thinking about is the “Fruiting Body.”
That fruiting body is full of these Beta-D-Glucans and all the other beneficial compounds found in mushrooms.
The mycelium is the “roots” of the mushrooms, what’s underground and supplies the fruiting body with water and nutrients.
(That’s a simplified version but you get the gist.)
And although they have some Beta-D-Glucan content, it’s way less than the fruiting body, about 3-10 times less.
But that’s if you can get the mycelium alone, which is almost ever the case.
Most supplement companies basically put the spores of the mushroom they want to grow in a bag or container full of brown rice or another grain and once the mycelium starts to grow, they grind everything up including the grain into the powder they use for their supplements.
That’s how you can end up with a lot of sugars or polysaccharides without a high Beta-D-Glucan content.
In fact, as opposed to mycelium alone, mycelium on grain has about 10-30 times fewer Beta-D-Glucans and other beneficial compounds than the fruiting bodies.
Usually, supplements made from fruiting bodies exclusively have over 25% Beta-D-Glucans, those made with mycelium alone don’t make it to 10%, and those with mycelium on grain are around 1-3%.
You can often identify mycelium content in mushroom supplements because it’s labeled as “mycelial biomass” “mycelium of X mushroom” “X mushroom full spectrum” and even “grain spawn.”
It’s easy to see why companies would use mycelium on grain as opposed to fruiting bodies:
You can get more powder or supplement that you can label as mushroom supplement in less time (mycelium grows faster than fruiting bodies) for cheaper (grains are cheaper than mushrooms and the growing costs are fewer because you spend less time growing the mycelium then you do growing fruiting bodies.)
This is especially true for Cordyceps supplements because cordyceps is a slow-growing mushroom so most supplements are made from mycelium on grain.
So a high-quality mushroom supplement should be made entirely from fruiting bodies and have a high-content of Beta-D-Glucans (>25%) backed up by 3rd party lab test results.
And if you can find that, you can be (almost) sure the supplement is legit.
Beta-D-Glucans can be found in other plant foods like oats and other cereals.
But the ones in mushrooms are different, they are inside the cells of mushrooms, and the cell walls are made from a fiber called “chitin” (the same material lobster shells are made of) which our bodies can’t break down.
If you eat a whole mushroom, you are not going to get much beta glucans, if any.
So to get the Beta-D-Glucans, you need to extract them from the cells.
To do it, you put the fruiting bodies into hot water at 80-175ºC depending on the mushroom.
(Even soft mushrooms like Shiitake are prepared as a hot water extract or a tea when used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.)
The liquid is then transferred into a chamber and turned into the powder (sometimes tincture) you find in high-quality mushroom supplements.
That’s called Hot Water Extraction.
Both the water and air used for the process should be purified, you can see if that’s the case on the lab test result:
If supplements test negative for bacteria, viruses, and heavy metals, you can be pretty sure that the extraction with purified air and water.
Besides Hot Water extraction there’s also Alcohol Extraction.
Some companies use ethanol to also get the alcohol soluble compounds out of the fruiting bodies terpenes (specifically, triterpenoids), sterols, and flavonoids, which are the main non-water-soluble active compounds present in some mushrooms.
In some cases, you’ll see hot water extraction and alcohol extraction or Dual Extraction.
But for Cordyceps supplements, the one you’re looking for is Hot Water Extract to get those Beta-D-Glucans.
But not any Cordyceps will do, you need one specific species:
So you want to take a cordyceps supplement, don’t ya?
Of course you do
But do you know which one you should take?
There are over 400 species of Cordyceps mushrooms and they are actually parasitic.
In the wild, the spores infect the insect and then turn into hyphae and eventually mycelium.
Now, here’s the zombie part:
The fungus controls the insect from the inside (for real) and forces it to anchor to the trees and low-lying jungle plants where the conditions are ideal for Cordyceps to thrive.
So when the insect dies, fruiting bodies can grow and the fungus can produce spores once again.
Ugh, that’s creepy.
Looks like the perfect villain for an apocalyptic movie or video game, oh wait, it actually is the villain of a video game.
The Last Of Us used Cordyceps infection as their antagonist.
I stand by what I said, that’s definitely creepy. I totally understand if you want to reconsider cordyceps supplements after that.
Our creepy mushrooms are very picky, each one of the 400 species infects only one insect.
They act as nature’s pest control and prevent any one species from getting the upper hand: the more one species grows, the more likely it is to get infected with cordyceps.
Yeah, that’s why ants haven’t taken over the world yet.
Among all the 400 species, 2 stand out:
First, we have Cordyceps Sinensis. This particular mushroom infects caterpillars, and it’s so expensive, 1kg of the product costs around 20,000$.
Yep, you read that right
But wait a second, if it’s so expensive… how come there are supplements offering that type of cordyceps?
Simple, there really aren’t.
The reason why this particular type is so expensive is that you can’t grow it artificially, you can’t cultivate it, the only way to get it is to go out in the wild.
What you can do is grow the mycelium and then use it to create supplements, but even if you get the mycelium alone as opposed to mycelium on grain, there’s no way you are getting Fruiting bodies of Cordyceps Sinensis when it costs 20,000$/Kg.
Not even a tiny bit.
If a Cordyceps supplement is claimed to be Cordyceps sinensis and it is made in China, it is almost certainly Cordyceps Sinensis mycelium (Cs-4) alone.
The Cordyceps you are looking for in supplements is Cordyceps Militaris, that’s the good one.
Cordyceps Militaris is way easier and cheaper to grow and it’s easier to get supplements made exclusively from fruiting bodies (meaning lots of beta-good-stuff) and it’s one of mushrooms with the highest amounts of Cordycepin.
As you can see, Cordyceps Militaris (C. militaris on the table) has 4.380 mg/g of dry matter of Cordycepin (Co column on the table) while the rest barely make the list.
Cordycepin matters because as this study points out:
“Main constituent of the extract derived from this fungus comprises a novel bio-metabolite called as Cordycepin (3′deoxyadenosine) which has a very potent anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activities.”
The more of these things a cordyceps supplement checks, the higher quality it is.
Which bring us to our top Cordycep supplements:
With a whooping >32% of Beta-D-Glucans, Freshcap makes the top of the list.
It has the highest amount of verified beta glucans and Cordycepin.
While the lab test results are not on the product page, they will send it to you if you ask (I read them, they are legit.)
The lab test results not only back up what the label says, it also shows that they are tested for heavy metals, microbial contamination, and pesticides.
In fact, they are also certified organic, Non-GMO, veggan, paleo, gluten free, 100% pure, dual extracted.
According to their website:
“We source our mushrooms from deep in the mountains and forests of China and Russia, places with a rich history of mushroom cultivation.”
Maybe that’s the reason for their high quality, but in any case, the certification and lab results are there so whether they source it from China, Russia, or the heads of ants (lol) you know this is the real deal.
And they are pretty affordable compared to what’s out there.
You have 2 options for your Cordyceps:
Ingredients: Organic Cordyceps Extract (standardized to contain 32% Beta-Glucan and 0.3% Cordycepin)(Cordyceps militaris)(Fruiting Body), Pullulan capsule
148 5-star reviews
“We have recently delved into the mushroom world by growing some gourmet mushrooms and started watching FreshCap videos on YouTube.. which convinced me to try these in the first place and boy was I NOT disappointed! These Cordyceps Mushrooms give me the energy to get so much done throughout the day and have also started clearing up my psoriasis! Hands down a wonderful Mushroom! Give them a try and you will not be disappointed either!! Customer for life here!! Even getting my mom to start taking lions mane for her nerve damaged foot. We’re in love! Thank you FreshCap!!”
– Angelina M.
Ingredients: Organic Cordyceps Extract (standardized to contain 32% Beta-Glucan and 0.3% Cordycepin)(Cordyceps militaris)(Fruiting Body)
148 5-star reviews
“So I’ve now tried a few different company’s cordycepts and so far the FreshCap Cords seem the freshest and taste the best. I’m not sure how to really describe it but to say that they really do taste better. I usually just mix some in with hot water and drink it that way, and I really like the taste. Most of the other brands just don’t have quite the robust flavor or bright color of the Cordyceps powder.”
– Christian D.
As you can see the only ingredient is Organic Cordyceps Extract, which means there are no fillers, mycelium, or grains. Only the fruiting body.
If you plan on consuming cordyceps for the long haul and you don’t mind getting the powder instead of the capsule, with their subscription you can get the highest quality cordyceps supplement at the best price.
Definitely the best bang for your buck and thanks to the lab test results you know you’re getting what’s on the label.
Whether you choose Real Mushrooms Cordyceps Mushrooms or Freshcap, you can’t really go wrong.
Real Mushrooms is certified organic, Non-GMO, vegan, gluten-free, hot water extracted, no added starch, mycelium, or grain of any kind…
Tested at 3rd party labs for purity, active compounds, heavy metals, microbial contamination, and pesticides.
Although just like Freshcap, you have to contact them to see the certificate of analysis (wish all brands had the analysis on their websites.)
And they have something going for them that FreshCap does not:
Since Nammex (the leading supplier of organic mushroom extract ingredients to supplement companies) supplies the highest quality mushroom extracts in the market, and all Real Mushrooms’ products come from Nammex, you can be pretty sure that they are of the highest quality.
FYI — The founder and president of Nammex is the father of the founder of Real Mushrooms.
And you can also find them in 2 forms:
Cordyceps Mushroom Extract (Cordyceps militaris) with >25% Beta-D-Glucans, organic, hot water extracted.
Other ingredients: Hypromellose (vegetable capsule), silicon dioxide, microcrystalline cellulose, may contain stearic acid.
159 5-star reviews
“I started taking Cordyceps for it’s immunomodulating ability and have noticed a huge difference in my energy levels! I was quite tired before and had low motivation before but within a week I really noticed a positive shift. The quality of these supplements seems to be far superior to most others on the market.
(Side note: I would love to try a Mesima mushroom supplement as well if Real Mushrooms ever comes out with one)”
Cordyceps Mushroom Extract (Cordyceps militaris) with >25% Beta-D-Glucans, organic, hot water extracted.
119 5-star reviews
“I am impressed with Real Mushrooms CORDYCEPS-M, 5 Defenders & REISHI 415 products. I am a 58 and a cancer survivor. I love to workout and stay fit. Not going to get into cancers and medicinal mushrooms, but i flood my body with them.
Try to use this Pre-Workout combination instead of using caffeinated supplements that wreck havoc in you body that raises your cortisol which is a huge no no!!I I am a huge fan of CORDYCEPS-M which is added to my TECTANIC RED beet powder as a Pre-Workout. I feel my breathing and energy level is thru the roof without the jitters and heart palpitations and the other health benefits are worth reading about.”
So why the 2nd place?
Well, for one their tested levels of Beta-D-Glucan are >25% (which is pretty freaking high) but Freshcaps’ levels are >32%.
And you can see, their capsules are cheaper than Fresh Caps’ but if you choose Fresh Caps’ powder you’re still getting the highest amount of Beta-D-Glucans (>32%) at the lowest price (23.99$.)
That’s why FreshCap still gets the 1st place.
That said, you really can’t go wrong with either one, in fact, they are both SO much better than any other brand on the market when it comes to Cordyceps supplements (and mushroom supplements overall.)
They all check all the requirements of what you’re looking for in Cordyceps supplements.
The great thing about Om’s mushrooms is that they are grown in an environmentally controlled, cGMP certified facility in Carlsbad, California.
This ensures that no toxins, pesticides or heavy metals will compromise the final product.
They can also be the best option for those on a tight budget since they are the cheapest.
But with the cheapest price, you compromise quality:
While both Real Mushrooms & FreshCap are made 100% from fruiting bodies (i.e. the actual mushroom) Om Mushrooms have mycelial biomass and myceliated oats which by now you understand what that means:
Lower levels of Beta-D-Glucans and other active compounds.
The biggest problem with this is that they don’t specify the quantity of each on the label so you don’t know how much the quality is compromised.
If the fruiting body content is 90% and the mycelium is just 10%, not that big of a deal. But if it’s 50/50 then that’s something.
And they don’t have lab test results where you can see their beta glucan content (or anything else for that matter) so can’t know for sure what you are getting.
That said, you can customize your order a lot with them:
If you subscribe you get the 100 day supply at 27.99$ (0.28$ per serving) which is the lowest price on this list.
Ingredients: Organic cordyceps mycelial biomass and fruiting body
Other Ingredients: Organic Myceliated Oats
28 5-star reviews
“Very please of Cordyceps product and basically all you products I’m very satisfied thank you.”
– Juan M.
Ingredients: Organic cordyceps mycelial biomass and fruiting body
Other Ingredients: Vegetable cellulose (capsules), organic myceliated oats
4 4.5-star reviews
“Excellent! A clean perfect product with purity I can feel!! I purposely ordered “ Cordyceps Mushroom Capsules” to take (5 capsule to achieve 3 grams/3,000 mg. for workouts & training pre TCM) to take when I don’t want to mix a “OM Energy+ Cordyceps Drink” which too is prefect and main stay I’ve depended on and use for years (also a Organic Mus
Read more about review stating Cordyceps Mushroom Capsules
hroom product)! Cordyceps Mushroom Capsules are convenient when I’m on the run. Cordyceps Mushroom Capsules gives me a level of sustained energy that last (4-8 hours depending on demand of my day, but have to take 3 gram, 5 cap). Cordyceps Mushroom Capsules is one of the purest I taken. I will stay with Organic Mushroom exclusively for cordyceps.
– Alberto P.
There are multiple benefits associated with Cordyceps, so many in fact that if I were to tell you about all of them, you’d be reading until tomorrow (no matter what time it is now.)
But I will cover some of the benefits with the strongest scientific evidence and those with so much anecdotal evidence (aka people raging about it all over the place) that I can’t ignore.
After all, many times scientific discoveries happen after the anecdotal evidence is so big that the scientific community has no option but to put those claims to the test.
This is probably what cordyceps supplements are most known for and the main reason why people are looking for them.
Usually someone goes into forums and reads how someone who could barely get out of bed in the morning was lifting heavy after 3 weeks of taking cordyceps.
And no wonder:
The anecdotal evidence for increased energy (especially for exercises) as a result of taking cordyceps supplements is overwhelming.
Go to reddit or any biohacking or mushroom forum and you’ll find hundreds of stories from people swearing by Cordyceps.
“It’s now been about 6 days since I’ve started taking them and I am simply blown away by the energy I have.”
There are thousands of others like u/ThoughtYouWantedIt.
And the best part is that there’s actually clinic data backing all the anecdotal evidence:
This study on mice concluded:
“The data suggest that PCM has an antifatigue effect, and it might become a new functional food or medicine for fatigue resistance.”
And multiple human studies show that cordyceps was effective in increasing the VO2 max (a measure of cardiorespiratory capacity or what you can call ”lung capacity”) and the researchers concluded that it was helpful in improving exercise performance in healthy adults.
Maybe that’s a bit far fetched, your Cordyceps supplement it’s not going to guarantee that won’t get cancer, if ya get ma’ meanin’
Plenty of things play a role in the development of cancer (list some) but one of the most important ones is your immune system.
Your immune system not only protects you from viruses and bacteria, it also kills cancer cells.
And boy does Cordyceps help your immune system.
In-vitro studies have shown that Cordyceps Militaris Extract (CME) reduces the growth of human tumor cells in colorectal, lung, and liver cancer cells.
An multiple animal trials show anti-tumor protection of CME:
Sure, these are in-vitro and animal trials, but even if there’s not strong evidence for cordyceps, there is for beta glucans (those amazing compounds in Cordyceps.)
For example, this study in children with chronic respiratory problems found:
“We found significant improvements in physical endurance and exhaled nitric oxide in glucan-treated children. In addition, strong improvements in general conditions were found. Short-term oral application of natural immunomodulator β-glucan enhances the overall health and regulation of energetic metabolism in children with chronic respiratory problems.”
And as this study says, beta-glucans are the most active immunomodulators tested and the ones with the best results.
Cordyceps is one of the foods with the most beta-glucan content, so even if there aren’t many human clinical trials testing Cordyceps itself, there are testing the beta-glucans present in Cordyceps.
This 2019 study is a great resource to better understand the scientific literature around beta glucans and immunity, it also has references and links to multiple other studies supporting everything the authors say:
But it’s not just beta-glucans, don’t forget about Cordycepin.
Remember that compound that’s so high in Cordyceps Militaris and almost non-existent in so many other types of Cordyceps mushrooms?
Well, it turns out it’s a potent anti-tumor and anti-metastatic (prevents, delays, or inhibits metastasis; i.e. the spread of cancer cells) agent.
Honestly, there’s not a lot of data suggesting that Cordyceps will help you live until 150.
However, Cordyceps has lots of antioxidants (aside from beta-glucans which are also antioxidants.)
Antioxidants have anti-aging properties and protect against DNA and cell damage (both things can result in accelerated aging and disease) so researchers believe that the antioxidants in Cordyceps may explain their anti-aging properties.
Several studies show improved memory and sexual function in aged mice:
And this other study concludes:
“In conclusion, C. sinensis Cs-4 extends the lifespan of mice and reverses many age-related changes in GE, supporting the traditional belief that C. sinensis Cs-4 conveys anti-aging benefits to humans.”
Although unless you like to spend your days eating cheese and running on a hamster wheel, I wouldn’t take those too seriously, nonetheless, the results are promising.
And there’s another reason to be optimistic:
A human trial tested the skin application of Cordyceps Militaris Extract as an anti-wrinkle treatment and the authors concluded:
“The resulting serum formulation effectively enhanced skin moisture (42.2 ± 14.2%), increased the skin elasticity (39.9 ± 7.3%), and induced no skin irritation in 30 human volunteers. The effectiveness on the skin was detected after 1 week of the applications.
Therefore, it was suggested as an effective anti-skin wrinkle formulation.”
Yep, the feared inflammation.
It seems like no matter where you look, there’s always someone on the internet claiming that inflammation is the cause of all your maladies and that they have the solution.
Inflammation is actually good in the short-term (essential in fact) but that’s a whole nother conversation.
If you are afraid of inflammation, Cordyceps may be what you’re looking for.
Cordyceps has proven to be effective against inflammation and scientists believe that the anti-inflammatory properties of Cordyceps come from their high beta-glucan content.
But Cordicepin also helps lower inflammation, in fact, it’s been shown to lower a very specific type of inflammation, the one in your brain.
This can help with neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, multiple esclerosis, etc.
Turns out these diseases are closely linked with neuroinflammation.
And cordycepin lowers neuroinflammation which could result in treatment and/or prevention of Central Nervous System disorders.
As this review of the scientific literature concludes:
“These pieces of evidence point to the probable anti-neuroinflammatory mechanisms of cordycepin, which could facilitate the development of new remedies against neuroinflammation-associated CNS disorders.”
Multiple studies show the benefits of Cordyceps for heart health, in china it’s been recognized and used for years in patients with heart failure and arrhythmia.
In one human study Cordyceps increased cardiac output (how much blood your heart pumps) by up to 60% when used in conjunction with standard treatment for chronic heart failure (increasing the effectiveness of the treatment by 60%.)
And multiple animal studies (listed below) show how Cordycepin lowers LDL (or bad) cholesterol and triglycerides, reducing the risk of atherosclerosis and therefore heart failure.
Cordyceps has a lot of benefits for your health and a lot of scientific and anecdotal evidence to back them up.
The best part of all these beneficial effects is that there are really no downsides to Cordyceps (as opposed to drugs) but the upside can be life changing.
You can have more energy to enjoy life or be more productive
Recover faster from exercise
Slow down the biological clock in your cells
Boost your immunity and protect your health from infections and other diseases
And just help your body as much as possible in defeating/preventing cancer and heart disease
The downside is just a couple of bucks a month (and maybe bad taste for 2 seconds if you are using powders.)
But that’s the case only if you are using high-quality supplements, like our #1 option from Fresh Cap or our #2 option from Real Mushrooms.
That’s why we’ve put together this guide with our best picks, so you can make up your own mind and get the one that works best for you.