Zombie Fungus, Caterpillar Fungus, Vegetable Fungus...sounds a bit off-putting doesn't it?
But did you know that this amazing Fungi, Cordyceps, can actually give you a natural energy boost, combat fatigue and muscle weakness, improve mental energy, increase sexual vigor, and promote optimal aging?
Not bad for a wee fungi!
Cordyceps Sinensis [found primarily at high altitudes on the Qinghai Tibetan plateau] is regarded as one of the most valued medicinal mushrooms.
Cordyceps have been used for more than 300 years in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine to boost energy, treat kidney ailments, improve sleep patterns, increase appetite, stamina, aid chronic fatigue and low libido.
Fun Fungi Fact:
In 1993, Chinese Olympics female running team broke records for 1,500, 3,000 and 10,000 meters that caused much curiosity and suspicion. They were suspected of using performance enhancing steroids, but the rumours were shot down by their coach when their drug tests reflected zero steroids.
The coach revealed to the reporters that his team had been taking doses of “Cordyceps” at his request after each training session. This event brought alternative medicine to the forefront of not only immune health, but also physical health.
Today health advocates and bio-hackers alike now look to Cordyceps instead of medication and stimulates to aid a better, more productive day...and its not hard to see why!
Cordyceps are thought to increase the body’s production of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is essential for delivering energy to the muscles.
This may improve the way your body uses oxygen, especially during exercise.
In one study, researchers tested their effects on exercise capacity in 30 healthy older adults using a stationary bike. Participants received either 3 grams per day of a synthetic strain of Cordyceps called CS-4 or a placebo pill for six weeks.
By the end of the study, VO2 max had increased by 7% in participants who had taken CS-4, while participants given the placebo pill showed no change.
VO2 max is a measurement used to determine fitness level.
In a similar study, 20 healthy older adults received either 1 gram of CS-4 or a placebo pill for 12 weeks.
While researchers found no change in VO2 max in either group, participants given CS-4 improved other measures of exercise performance.
One study also tested the effects of a Cordyceps-containing mushroom blend on exercise performance in younger adults (Source).
After three weeks, participants’ VO2 max had increased by 11%, compared to a placebo.
However, the current research suggests Cordyceps are not effective at improving exercise performance in trained athletes (Source).
Cordyceps can help fight inflammation in the body.
Although some inflammation is good, too much can lead to diseases like heart disease and cancer.
Research has shown that when human cells are exposed to Cordyceps, special proteins that increase inflammation in the body become suppressed.
Thanks to these potential effects, researchers believe Cordyceps may serve as a useful anti-inflammatory supplement or drug (Source).
In fact, Cordyceps have been shown to reduce inflammation in the airways of mice, making them a potential therapy for asthma.
However, the fungi appear to be less effective than commonly prescribed drugs used to provide relief for inflamed areas of the body (Source).
Cordyceps may also have topical uses. One study found it reduced skin inflammation when applied topically in mice, further demonstrating its anti-inflammatory properties (Source).
The potential inflammation-fighting properties of Cordyceps have yet to be observed in humans.
May Benefit Heart Health
Cordyceps may benefit heart health by improving blood lipid (fat) levels and treating arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
High levels of fats in the blood, also known as hyperlipidemia, is a key risk factor for heart disease.
A 2020 review of studies found that Cordycepin, the main bioactive compound in Cordyceps, can reduce the accumulation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, total cholesterol, and triglycerides in animals.
Another 2021 study found that CM1, a polysaccharide from Cordyceps militaris, was effective at lowing blood lipid levels in hamsters.
Polysaccharides are major water-soluble components in the fungus that are thought to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
A 2022 review of nineteen trials that included 1,805 patients found cordyceps effective at adjusting the heart rate to a normal level in patients with arrhythmia. (Source).
Oxidative stress—the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body—plays a significant role in aging and the development of age-related diseases, including dementia, arthritis, and cancer.
Several compounds in Cordyceps, including Cordycepin and polysaccharides, are thought to have potent antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants interact with and neutralize free radicals, protecting the body from oxidative stress.
Additionally, some studies suggest that Cordyceps and its compounds can improve brain function in aged mice by eliminating or neutralising free radicals. (Source).
May Help Manage Diabetes
Diabetes is a health condition that occurs when your blood sugar is too high.
Animal studies have shown that Cordyceps militaris extract may help decrease blood sugar levels by improving glucose metabolism, or how efficiently the body processes sugar from foods we eat. It may also help protect against nerve damage caused by diabetes.
In addition, a 2023 study found that Cordyceps militaris and Cordycepin may help regulate blood sugar levels in mice with diabetes by improving the balance of bacteria in the gut.
Another study in rats with diabetes found that cordyceps may enhance sexual desire by increasing testosterone production and reducing oxidative stress.
However, no human research has confirmed these effects.
Cordyceps are considered to be one of the most nutritious mushrooms. They contain various amino acids, vitamins E and K, several B vitamins, and trace elements.
Cordyceps are also high in polysaccharides, accounting for 3–8% of their overall weight, and nucleosides like cordycepin and adenosine, which are believed to contribute to most of their health benefits.
Things To Look Out For
While Cordyceps is largely considered safe for both short-term and long-term use, there's always exceptions to everything in life.
Please take note of the following precautions:
- People taking diabetic medication are encouraged to avoid using Cordyceps supplements as the combined use could result in hypoglycemia (sudden drops in blood sugar).
- People with bleeding disorders or those taking anticoagulants (blood thinners) or anti-clotting medication should avoid the use of Cordyceps as there is a risk of bleeding or bruising easily.
- If you're scheduled to undergo surgery, it's important to stop taking Cordyceps at least 2 weeks prior to surgery, otherwise there is the risk of excessive bleeding.
- Should you experience dry mouth, nausea or diarrhea after taking Cordyceps,this is a mild side effect that usually passes over without intervention. Should symptoms persist, stop taking Cordyceps.