Cordyceps is a type of fungus that grows on the larvae of the caterpillars. It has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) to improve fatigue, cough, libido, kidney function, and weakness after severe illness.
Today, supplements and other products containing lab-made cordyceps are advertised to help with everything from athletic performance and blood sugar control to immunity. However, research is limited to animal models, test tubes, and small clinical trials.
Here’s everything you need to know about cordyceps, including its potential benefits, risks, and healthy ways to include it in your diet.
Cordyceps supplements are popular among athletes. Mushrooms are believed to benefit athletic performance by improving blood flow, increasing oxygen utilization, and acting as an antioxidant.
One study examined the effects of containing a mushroom mixture Cordyceps army In high-intensity exercise after one and three weeks.
Researchers found that one week of supplementation did not significantly improve exercise performance compared to a placebo. However, three weeks of daily supplementation resulted in significant improvements in maximum oxygen intake (VO2 max), suggesting that chronic supplementation of cordyceps may increase training intensity and delay fatigue.
However, research supporting its effectiveness is still mixed. Other studies have shown no benefit for well-trained athletes, even after extended periods of supplementation.
Cordyceps appears to be most beneficial for improving aerobic exercise performance in well-trained athletes when combined with other plant extracts such as Rhodiola Crinualta.
Cordyceps may benefit heart health by improving blood lipid levels and treating arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat).
High levels of fats in the blood, also known as hyperlipidemia, is a major risk factor for heart disease.
A 2020 review of studies found that cordycepin, the 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 C.military forces It was effective in reducing blood lipid levels in hamsters.
Polysaccharides are major water-soluble constituents of fungi that are believed to have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.
However, these studies should be interpreted with caution, as results from animal research may not be relevant to human health.
A 2022 review of nineteen trials involving 1,805 patients found that cordyceps is effective in adjusting heart rate to a normal level in patients with arrhythmias.
Note that all trials in the review had a small sample size and were conducted in China, which raises concern about geographic bias.
More studies are needed to determine whether cordyceps can benefit human heart health.
Diabetes is a health condition that occurs when blood sugar is too high. It is the eighth leading cause of death in the United States
Animal studies show this Cordyceps army The extract may help lower blood sugar levels by improving glucose metabolism, or how efficiently the body processes sugar from the foods we eat. It may also help protect against nerve damage caused by diabetes.
Plus, a 2023 study found that Cordyceps army Cordycepin may help regulate blood sugar levels in diabetic mice by improving the balance of bacteria in the gut.
Another study in diabetic rats found that cordyceps may enhance libido by increasing testosterone production and reducing oxidative stress.
However, no human research has confirmed these effects.
Inflammation is a normal response to injury or infection and a necessary part of healing progress. But chronic inflammation that lasts for months or years can lead to many chronic health conditions, including:
In fact, chronic infections related to infections cause more than half of all deaths worldwide.
A 2020 review of studies found that cordycepin regulates specific pathways involved in inflammation, indicating its ability to protect against chronic inflammatory diseases. Cordycepin may also help boost immunity and prevent viral RNA replication, thus protecting against viral infections.
Again, human studies are needed to confirm these effects.
Oxidative stress – the imbalance between free radicals and antioxidants in the body – plays an important role in aging and the development of age-related diseases, including dementia, arthritis and cancer.
Several compounds in cordyceps, including cordycepin and polysaccharides, are believed to have powerful antioxidant properties.
Antioxidants interact with and neutralize free radicals, protecting the body from oxidative stress.
In addition, some studies indicate that cordyceps and its compounds can improve brain function in aged mice by eliminating or neutralizing free radicals.
While human studies are necessary, emerging evidence suggests that compounds in cordyceps may help treat cancer.
According to a 2022 review of studies, fungi may act directly on cancer cells to kill them or prevent cancer cells from growing or spreading to other parts of the body. Cordyceps may also help improve the body’s immune response to cancer.
In particular, test tube studies have shown that cordyceps has antitumor effects on leukemia and cancer cells in the colon, lung, liver, bladder, breast, and prostate.
The nutritional content of specific cordyceps supplements varies from brand to brand. However, wild cordyceps are among the most nutritious of all mushrooms. They contain many amino acids, vitamins E and K, many B vitamins and trace elements.
Cordyceps is also high in polysaccharides, accounting for 3-8% of the total weight, and nucleosides such as cordycepin and adenosine, which are thought to contribute to most of its health benefits.
When taken as recommended, cordyceps is not likely to be toxic. However, there are no human studies to prove the safety of cordyceps.
Some people have reported mild to moderate side effects, including:
Studies recommend that people with autoimmune conditions such as lupus, multiple sclerosis, or rheumatoid arthritis avoid cordyceps unless otherwise advised by a healthcare provider.
Furthermore, there have been several reports of lead poisoning caused by contaminated cordyceps powder.
Cordyceps supplements are not recommended for children or during pregnancy or lactation due to a lack of research on their side effects.
In nature, Cordyceps grows as a fungus on caterpillars. This makes them very difficult and expensive to obtain.
In the united states, you are most likely to encounter cordyceps in supplement form. It is most commonly available as tablets, powder, or dried in its whole form.
Due to their high price and scarcity, most supplements contain a synthetic version of Sometimes events get canceled or postponed It’s called CS-4. Some supplements can also be made using a synthetic form of Cordyceps armywhich have similar components as Sometimes events get canceled or postponed It is believed to be equally effective.
Like all dietary supplements, the FDA does not evaluate cordyceps supplements for safety and effectiveness before they are sold.
To ensure you are getting a high-quality supplement that is free from potentially harmful ingredients, it is best to buy from a reputable brand that uses third party testing. Some supplement manufacturers hire third-party labs to test their products for purity and potency, which helps improve supplement safety. Whenever possible, purchase nutritional supplements from brands approved by organizations such as UL, USP, and NSF International.
Cordyceps is a fungus that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for years to treat everything from impotence to fatigue. It appears to be very promising for improving athletic performance by improving oxygen and energy utilization.
There is also some evidence in animals and test tubes that mushrooms may help improve heart health, blood sugar, inflammation, aging, and cancer outcomes. However, we cannot say that these effects will be seen in humans.
If you are considering taking cordyceps supplements, check with your healthcare provider to make sure they are safe for you and will not interact with any medications you may be taking.