8 Amazing Benefits of Eating Cordyceps Daily
November 04, 2020
9 min read
What is Cordyceps?
Cordyceps is a fungus that lives on certain caterpillars in the high mountain regions of China. It is a genus of parasitic fungi that grows on the larvae of insects. When these fungi attack their host, they replace its tissue and sprout long, slender stems that grow outside the host’s body.
The remains of the insect and fungi have been hand-collected, dried, and used in traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries to treat fatigue, sickness, kidney disease, and low sex drive. Supplements and products containing Cordyceps extract have become increasingly popular due to their many purported health benefits.
It can do wonders for our health if included in your diet. But natural Cordyceps are hard to get and may be expensive. Most supplements are made with cordyceps grown in a laboratory.
Cordyceps are known by several other names, such as—
Caterpillar Fungus, Chinese Caterpillar, Caterpillar Mushroom, Cs-4, Champignon Chenille, Fungus, Cordyceps Sinensis, Ophiocordyceps Sinensis, Dong Chong Xia Cao, Dong Chong Zia Cao, Hsia Ts'Ao Tung Ch'ing, Tochukaso, Vegetable Caterpillar.
Benefits of Cordyceps—Scientifically Proven
There are above 400 species of Cordyceps discovered, of which two have become the focus of health research:-
Much of this research is limited to animal or lab studies, so health experts currently can’t draw conclusions about their effects on people. However, their potential health benefits are promising.
The given below article highlights 8 potential health benefits of Cordyceps, based on science:—
1. Helps to Boost Exercise Performance
Cordyceps increases 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 (the measurement used to determine fitness level) had increased by 7% in participants who had taken CS-4, while participants given the placebo pill showed no change. 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. After three weeks, the participants’ VO2 max had increased by 11%, compared to a placebo.
Cordyceps have been shown to improve measures of exercise performance in older and younger adults both.
2. Anti-Aging Properties
The elderly have traditionally used Cordyceps to reduce fatigue and boost strength and sex drive. Researchers believe their antioxidant content may explain their anti-aging potential.
Several studies have found that Cordyceps increase antioxidants in aged mice, helping improve memory and sexual function.
Now, what are antioxidants?
Antioxidants are molecules that fight cell damage by neutralizing free radicals, which can otherwise contribute to disease and aging.
One study found that mice that were given Cordyceps lived several months longer than mice given a placebo. Another study found that Cordyceps extended the lives of fruit flies, further supporting the belief that they have anti-aging benefits. However, it’s unknown if Cordyceps have these same anti-aging benefits in humans.
Research in mice suggests Cordyceps have anti-aging properties. While these findings are promising, it’s unknown whether they apply to humans.
3. Potential Anti-Tumor Effects
Cordyceps’ potential to slow the growth of tumors has generated significant interest in recent years.
Researchers believe the fungi may exert anti-tumor effects in several ways.
In test-tube studies, Cordyceps has been shown to inhibit the growth of many types of human cancer cells, including lung, liver, colon, and skin cancer. Studies in mice have also shown that Cordyceps has anti-tumor effects on lymphoma, melanoma, and lung cancer.
Cordyceps may also reverse the side effects associated with many forms of cancer therapy. One of these side effects is leukopenia. Not to be confused with the cancer leukemia, leukopenia is a condition in which the number of white blood cells (leukocytes) decreases, lowering the body’s defenses and increasing the risk of infection.
One study tested the effects of Cordyceps on mice that developed leukopenia after radiation and treatments with Taxol, a common chemotherapy drug.
Interestingly, Cordyceps reversed the leukopenia. These results suggest the fungi may help reduce complications associated with some cancer treatments. However, it’s important to note that these studies were performed in animals and test tubes, not humans.
The effects of Cordyceps on leukopenia and tumor growth in humans is unknown, so health experts can’t currently draw conclusions.
Test-tube and animal studies suggest Cordyceps may have the potential to treat cancer, though there are some side effects of cancer treatments as well. However, these effects have not been shown in humans, and more research is needed.
4. Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes
Cordyceps may help in diabetes cure. It contains a special type of sugar that may help treat diabetes.
Diabetes is a disease in which the body either does not produce or respond to the hormone insulin, which normally transports the sugar glucose into your cells for energy.
When your body does not produce enough insulin or respond well to it, glucose cannot enter the cells, so it stays in the blood. Over time, having too much glucose in the blood can cause serious health problems. Therefore, it’s important for people with diabetes to make sure their blood sugar levels are well controlled.
Interestingly, Cordyceps may keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range by imitating the action of insulin. In several studies in diabetic mice, Cordyceps has been shown to decrease blood sugar levels. Some evidence suggests that they may also protect against kidney disease, a common complication of diabetes.
In a review of 22 studies including 1,746 people with chronic kidney disease, those who took Cordyceps supplements experienced improved kidney function.
However, these results aren’t conclusive. The authors of the review stated that many of the studies were of low quality. Therefore, no conclusions could be made about the effects of Cordyceps on kidney function in humans with chronic kidney disease.
Elevated blood sugar levels are common in people with uncontrolled diabetes and can have serious health effects. Research in animals suggests Cordyceps may have potential as a diabetes treatment.
5. Benefits for a Healthy Heart
As research emerges on the effects of Cordyceps on heart health, the benefits of the fungi are becoming increasingly apparent.
In fact, Cordyceps is approved in China for the treatment of arrhythmia, a condition in which the heartbeat is not normal; either too slow, too fast, or irregular.
A study found that Cordyceps significantly reduced heart injuries in rats with chronic kidney disease. Injuries to the heart from chronic kidney disease are thought to increase the risk of heart failure, so reducing these injuries may help avoid this outcome.
The researchers attributed these findings to the adenosine content of Cordyceps. Adenosine is a naturally occurring compound that has heart-protective effects. Cordyceps may also have a beneficial effect on cholesterol levels.
Animal research has shown that Cordyceps decrease LDL cholesterol, i.e., bad cholesterol. LDL can raise your risk of heart disease by leading to the buildup of cholesterol in your arteries. Similarly, Cordyceps has been shown to decrease triglyceride levels in mice.
Triglycerides are a type of fat found in your blood. Individuals with High levels of triglycerides have a greater risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, there is insufficient evidence to determine whether Cordyceps benefits heart health in humans.
Cordyceps may benefit heart health by helping prevent arrhythmias, decreasing the LDL cholesterol(bad cholesterol), and levels of triglycerides.
6. Help Fight Inflammation
Cordyceps help to fight inflammation in the body.
Although some inflammation is good like acute inflammation, too much can lead to diseases like cardiovascular diseases and cancer.
Research has shown that when human cells are exposed to Cordyceps, special proteins that increase inflammation in the body become suppressed. Because of these potential effects, researchers believe Cordyceps may serve as a useful anti-inflammatory supplement or drug.
In fact, Cordyceps has 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.
Cordyceps may also have topical uses. One study found it reduced skin inflammation when applied topically in mice, further demonstrating its anti-inflammatory properties. The potential inflammation-fighting properties of Cordyceps have yet to be observed in humans.
Research suggests Cordyceps reduces inflammatory markers in animals. However, their effects on inflammation in humans remain unknown.
7. Prevention or Treatment of High Blood Pressure
Cordyceps are believed to have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effects, both of which may help prevent or treat high blood pressure (hypertension). Many of these benefits have been attributed to a compound known as cordycepin, which is similar in molecular composition to adenosine. Like adenosine, cordycepin appears able to relax blood vessels, improving circulation, and lowering blood pressure.
The same benefits may be extended to the respiratory tract, according to a 2017 study from China. When taken daily, a cordyceps extract appears to relax airway constriction and improve quality of life measures in people with moderate to severe asthma.
Cordyceps have properties that may help prevent or treat high blood pressure. It has also proven to be effective for asthma problems.
8. Helps in Decreasing Anxiety
Cordyceps may be supportive in mental health protocols such as anxiety which has been associated with higher levels of inflammation. The anti-inflammatory properties of cordyceps decrease oxidative stress while providing support to the psychoendoneuroimmunology (PENI) processes in the body. This field of study incorporates the interaction between the psychological, nervous and immune systems of an individual. Adaptogens are known mediators of this system with their ability to build resilience.
Animal studies show that cordycepin may be neuroprotective in certain populations and pathologies, specifically neurovascular dysfunction and brain injuries. Synaptic functions (neurotransmitters in neural tissue) depend on healthy mitochondria and ATP for proper functioning.
Cordyceps as stimulating adaptogen - Cordyceps is considered a stimulating adaptogen, which means that it is more energizing and anabolic compared to other adaptogens that are more neutral, calming, or restorative. An example of a calming adaptogen is holy basil. TCM and ayurvedic knowledge have best understood the applications of different classes of adaptogens.
Cordyceps supports mental health by decreasing anxiety. It is also considered as a stimulating adaptogen, which is more energizing and anabolic as compared to other neutral adaptogens.
Cordyceps militaris mushrooms have earned credible acknowledgment as a powerhouse supplement for many of us, this day generation! It has gained this reputation due to its ability to promote healthy energy, lung capacity, and fertility, and support the kidneys – just to name a few of its sparkling qualities. Knowing how much Cordyceps to take days can be tricky. Cordyceps is a mushroom that can be taken for the short term or long term.
How much Cordyceps to take daily is contingent on the form of product you are consuming. Most commonly, you will find Cordyceps in capsule form, as a tincture, or as a whole, dried mushrooms. It can be taken with or without food, at any time of day.
The Ending Note
Cordyceps are popular Traditional Chinese Medicine and have been used for centuries to treat many health ailments. Though the fungi show promise in many areas, there’s little research on their effects on humans. Thus, more research is needed before experts can make any recommendations on certain health issues.
Animal and lab studies suggest Cordyceps have the potential to improve heart health and fight inflammation, aging, cancer, diabetes, and hypertension. However, many of these studies are of poor quality, and the results cannot be extended to humans.
Nevertheless, there have been human studies on Cordyceps’ effects on exercise performance. The fungi have been found to potentially boost energy and oxygen use during exercise. If you choose to take Cordyceps supplements, make sure they’ve been tested by a third-party organization for purity, safety, and quality.
More studies and research can bring out Cordycep's betterment effects on various health-related issues of humans.