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Cordyceps Mushrooms: Benefits, Side Effects & Uses

7 min read
Cordyceps mushrooms in nature

Cordyceps Mushrooms: Benefits, Side Effects & Uses

7 min read

Medically reviewed by

Are you looking for a natural way to boost your immune system, improve your athletic performance, or increase your energy levels? 

If the answer is yes, then Cordyceps mushrooms may pique your interest. 

These unique adaptogenic fungi have been used in alternative Chinese medicine since the 1600s, and recent studies have confirmed their numerous health benefits

But with so many supplements and products on the market, it can take time to know where to start. 

So we’ve prepared a guide to help you get started. In this guide, you’ll discover everything you need to know about Cordyceps mushrooms, including:

  • The benefits of Cordyceps mushroom 
  • The side effects of Cordyceps mushroom
  • How to use Cordyceps mushroom and the recommended dosage
  • How long it takes Cordyceps mushroom to work

Whether you’re a health enthusiast or just curious about natural remedies, keep reading to learn more about this fascinating fungus!

In this guide:

What are Cordyceps mushrooms?

Cordyceps mushrooms are parasitic fungi that grow in mountainous regions of Asia, particularly in China, Tibet, and Nepal. 

These mushrooms are known for their unique ability to infect and consume insects, effectively turning them into a host for their reproduction. Although this infection process might sound scary, it makes cordyceps mushrooms a truly remarkable and fascinating organism.

The name “cordyceps” is derived from the Latin words “cord” (meaning club) and “ceps” (meaning head), which refers to the shape of the mushroom’s fruiting body. This body is the part of the mushroom that emerges from the host organism and releases spores, allowing the fungus to spread and infect new hosts.

Cordyceps mushrooms have a long history of use in alternative Chinese medicine, where they are believed to offer numerous health benefits. 

They are said to have anti-inflammatory, anti-ageing, and immune-boosting properties and have been used to treat various ailments, including fatigue, respiratory problems, and kidney disease.

In recent years, Cordyceps mushrooms have gained popularity as a dietary supplement and natural remedy

They are available in various forms, including powders, capsules, and extracts. Cordyceps are often marketed as a natural way to boost energy, improve athletic performance, and support overall health and well-being.

Cordyceps mushrooms benefits
Cordyceps mushrooms are fungi believed to have anti-inflammatory and anti-ageing properties.

What are the Cordyceps mushroom benefits?

Over the years, many studies and research have been done on the health benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms. We still need more research to understand their potential benefits fully, but here are some of the reported perks.

Cordyceps as a potential anti-ageing tool

Cordyceps mushrooms are believed to possess certain anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties that may slow down the ageing process.

One of the key ways that Cordyceps mushrooms slow down ageing is by reducing oxidative stress in the body

Oxidative stress is a process that occurs when there are too many unstable molecules, called free radicals, in your body. These molecules can harm your cells and speed up ageing. Antioxidants are molecules that neutralise free radicals and protect your cells from harm.

Cordyceps mushrooms contain a range of antioxidants, including ergothioneine, a unique antioxidant not found in many other foods. Ergothioneine is very potent and believed to be particularly effective at protecting the body from oxidative stress.

In addition, Cordyceps mushrooms also contain a range of bioactive compounds, like adenosine, which may help cellular energy production, improving overall health and increasing longevity.

Another way that Cordyceps mushrooms may act as an anti-ageing tool is through their immune-modulating properties. Your immune system tends to decline as you age, making you susceptible to infections and diseases. By regulating the immune system and improving overall immune function, Cordyceps can help keep you healthy as you age.

Cordyceps for boosting energy and exercise performance

Cordyceps are believed to improve energy levels and enhance exercise performance.

In a study to examine the effect of a specific type of Cordyceps, Cordyceps sinensis, results showed improved exercise performance in older adults.

But how does it do that?

Cordyceps mushrooms contain a compound called cordycepin, which has been shown to increase ATP production in the body. ATP is a molecule that provides energy to cells, and when levels of ATP are increased, it can lead to feelings of increased energy and stamina.

In addition, cordycepin has been shown to improve oxygen utilisation in the body, which can help to improve endurance during exercise.

Another way that Cordyceps mushrooms can boost energy and exercise performance is by reducing fatigue. Cordyceps mushrooms contain a range of bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides, that can help to increase glycogen stores in the body and delay fatigue during exercise.

Cordyceps mushrooms also have anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation hinders exercise performance, so by reducing inflammation, Cordyceps can help improve energy levels and exercise performance.

Cordyceps have the potential to increase endurance and improve athletic performance.

Cordyceps may possess the potential for anti-tumour effects

Cordyceps mushrooms may have the ability to fight tumours through bioactive compounds that enhance the immune system.

Firstly, Cordyceps contain polysaccharides, such as macrophages and natural killer cells, that stimulate immune cells. These cells may help to identify and destroy cancer cells.

Secondly, Cordyceps have Cordycepin. Studies have shown that these compounds may disrupt the DNA replication process in cancer cells, potentially leading to cell death.

Thirdly, Cordyceps contain ergosterol, which induces apoptosis in cells. Apoptosis is a natural process that helps remove damaged or abnormal cells from the body. So, by inducing apoptosis in cancer cells, it may help slow or stop the growth of tumours.

Cordyceps may help treat type 2 diabetes

Individuals with type 2 diabetes have impaired glucose metabolism, which can lead to high blood sugar levels. Cordyceps is believed to help control type 2 diabetes by improving glucose metabolism.

Cordyceps contain polysaccharides and cordycepin that have been shown to improve glucose uptake and utilisation in the body. In addition, polysaccharides may stimulate the release of insulin, a hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar levels.

By increasing insulin sensitivity and improving glucose uptake, cordyceps mushrooms may lower blood sugar levels and improve glycemic control.

Cordyceps mushrooms also have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which can help to reduce the risk of diabetic complications. For example, high levels of oxidative stress and inflammation can contribute to the development of neuropathy, retinopathy, and cardiovascular disease. 

What are the side effects of Cordyceps mushrooms? 

In general, Cordyceps are safe to consume, and most people handle them well. However, as with anything you take, there’s always a chance of experiencing side effects.

The most commonly reported side effects of Cordyceps mushrooms are gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhoea, nausea, and abdominal discomfort. These side effects are usually mild and temporary and can often be reduced by taking Cordyceps mushrooms with food.

Although rare, some people may experience allergic reactions to Cordyceps mushrooms. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include skin rash, itching, swelling, or difficulty breathing. If you experience any of these symptoms, you should discontinue use immediately and seek medical attention.

It’s also important to note that Cordyceps mushrooms may interact with certain medications, including blood thinners and immunosuppressants. If you are taking any medications, it’s essential to consult with your healthcare provider before adding Cordyceps to your supplement regimen.

Lastly, as we discussed above, Cordyceps mushrooms may lower your blood sugar. So if you have diabetes or are taking medication to lower your blood sugar, you should monitor your blood sugar levels closely while taking Cordyceps.

How do I use Cordyceps mushrooms?

Not only is Cordyceps an all-rounder when it comes to improving overall health and well-being, but it is also a versatile fungus that can be consumed in different ways. 

Some of the most common ways of using Cordyceps mushrooms include: 

  • Cordyceps capsules or tablets 
    Cordyceps mushrooms are available in supplement form as capsules or tablets. In this case, all you have to do is purchase them and follow the instructions on the label for dosing and frequency.
  • Cordyceps powder
    You can also purchase Cordyceps mushroom in powdered form or grind it yourself if you’re up for the task. This powder can be added to food and beverages.
  • Cordyceps tea
    If you’re a tea or coffee kind of person, Cordyceps can be brewed into one. Simply add cordyceps mushrooms to hot water and steep for 10-15 minutes. You can add honey or other sweeteners to taste.
  • Cordyceps tincture
    Cordyceps mushrooms can be made into a tincture by steeping the mushrooms in alcohol. The tincture can be added to water or other beverages.
Dried Cordyceps that can be ground into Cordyceps powder
Dried Cordyceps can be ground into powder and added to a variety of foods and drinks.

What dosage of Cordyceps should I use?

Determining the optimal dosage of Cordyceps mushrooms depends on various factors, including the form of consumption, individual health factors, and medical history. 

To ensure safety, it’s crucial to follow the recommended dosage on the product label or consult with a healthcare provider before using Cordyceps mushrooms.

The typical dosage range for Cordyceps mushrooms in supplement form is 1 to 3 grams per day. However, some studies have used higher doses of up to 4.5 grams daily without reporting significant adverse effects.

Keep in mind that the concentration of Cordyceps mushrooms varies between products. Therefore, selecting a high-quality supplement from a trustworthy manufacturer is vital to ensure consistent and accurate dosing.

How long does it take for Cordyceps mushrooms to work?

Like its dosage, the time it takes for Cordyceps mushrooms to work can vary depending on numerous factors such as the form of Cordyceps you consume, the dosage, individual health conditions, and other lifestyle factors.

Some people may notice benefits shortly after taking Cordyceps mushrooms, while others may need to use it consistently for longer to see results.

Final thoughts

From the research that has already been conducted, it is clear that Cordyceps mushrooms hold promise as a natural remedy for various ailments.

They are believed to possess anti-ageing and immune-boosting properties, as well as the ability to enhance athletic performance and increase energy levels.

Cordyceps mushrooms are available in various forms, including powders, capsules, and extracts, and can be used safely when taken within the recommended dosage range. 

So, if you are looking for a natural way to support your overall health and wellness, why not give Cordyceps mushrooms a try?

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