Cordyceps Benefits For Health, Skin & More!

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According to legend, hundreds of years ago yak herders in the Himalayas of Tibet and Nepal first discovered the cordyceps caterpillar mushroom. The herders noticed their yaks suddenly becoming energetic while grazing on a certain mushroom. They decided to investigate the fungus and discovered the cordyceps caterpillar mushroom.

During the Tang Dynasty, the ruling emperors of China cherished cordyceps for its healing properties. Physicians of the Ming dynasty used cordyceps to make tonics.

A French priest who visited the Chinese Emperor and discovered cordyceps and its healing properties brought the fungus back to Europe. Cordyceps first appeared in a European text, the New Compilation of Materia Medica, in 1757. Scientists have since been intrigued by cordyceps’ revitalizing powers. But the story doesn’t end there…

Cordyceps came back into the spotlight in 1993 at the Chinese national games in Beijing. Multiple Chinese runners shattered track and field records. Their coach, Ma Junren, claimed that their success was thanks to the tonic cordyceps sinensis and turtle blood.

What Is Cordyceps? Where Does Cordyceps Come From?

The cordyceps fungus.

The cordyceps fungus.

So, what is cordyceps? Where does cordyceps come from? Cordyceps is a fungus that grows in Asian countries such as Nepal, China, Japan, Vietnam, Thailand and Korea. There are more than 400 varieties of cordyceps. Most cordyceps species are endoparasitoids, meaning that the fungus lives off its host insects. The cordyceps kills its host insect and sprouts from the insect’s brain. Each variety of cordyceps invades only a single species of insects.

The most popular species of cordyceps is called cordyceps sinensis. It lives in the mountain regions of China and infects the caterpillar of the Hepialus moth.

What Are The Benefits Of Cordyceps?

It seems that the public did not forget the wild success the Chinese athletes enjoyed in 1993. Whether coach Ma Junren’s words were true or not, I imagine they still made an impression. What are the benefits of cordyceps? Cordyceps are probably most popular for their energizing properties and ability to improve athletic performance. The fungus is believed to increase the body’s production of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which delivers energy to the muscles.

One study tested fitness levels of participants who received Cs-4, coryceps sinensis, compared to the fitness levels of participants who received a placebo. Participants who received Cs-4 showed an increase in fitness level while participants who did not receive Cs-4 remained at the same fitness level. However, there is other research suggesting that cordyceps does not improve exercise performance. It’s up to you to decide which side you’d like to believe. Alternatively, you can pick up some cordyceps supplements or cordyceps tea and try it for yourself. Let us know in the comments section below if you felt improved exercise performance!

Enhancing exercise performance is not all that people know cordyceps for. The fungus can also help with symptoms of ageing, treat kidney disease, improve heart health and manage type 2 diabetes.

Anti-Ageing Properties

Woman smiling in the mirror.

Cordyceps contains anti-ageing properties.

Cordyceps is rich in antioxidants, which neutralize free radicals that can damage cells and contribute to disease and ageing. Research conducted on mice showed that cordyceps improved memory and made them live longer. However, no studies were conducted on humans to confirm that cordyceps’ anti-ageing properties benefit humans as well.

May Treat Kidney Disease

Chinese medicine has traditionally used cordyceps to treat people with kidney disease. There have been several studies which aimed to assess whether or not cordyceps helps to treat kidney disease, and the results are conflicting. I would imagine that the Chinese saw some sort of results, even if minimal, while using cordyceps to treat kidney disease. Otherwise, they wouldn’t have used it for so many years. Of course, while cordyceps may treat kidney disease, it should not replace medical treatments.

Improves Heart Health

Woman holding hands in heart shape above head.

Cordyceps can help your heart.

Cordyceps contains adenosine, a compound that has heart-protective properties. Studies on animals found that cordyceps decreased triglyceride levels, which is a type of fat that is linked to a greater risk of heart disease. Cordyceps may also lower LDL cholesterol, the cholesterol which can raise the risk of heart disease. However, there is not enough research to confirm that cordyceps improves heart health in humans.

Manages Type 2 Diabetes

Cordyceps might mimic the action of insulin, regulating blood sugar levels. Research on diabetic mice found that cordyceps decreased blood sugar levels. Again, these results were for animals, but they are promising indicators that cordyceps can help manage type 2 diabetes.

Cordyceps Supplement And Capsules Explained

Many companies that make cordyceps supplements and capsules boast that they contain the cordyceps sinensis species. In reality, cordyceps sinensis rarely reaches North America. For many years the Chinese have been unable to cultivate cordyceps sinensis mushroom, making it in high demand and very expensive. The Chinese have recently figured out how to cultivate the mushroom, but it will take time until it is available on a large scale. For now, cordyceps supplements made in China which companies market as containing cordyceps sinensis usually contain cordyceps Cs-4, which is an anamorph form of cordyceps sinensis, or other strains of cordyceps.

Cordyceps supplements can provide health benefits, even if they do not contain wild cordyceps. Other strains of cordyceps with similar genetic compounds to wild cordyceps sinensis may also revitalize and heal.

What Are The Side Effects Of Cordyceps?

Woman smiling while putting her hands on her pregnant stomach.

Pregnant women should not take cordyceps.

Why are the side effects of cordyceps? Potential side effects of cordyceps include nausea, diarrhea, dizziness, dry mouth or loss of appetite. Do not take cordyceps if you are allergic to mold or fungi. You should not take cordyceps if you are pregnant or breastfeeding, as there is not enough scientific evidence on whether or not it is safe to take it under those circumstances.

Cordyceps can also slow blood clotting and increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases such as lupus, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis. It should not be taken two weeks before surgery, and people with bleeding disorders should avoid taking cordyceps.

How To Make Cordyceps Tea

Woman closign her eyes and holding a cup.

You can enjoy the benefits of cordyceps with cordyceps tea.

Cordyceps tea is simple to prepare. All you need to do is add ½ to 1 teaspoon of cordyceps extract to hot water, stir, and consume immediately.

Alternatively, you can make cordyceps tea using a cordyceps teabag or dried cordyceps mushrooms. Here’s how:

Ingredients

  • 3-5 grams of dried cordyceps mushrooms (about a heaping tablespoon of ground cordyceps)
  • 4-5 cups of water

Directions

  • Grind the mushrooms or cut them into small pieces
  • Bring the water to a boil
  • Add the cordyceps mushroom pieces to the boiling water
  • Lower the heat and cook the mixture for approximately 2 hours
  • Once cooked, remove blend from the heat and strain
  • If the blend is still bitter, repeat the straining process until you’re happy with the taste

Conclusion

The health benefits of cordyceps is a highly debated topic. For hundreds of years people have been using the fungus for its healing properties, but recent research about its healing benefits is inconclusive. Confusing, right? I imagine that this is one in dozens of other natural supplements subjected to conflicting studies and inconclusive research. The important thing is to realize that while natural supplements can benefit our health they should not replace a proper diet, nor should we use them as the only treatment for an illness that requires medical attention. If you are considering taking cordyceps, consult with your doctor to discuss a healthy dosage for you.