Cordyceps mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years for fatigue and inflammation as well as an immune system stimulant. Cordyceps have grown popular recently because of their numerous health properties, as well as the fungus’s star turn as the villain of the hit HBO show “The Last of Us.” In the world of the show, a mutated strain of the cordyceps fungus causes terrifying brain infections that have devastated the human race.
Can cordyceps actually infect humans and turn them into zombies? No, thank goodness—cordyceps mushrooms grow on the larvae of insects in the wild. But most modern cordyceps supplements are cultivated in laboratories on a nutrient-rich substrate such as rice, oats, or soybeans. (No insects perished in the making of our cordyceps supplements!)
People of China, Tibet, Nepal and India have historically consumed cordyceps to build stamina and help adapt their bodies to difficult high mountain conditions like atmospheric pressure and reduced oxygen. They’ve been used with the intent of increasing endurance and stamina with such apparent success by Olympic athletes that some Chinese runners were suspected of using steroids in the 1992 Olympic games.
While more research is needed to fully understand their effects on human health, here’s the science that shows cordyceps supplements are in high demand for good reason:
Cordyceps mushrooms may boost the immune system.
Cordyceps have been shown to enhance the activity of certain immune cells, which may help to strengthen the immune system and reduce the risk of infection.
Cordyceps mushrooms may improve energy and endurance.
Cordyceps are believed to help increase energy levels and improve endurance by increasing the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that provides energy to cells. A 2017 study published in the Journal of Dietary Supplements found that cordyceps improved participants’ tolerance for high-intensity exercise.
Another controlled study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that three months of supplementing cordyceps mushroom increased the study participants’ cardiovascular endurance substantially. Their lactate threshold increased by 10% and their ventilatory threshold by 8.5% compared to the placebo group.
(The study notes that “When Chinese female runners achieved records in 1500 meter, 3000 meter, and 10,000 meter events….Their coach attributed their success to a diet containing cordyceps.”)
Cordyceps mushrooms have anti-inflammatory properties.
Cordyceps contains compounds that are anti-inflammatory, and because inflammation is linked with so many chronic diseases (arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, asthma, heart disease and Type 2 diabetes) cordyceps supplements are consumed as a preventative health measure.
Cordyceps mushrooms may support brain health.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of Evidence-based Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that cordyceps mushrooms “may improve learning and memory…by scavenging oxygen free radicals, preventing oxidative damage, and protecting the nervous system.”
Cordyceps mushrooms may support respiratory health.
Cordyceps have been traditionally used to treat respiratory conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and coughs. Animal studies have shown that cordyceps relieved symptoms of COPD and lung fibrosis.
Human trials have also shown cordyceps potential for improving respiratory health. A three-month-long study published in 2016 in the journal Evidence-Based and Complementary Alternative Medicine concluded that “a formulation of Cordyceps sinensis improved the health-related quality of life, asthma symptoms, lung function, and inflammatory profile of the patients with moderate-to-severe asthma.”
Not all cordyceps supplements are created alike. When considering where to buy cordyceps, always check the ingredients on a cordyceps supplement to make sure it contains genuine Cordyceps sinensis, which is the most studied and effective species of cordyceps. Also, look for a supplement that lists the type of cordyceps and the percentage of beta-glucans, the active compounds in cordyceps.
Always, always consult with a healthcare provider if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking any medications. They can advise you on whether it’s safe for you to take and recommend a dosage that’s appropriate for your needs.
Want to find out whether cordyceps could improve your stamina and energy?
Check out our Mycroboost Brain Mushroom Softgels and support your hardworking brain with 750 mg of organically grown cordyceps extract (plus 750 mg of organically grown lion’s mane extract). Our Mycroboost Medicinal Mushroom Gummies and Mycroboost Wellness Mushroom Softgel feature cordyceps along with a medley of functional mushroom extracts designed to help your body and mind thrive.