Cordyceps are a strange breed of plant food with benefits. While a fungus, they are not technically mushrooms. Instead, Cordyceps are a parasitic, fungal spore that was once thought to be worms. Cordyceps kill their hosts (ghost moth and caterpillar larvae) by taking over their body. Eventually, they replace the host tissue by growing outside of it.
While strange, they have some powerful healing abilities according to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Tibetan healers. Cordyceps, also known as Chinese Caterpillar fungus, has been used since ancient times for their medicinal value. They only grow in very high mountain elevations more than two miles above sea level.
Their popularity as a superfood grew in the west after a coach for Chinese record-breaking female track runners credited cordyceps as the reason for part of the runners’ success. Cordyceps was said to have improved the runners’ performance and endurance. Because of cordyceps popularity, their rarity, and how expensive wild cordyceps are, they are now cultivated.
Cordyceps are considered beneficial to health in many ways including increasing longevity and improving energy. Research is beginning to back up cordyceps’ health claims.
- Balances cortisol and other stress hormones. Cordyceps are adaptogenic. Adaptogens are plant compounds that help the body to repel stress. They help to bring the body into balance or homeostasis. Cordyceps work both to lower stress hormones if necessary and likewise raise them if needed.
- Helps to regulate blood sugar. Laboratory studies showed that cordyceps stabilized blood sugar. Cordyceps are believed to keep blood sugar level within normal range because compounds in them mimic the way insulin acts in the body.
- Improves brain function. The Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine journal in 2014 reported on research that showed cordyceps reduced inflammatory markers in the hippocampus which is the part of the brain that is for memory and mood. In the study, memory and mood improved.
- Reduces the progression of kidney disease. Laboratory research and human studies showed that cordyceps boosted kidney function. Other studies have reported on the benefits of cordyceps for those with chronic renal disease.
- Slowed tumor growth. Extracts of cordyceps militaris in animal studies inhibited colorectal cancer cells and hindered tumor growth according to a report in the DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences. Other laboratory research has shown that cordyceps slowed the growth of lung, melanoma, liver, and other cancer tumors.
- Assist with heart health. In China, cordyceps is approved for treating arrhythmia. Arrhythmia is a heart condition where the heartbeat is irregular; it can beat too fast or too slow. Adenosine is one of the plant compounds in cordyceps that another laboratory study found reduced heart damage due to kidney disease. They’ve also been found to improve cholesterol levels.
- Reduces inflammation. Certain proteins in cordyceps were found to reduce inflammation in human cells and in animal studies.
- Increase performance and endurance. Delivering energy to the muscles by improving the body’s use of oxygen is thought to be the way cordyceps improve physical stamina, especially during exercise. The adenosine triphosphate (ATP) molecules are believed to be responsible.
- Slow the aging process. Antioxidants, research suggests are what’s behind the fungus’ anti-aging benefits. Traditionally cordyceps have been used to reduce fatigue and boost the libido. Studies with mice and fruit flies showed they lived longer than the control group.
Cordyceps is unusual in the way they grow. Yet consider that they’ve been used for thousands of years and their health value is undeniable considering research results. The Chinese government has approved Cordyceps CS-4 (cultivated, standardized strain) for medicinal use.
This information is for educational purposes only. It’s not intended to diagnose, treat, or recommend any therapy or course of treatment. Always, consult with your doctor before considering a new therapy, the use of herbs, or supplements.
- Are Cordyceps Magic, Medicinal Mushrooms (August 22, 2016). Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/cordyceps-exercise-performance#benefits.
- Dach, Jeffrey, M.D. Cordyceps the Energy Superfood. Retrieved from https://jeffreydachmd.com/cordyceps-the-energy-superfood/.
- Jockers, David, Dr. DNM, DC, MS. 5 Benefits of Cordyceps For Your Brain and Body. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/cordyceps-exercise-performance#benefits.
- Lee, Hwan Hee, et al. Anti-cancer effect of Cordyceps militaris in human colorectal carcinoma RKO cells via cell cycle arrest and mitochondrial apoptosis (July 4, 2015). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4491205/.