Cordyceps may be nature’s most unique energy enhancer. This rare and prized medicinal fungi has been used by Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries to boost energy and overcome fatigue. The Sherpas and the people of the Himalayas have also relied on it. And that’s part of what makes it so unique.
Many resources refer to Cordyceps as a medicinal mushroom. That’s not accurate. Cordyceps sinensis is a fungus. It occurs naturally only in the high altitudes of the Himalayas, where the Himalayan Ghost Moth lives. This is where Cordyceps gets interesting…
This medicinal fungus which grows only at and above 16,000 feet needs the Ghost Moth. When a spore of Cordyceps lands on the larva of the ghost moth, it germinates. Then it begins to grow and become mycelium, strands of the fungus, that will consume the insect from the inside. In the right conditions, it will produce a fruiting body and the process starts all over. It’s probably no surprise it’s also called the caterpillar fungus.
It might sound like a horror-movie plot for the ghost moth, but for people it’s one of nature’s most potent energy enhancers. According to tradition, people started eating the mushroom when they noticed their animals that did grew strong and more energetic. Today, research has confirmed Cordyceps ability to boost energy safely and naturally.
How Cordyceps Raises Energy Levels
Scientists have confirmed Cordyceps boosts energy levels in three primary ways
- Cordyceps improves insulin sensitivity. When your cells become resistant to insulin, they don’t take in as much glucose which deprives them of energy. Researchers have reported that an extract of Cordyceps mycelium improved insulin sensitivity, increasing glucose uptake and improving physical performance.[i],[ii]
- It boosts ATP production. ATP fuels every biochemical reaction in every cell in your body. In animal studies, researchers observed those given Cordyceps enjoyed greater ATP production.[iii]
- It improves lactic acid metabolism. A clinical trial of older adults found those who received the Cordyceps had a 10% improvement in their lactic acid threshold. This allowed them to do more exercise and perform better than the control group.[iv]
This means Cordyceps helps cells get the fuel they need (glucose) to produce ATP and supports the bodies removal of waste products (lactic acid). Additional studies have noted Cordyceps provides antioxidant protection as well. This protects cells from free radicals produced by energy production.
Uses of Cordyceps
Cordyceps support for energy production means it offers benefits to anyone in need of an energy boost. Researchers have also tested it to see its effect on exercise.
In one trial, they examined the effect of a blend of Cordyceps and Rhodiola on athletes doing high altitude training. After two weeks, the treatment group had a higher red blood cell count and were able to perform for a longer period of time.[v]
It has also been used to:
- Improve circulation
- Alleviate symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome
- Relieve muscle weakness
- Address liver conditions
- Increase libido
- Help with respiratory conditions like asthma and chronic bronchitis
- Treat kidney disorders
Researchers have even suggested it may help support cancer therapies.
How to Take Cordyceps
With so many uses, the demand for Cordyceps has dramatically increased in the last two decades. Today, harvesting Cordyceps is a big business. Being rare, one kilogram of Cordyceps sinensis can go for as much as $20,000!
Fortunately, innovative approaches have produced Cordyceps mycelium that provides the same health benefits – and without the cost! This makes the health and energy-boosting benefits of Cordyceps available to more people.
Traditionally, people would eat Cordyceps in soups, teas or stews. Most people today take it in supplement form. While many supplements provide Cordyceps on its own, Traditional Chinese Medicine would recommend taking it as part of blend.
This idea of synergism enhances the power of each of the herbs. One popular combination is Cordyceps, Rhodiola and American ginseng. It delivers the energy-enhancing power of Cordyceps with two additional energy support herbs to provide a safe, non-caffeinated way to get an immediate energy boost.
[i] Balon TW1, et al. A fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis increases whole-body insulin sensitivity in rats. J Altern Complement Med. 2002 Jun;8(3):315-23.
[ii] Lin B, Li S. Cordyceps as an Herbal Drug. In: Benzie IFF, Wachtel-Galor S, editors. Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects. 2nd edition. Boca Raton (FL): CRC Press/Taylor & Francis; 2011. Chapter 5.
[iii] Manabe N1, et al. Effects of the mycelial extract of cultured Cordyceps sinensis on in vivo hepatic energy metabolism and blood flow in dietary hypoferric anaemic mice. Br J Nutr. 2000 Feb;83(2):197-204.
[iv] Chen S, Li Z, Krochmal R, Abrazado M, Kim W, Cooper CB. Effect of Cs-4® (Cordyceps sinensis) on Exercise Performance in Healthy Older Subjects: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine. 2010;16(5):585-590. doi:10.1089/acm.2009.0226.
[v] Chen CY1, et al. Rhodiola crenulata- and Cordyceps sinensis-based supplement boosts aerobic exercise performance after short-term high altitude training. High Alt Med Biol. 2014 Sep;15(3):371-9. doi: 10.1089/ham.2013.1114.