You’ve probably heard of nootropic mushrooms if you’re big into wellness. Rapidly growing in popularity, nootropic mushrooms have been used for thousands of years for various purported benefits.*
One example of these little power-packed fungi is Cordyceps. So what exactly is it, and what does it do? In this blog post, we’ll look at cordyceps, what it is, and what it reportedly can do.
What is Cordyceps?
Cordyceps is an entomopathogenic fungi that grows as a parasite on insects. “Entomopathogenic” means the fungi can surpass the immune system of insects and cause disease, ultimately killing the insect as part of a natural life cycle.
There are about 600 species of Cordyceps, and they are found primarily in China. They have been long used in traditional Chinese medicine for various applications.
Today, most cordyceps are manufactured in a laboratory and are widely used as a nootropic supplement.
Cordyceps sinensis vs. Cordyceps militaris
The two most popular species of cordyceps supplements commercially available are Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris.
Cordyceps sinensis, or the caterpillar fungus, is a parasitic fungus that infects the ghost moths (Thitarodes spp) found in alpine meadows of the Tibetan Plateau, China, and the Himalayas. The fungus infects the host, eventually killing it. From its body, the cordyceps then grow into a long, stalk-like structure.
Cordyceps sinensis contains various bioactive compounds, including polysaccharides, nucleosides, and cordycepin.
Cordyceps militaris is a species of Cordyceps that, although also an entomopathogenic fungus, can be cultivated via silkworm pupae, rice, or liquid nutrients.
Unlike Cordyceps sinensis, which is challenging to cultivate and primarily harvested from the wild, Cordyceps militaris can be successfully cultivated in controlled environments. This makes it more accessible for commercial production of Cordyceps extract and reduces the environmental impact associated with wild harvesting.
How Do Cordyceps Grow?
Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that infects insects and other arthropods, a phylum of invertebrate animals.
Each species of Cordyceps infects only a specific insect. They begin their life cycle as spores, and upon contact with their host, they attach themselves to the body.
The spore then germinates, and the fungus mycelium starts to penetrate the host body. Once inside, the fungus grows and spreads throughout the tissues, secreting enzymes that eventually kill the host.
As it grows, the fungus takes over the host body and will fruit. The fruiting body that emerges from the host body is often seen and harvested, like the Cordyceps Sinensis that emerges from infected caterpillars.
Once emerged, the Cordyceps fungus can also release spores from its tip, which are then carried by wind to infect new hosts. This helps the fungus spread and continue its life cycle.
Cordyceps has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM).*
A study found that the metabolic and ventilatory threshold of older adults aged 50 to 75 was increased after 12 weeks of taking Cordyceps sinensis, commercially known as Cs-4. This suggests that Cs-4 could improve exercise performance in healthy older adults.
One study with CME (Cordyceps militaris extract) found that the fungus had potent free radical-reducing effects. Free radicals come from external environments like pollution, chemicals, and smoke. Antioxidants, like those found in CME, must balance the free radicals, or our bodies enter a state of oxidative stress.
Excessive and prolonged oxidative stress can lead to severe diseases like cancer, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s.
Cordyceps has, in one study, been shown to boost immune systems and gastrointestinal health of chickens by reducing the number of harmful bacteria and increasing the number of healthy bacteria, helping the body remain in a state of balance called homeostasis.
In addition, the polysaccharides that Cordyceps contain can help control blood sugar in diabetic animals.
A study on rats showed that Cordyceps militaris can help with erectile dysfunction and increase libido. This suggests that Cordyceps has an aphrodisiac effect on some animals.
As mentioned earlier, Cordyceps is a powerful antioxidant. One of the most important compounds is cordycepin, also known as 3′-deoxyadenosine.
This compound has been shown to be antiviral, anti-inflammatory, and antioxidant. It can reduce oxidative stress on the body, boost the immune system, and improve heart health.
Cordyceps is also known for its potential anti-inflammatory effects. Inflammation is the body’s normal response to infection and tissue damage. Still, a prolonged state of inflammation can lead to future health complications.
Note that these studies were not done in human trials, so the anti-inflammatory effects of Cordyceps still need further research.
Cordyceps as a Supplement
Dosages vary according to your health, body weight, age, and metabolism. As a general guideline, the daily dose will be 500 to 1,500 mg. However, follow the product label and manufacturer’s guidelines.
You should also check with your healthcare provider and get medical advice before introducing anything new to your routine. Start with a small dose and gradually increase it if necessary.
Cordyceps and other mushrooms have been used for thousands of years in traditional herbal medicine. However, if you have existing medical conditions and are on medication, you should check with your healthcare provider about potential interactions. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, also check with your provider.
Also, you should exercise caution if you have a fungi allergy, as Cordyceps can trigger a reaction.
While most people don’t experience any side effects, higher doses of Cordyceps can cause tummy troubles, mild headaches, dizziness, and sleep disruption.
Cordyceps: Final Thoughts
While more clinical studies on humans need to be done to fully understand the effects of Cordyceps, many are already showing promising results and pointing to the potential benefits of Cordyceps.
Are you looking to up your wellness game and spoil your body? Shop at Blessed Wellness for top-quality Nootropic Mushroom dietary supplements.* You have only one body, and we’d like to help you give it the very best.
*It is important to note that the benefits of these products have not been conclusively proven. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, and the NHS has not made any guarantees about the efficacy of such products.