Cordyceps seems to be all the rage right now especially when it comes to supplements. Even a simple google search for “cordyceps” yields almost 6 million results!
This fascinating species is actually a genus of parasitic fungi that grows on the larvae of insects. It includes over 400 different species which are found all over the world.
Cordyceps typically infect other insects and arthropods. When the Cordyceps spores land on the insect, the spore will germinate.
Next, hyphae will begin to grow inside the insect and turn into mycelium which continues to consume the insect from the inside.
When the insect is fully consumed and the environmental conditions are correct, cordyceps will be produced from the insect’s head. Here’s a video of Cordyceps infecting ants:
It is an annual Ascomycetes fungus closely related to the mushroom and has a blade-like appearance. Although it not actually a mushroom taxonomically, it is referred to as an exotic medicinal mushroom in traditional medicine and supplements.
But will Cordyceps supplements live up to the people’s expectations or is it just pure hype?
Well, no one can deny the fact that it is a superfood. But the answer depends on how the supplement is made.
But before we delve into that, here are the 6 benefits of Cordyceps
1. It boosts exercise performance
According to this study, the polysaccharides from Cordyceps has an anti-fatigue effect.
In another research, the effectiveness of the cultures Cordyceps Sinensis powder during an exhaustive running of human was tested.
For the process, the supplements were given to 36 male sedentary subjects over a period of 2 weeks. During the test, bio-signals were measured.
Results show that there is a significant difference between the placebo group. The participants who took Cordyceps supplements appears to have an augmentation of the energy generation and anti-fatigue ability.
2. It has anti-aging properties
Cordyceps has a high antioxidant content. According to research, their antioxidant content is the reason for its anti-aging potential.
Antioxidants are the ones which fight cell damage by neutralizing free radicals. These radicals contribute to disease and aging so it is good news that Cordyceps contains a lot of these precious molecules.
This study was done on mice aged by d-galactose and castrated rats to analyze the anti-anti-aging effect of Cordyceps. Results show an improved brain function and sexual function which confirms its anti-aging benefits.
3. It can prolong life
Another study was published which state that mice which were given Cordyceps lived several months longer compared to those given with placebo.
Furthermore, a study made on fruit flies shows that Cordyceps Sinensis prolonged their lifespan by inhibiting oxidative stress.
4. It inhibits the growth of tumors
A study made on lung cancer found that Cordyceps has numerous potential medicinal properties including antitumor activity.
Researchers found that Cordyceps extract has tumor cell growth inhibitory activity in several human tumor cell lines.
Additionally, studies in mice show that the extract has anti-tumor effects on lymphoma, melanoma and lung cancer.
Another interesting finding reveals that it can also reverse the side effects associated with many forms of cancer therapy such as leukopenia. This refers to a condition where the number of white blood cells (leukocytes) decreases. As such, it results in the lowering the body’s defenses and increasing the risk of infection.
5. It helps manage type 2 diabetes
Diabetes is a condition in which the body has a problem in producing or responding to the hormone insulin. People with diabetes are required to make sure their blood sugar levels are well controlled.
Cordyceps contains a special type of sugar by mimicking the action of insulin. A study shows that the fruiting body, not carcass, of Cordyceps, has an anti-hyperglycemic effect on the subjects.
Another study found that it can also improve the conditions of people with chronic kidney disease, a common complication of diabetes. The research concluded that the fruiting body of Cordyceps has the potential to be the functional food for diabetes.
6. It is good for the heart
According to this research, Cordyceps has been approved by the State Food and Drug Administration of China since 2002 because of its outstanding curative effects.
A study made on rats found that it reduced heart injuries in rats chronic kidney disease. Instead of getting worse, heart failure was avoided.
This is due to adenosine content of Cordyceps. One study shows that it has protective effects from heart diseases.
7. It fights inflammation
One study revealed that Cordyceps is an immunomodulatory agent. When human cells are exposed to Cordyceps, special proteins that increase inflammation in the body become suppressed.
In a mice study, Cordyceps has been shown to reduce inflammation in the airways of the animals. Researchers conclude that it is a useful anti-inflammatory supplement or drug.
Cordyceps supplements buying guide: what’s the catch?
Now that we’ve established the benefits of Cordyceps, let’s hear the ugly truth.
True, wild Cordyceps Sinensis is not in 99.9% of Cordyceps supplements.
It’s due to the reason that wild Cordyceps Sinensis costs over $20,000 per kilogram! In fact, it is one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world.
The high price is because Cordyceps faced a crisis. For many years, the Chinese have been unable to cultivate this mushroom.
The demand became too much on a set supply of wild Cordyceps Sinensis. Only recently have the Chinese figured out how to cultivate this mushroom.
However, it is still not at a production scale yet so there’s no impact on the price.
Even though the majority of Cordyceps supplements do not contain the pure extract, many companies are misleading its users. They are using photos of this mushroom in their marketing materials and label information.
As such, they cause their customers to believe they are consuming this mushroom. Sadly, they are not.
What is inside Cordyceps supplement?
To ensure that your supplement is a high-quality product, look for brands that carry the United States Pharmacopeia (USP) or NSF International (NSF) seal. Consuming fake supplements could lead to poisoning.
The majority of Cordyceps supplements contain a synthetically grown version. Most of the time, they are made from one of the following:
1. Cordyceps Cs-4
Up to this day, there is no affordable cultivated version of Cordyceps mushroom. But the demand kept climbing up so scientists found a way.
They end up with Cordyceps anamorphs which are mycelium cultures that are unable to produce a fruiting body. They were grown in liquid fermentation to create mass amounts of pure mycelium.
If your supplemet is made from these anamorphs, it is safe to consume because they’re found to produce similar results to the wild Cordyceps Sinensis.
2. Cordyceps mycelia grain
This type of Cordyceps is grown in a plastic bag containing sterilized grain. This can also be referred to as solid-state fermentation.
This is not pure unlike Cs-4 because the mycelium cannot be separated from the grain. In turn, the grain ends up in the final product.
If your supplement is made from mycelium grain, much of that is actually the grain which the mycelium grows on. Imagine consuming starches (alpha-glucans) instead of the much-needed beta glucans.
When buying a mushroom supplement, do not count the number of polysaccharides (beta glucan + alpha glucan). Instead, measure the beta glucans only.
3. Cordyceps mushroom extract
One type of Cordyceps species that can be commercially cultivated at scale to produce a fruiting body is Cordyceps Militaris.
If your supplements are made from this fungi, rest assured it contains true Cordyceps mushroom extracts.
It has approximately 25% higher levels of important beta-glucans. Compared to Cs-4 which has less than 10% beta-glucans, Cordyceps Militaris is by far the best.
One of the unique things about Cordyceps Militaris is that it produces the compound cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine) in much higher amounts. This compound has a very potent anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory activity.
Researches show that Cordyceps Militaris has similar benefits to the traditional wild Cordyceps Sinensis. It has also been used as an alternative to the latter in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
It is very important to know where your Cordyceps supplement is made from. There is nothing wrong with doing your research, scrutinizing the label and supplements panel very carefully.
After all, it’s your health and body you’re putting on the line.
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