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Overview, Uses, Side Effects, Precautions, Interactions, Dosing and Reviews

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Balon, T. W., Jasman, A. P., and Zhu, J. S. A fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis increases whole-body insulin sensitivity in rats. J Altern Complement Med 2002;8(3):315-323. View abstract.

Che YS and Lin LZ. Clinical observation on therapeutic effects of JinShuiBao on coronary heart disease, hyperlipidemia, and blood rheology. Chinese Traditional Herbal Drugs 1996;27(9):552-553.

Chen, H. and Weng, L. [Comparison on efficacy in treating liver fibrosis of chronic hepatitis B between Astragalus Polygonum anti-fibrosis decoction and jinshuibao capsule]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 2000;20(4):255-257. View abstract.

Chen, S., Li, Z., Krochmal, R., Abrazado, M., Kim, W., and Cooper, C. B. Effect of Cs-4 (Cordyceps sinensis) on exercise performance in healthy older subjects: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern.Complement Med 2010;16(5):585-590. View abstract.

Cheng JH, Guo XM, and Wang X. Analysis of therapeutic effects of Jinshuibao capsule in adjuvant treatment of 20 patients with terminal stage of lung cancer. J Administration Traditional Chinese Med 1995;5(Suppl):34-35.

Cheng, YP, Liu, WZ, Shen, LM, and Xu, SN. Comparisons of fermented Cordyceps mycelia in natural Cordyceps sinensis in treating 30 patients with renal failure. Chinese Traditional Herbal Drugs 1986;17(6):256-258.

Dai, G., Bao, T., Xu, C., Cooper, R., and Zhu, J. S. CordyMax Cs-4 improves steady-state bioenergy status in mouse liver. J Altern Complement Med 2001;7(3):231-240. View abstract.

Ding, C. G., Tian, P. X., and Jin, Z. K. [Clinical application and exploration on mechanism of action of Cordyceps sinensis mycelia preparation for renal transplantation recipients]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 2009;29(11):975-978. View abstract.

Ding, C., Tian, P. X., Xue, W., Ding, X., Yan, H., Pan, X., Feng, X., Xiang, H., Hou, J., and Tian, X. Efficacy of Cordyceps sinensis in long term treatment of renal transplant patients. Front Biosci (Elite.Ed) 2011;3:301-307. View abstract.

Earnest, C. P., Morss, G. M., Wyatt, F., Jordan, A. N., Colson, S., Church, T. S., Fitzgerald, Y., Autrey, L., Jurca, R., and Lucia, A. Effects of a commercial herbal-based formula on exercise performance in cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36(3):504-509. View abstract.

Gong, H. Y., Wang, K. Q., and Tang, S. G. [Effects of cordyceps sinensis on T lymphocyte subsets and hepatofibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis B]. Hunan.Yi.Ke.Da.Xue.Xue.Bao. 6-28-2000;25(3):248-250. View abstract.

Guan, Y. J., Hu, Z., and Hou, M. [Effect of Cordyceps sinesis on T-lymphocyte subsets in chronic renal failure]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 1992;12(6):338-9, 323. View abstract.

Han SR. Experiences in treating patients with chronic bronchitis and pulmonary diseases with Cs-4 capsule (JinShuiBao). Journal of Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1995;5(Suppl):33-34 .

Hsu, C. C., Huang, Y. L., Tsai, S. J., Sheu, C. C., and Huang, B. M. In vivo and in vitro stimulatory effects of Cordyceps sinensis on testosterone production in mouse Leydig cells. Life Sci 9-5-2003;73(16):2127-2136. View abstract.

Ikumoto, T., Sasaki, S., Namba, H., Toyama, R., Moritoki, H., and Mouri, T. [Physiologically active compounds in the extracts from tochukaso and cultured mycelia of Cordyceps and Isaria]. Yakugaku Zasshi 1991;111(9):504-509. View abstract.

Li, Y., Xue, W. J., Tian, P. X., Ding, X. M., Yan, H., Pan, X. M., and Feng, X. S. Clinical application of Cordyceps sinensis on immunosuppressive therapy in renal transplantation. Transplant.Proc. 2009;41(5):1565-1569. View abstract.

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Xu, F., Huang, J. B., Jiang, L., Xu, J., and Mi, J. Amelioration of cyclosporin nephrotoxicity by Cordyceps sinensis in kidney-transplanted recipients. Nephrol.Dial.Transplant. 1995;10(1):142-143. View abstract.

Yang W, Deng X, and Hu W. Clinical study of fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis on treatment of hyposexuality. J Administration Traditional Chinese Med 1995;5(suppl):23-24.

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Zhu, J. L. and Liu, C. [Modulating effects of extractum semen Persicae and cultivated Cordyceps hyphae on immuno-dysfunction of inpatients with posthepatitic cirrhosis]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 1992;12(4):207-9, 195. View abstract.

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Kreipke PhD VC, Moffatt PhD RJ, Tanner Ma CJ, Ormsbee PhD MJ. Effects of Concurrent Training and a Multi-Ingredient Performance Supplement Containing Rhodiola rosea and Cordyceps sinensis on Body Composition, Performance, and Health in Active Men. J Diet Suppl. 2020:1-17. View abstract.

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Kuo YC, Tsai WJ, Shiao MS, et al. Cordyceps sinensis as an immunomodulatory agent. Am J Chin Med 1996;24:111-25. View abstract.

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Luo Y, Yang SK, Zhou X, Wang M, Tang D, Liu FY, Sun L, Xiao L. Use of Ophiocordyceps sinensis (syn. Cordyceps sinensis) combined with angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors (ACEI)/angiotensin receptor blockers (ARB) versus ACEI/ARB alone in the treatment of diabetic kidney disease: a meta-analysis.
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Parcell AC, Smith JM, Schulthies SS, et al. Cordyceps sinensis (CordyMax Cs-4) supplementation does not improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2004;14:236-42. View abstract.

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Wang SM, Lee LJ, Lin WW, Chang CM. Effects of a water-soluble extract of Cordyceps sinensis on steroidogenesis and capsular morphology of lipid droplets in cultured rat adrenocortical cells. J Cell Biochem 1998;69:483-9. View abstract.

Xu F, Huang JB, Jiang L, et al. Amelioration of cyclosporin nephrotoxicity by Cordyceps sinensis in kidney-transplanted recipients. Nephrol Dial Transplant 1995;10:142-3.

Xu RH, Peng XE, Chen GZ, Chen GL. Effects of cordyceps sinensis on natural killer activity and colony formation of B16 melanoma. Chin Med J (English) 1992;105:97-101. View abstract.

Yamaguchi N, Yoshida J, Ren LJ, et al. Augmentation of various immune reactivities of tumor-bearing hosts with an extract of Cordyceps sinensis. Biotherapy 1990;2:199-205. View abstract.

Yoshida J, Takamura S, Yamaguchi N, et al. Antitumor activity of an extract of Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.) Sacc. against murine tumor cell lines. Jpn J Exp Med 1989;59:157-61. View abstract.

Zhang HW, Lin ZX, Tung YS, Kwan TH, Mok CK, Leung C, Chan LS. Cordyceps sinensis (a traditional Chinese medicine) for treating chronic kidney disease (Review). Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2014;(12):CD008353. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008353.pub2. View abstract.

Zhao K, Li Y, Zhang H. Role of Dongchongxiacao (Cordyceps) in prevention of contrast-induced nephropathy in patients with stable angina pectoris. J Tradit Chin Med. 2013;33(3):283-286. View abstract.

Zhao Y. [Inhibitory effects of alcoholic extract of Cordyceps sinensis on abdominal aortic thrombus formation in rabbits]. Chung Hua I Hsueh Tsa Chih (Taipei) 1991;71:612-5, 42. View abstract.

Zhou DH, Lin LZ. [Effect of Jinshuibao capsule on the immunological function of 36 patients with advanced cancer]. Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih 1995;15:476-8. View abstract.

Zhou L, Yang W, Xu Y, et al. [Short-term curative effect of cultured Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.) Sacc. Mycelia in chronic hepatitis B]. Chung Kuo Chung Yao Tsa Chih 1990;15:53-5, 65. View abstract.

Zhu JS, Halpern GM, Jones K. The scientific rediscovery of a precious ancient Chinese herbal regimen: Cordyceps sinensis: part II. J Altern Complement Med 1998;4:429-57. View abstract.

Zhu JS, Halpern GM, Jones K. The scientific rediscovery of an ancient Chinese herbal medicine: Cordyceps sinensis: part I. J Altern Complement Med 1998;4:289-303. View abstract.

Zhu XY, Yu HY. [Immunosuppressive effect of cultured Cordyceps sinensis on cellular immune response]. Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih 1990;10:485-7, 454. View abstract.

Health Benefits, Side Effects, Uses, Dose & Precautions

Ahn, Y. J., Park, S. J., Lee, S. G., Shin, S. C., and Choi, D. H. Cordycepin: selective growth inhibitor derived from liquid culture of Cordyceps militaris against Clostridium spp. J.Agric.Food Chem. 2000;48(7):2744-2748. View abstract.

Balon, T. W., Jasman, A. P., and Zhu, J. S. A fermentation product of Cordyceps sinensis increases whole-body insulin sensitivity in rats. J Altern Complement Med 2002;8(3):315-323. View abstract.

Che YS and Lin LZ. Clinical observation on therapeutic effects of JinShuiBao on coronary heart disease, hyperlipidemia, and blood rheology. Chinese Traditional Herbal Drugs 1996;27(9):552-553.

Chen, H. and Weng, L. [Comparison on efficacy in treating liver fibrosis of chronic hepatitis B between Astragalus Polygonum anti-fibrosis decoction and jinshuibao capsule]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 2000;20(4):255-257. View abstract.

Chen, S. J., Yin, D. H., Zhong, G. Y., and Huang, T. F. [Study on the biology of adults parasite of Cordyceps sinensis, Hepialus biruensis]. Zhongguo Zhong.Yao Za Zhi. 2002;27(12):893-895. View abstract.

Chen, S., Li, Z., Krochmal, R., Abrazado, M., Kim, W., and Cooper, C. B. Effect of Cs-4 (Cordyceps sinensis) on exercise performance in healthy older subjects: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern.Complement Med 2010;16(5):585-590. View abstract.

Cheng JH, Guo XM, and Wang X. Analysis of therapeutic effects of Jinshuibao capsule in adjuvant treatment of 20 patients with terminal stage of lung cancer. J Administration Traditional Chinese Med 1995;5(Suppl):34-35.

Cheng, YP, Liu, WZ, Shen, LM, and Xu, SN. Comparisons of fermented Cordyceps mycelia in natural Cordyceps sinensis in treating 30 patients with renal failure. Chinese Traditional Herbal Drugs 1986;17(6):256-258.

Chiou, W. F., Chang, P. C., Chou, C. J., and Chen, C. F. Protein constituent contributes to the hypotensive and vasorelaxant activities of Cordyceps sinensis. Life Sci 2-25-2000;66(14):1369-1376. View abstract.

Choi, G. S., Shin, Y. S., Kim, J. E., Ye, Y. M., and Park, H. S. Five cases of food allergy to vegetable worm (Cordyceps sinensis) showing cross-reactivity with silkworm pupae. Allergy 2010;65(9):1196-1197. View abstract.

Choi, S., Lim, M. H., Kim, K. M., Jeon, B. H., Song, W. O., and Kim, T. W. Cordycepin-induced apoptosis and autophagy in breast cancer cells are independent of the estrogen receptor. Toxicol.Appl.Pharmacol. 12-1-2011;257(2):165-173. View abstract.

Dai, G., Bao, T., Xu, C., Cooper, R., and Zhu, J. S. CordyMax Cs-4 improves steady-state bioenergy status in mouse liver. J Altern Complement Med 2001;7(3):231-240. View abstract.

Ding, C. G., Tian, P. X., and Jin, Z. K. [Clinical application and exploration on mechanism of action of Cordyceps sinensis mycelia preparation for renal transplantation recipients]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 2009;29(11):975-978. View abstract.

Ding, C., Tian, P. X., Xue, W., Ding, X., Yan, H., Pan, X., Feng, X., Xiang, H., Hou, J., and Tian, X. Efficacy of Cordyceps sinensis in long term treatment of renal transplant patients. Front Biosci (Elite.Ed) 2011;3:301-307. View abstract.

Earnest, C. P., Morss, G. M., Wyatt, F., Jordan, A. N., Colson, S., Church, T. S., Fitzgerald, Y., Autrey, L., Jurca, R., and Lucia, A. Effects of a commercial herbal-based formula on exercise performance in cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36(3):504-509. View abstract.

Gong, H. Y., Wang, K. Q., and Tang, S. G. [Effects of cordyceps sinensis on T lymphocyte subsets and hepatofibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis B]. Hunan.Yi.Ke.Da.Xue.Xue.Bao. 6-28-2000;25(3):248-250. View abstract.

Guan, Y. J., Hu, Z., and Hou, M. [Effect of Cordyceps sinesis on T-lymphocyte subsets in chronic renal failure]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 1992;12(6):338-9, 323. View abstract.

Han SR. Experiences in treating patients with chronic bronchitis and pulmonary diseases with Cs-4 capsule (JinShuiBao). Journal of Administration of Traditional Chinese Medicine 1995;5(Suppl):33-34 .

Hsu, C. C., Huang, Y. L., Tsai, S. J., Sheu, C. C., and Huang, B. M. In vivo and in vitro stimulatory effects of Cordyceps sinensis on testosterone production in mouse Leydig cells. Life Sci 9-5-2003;73(16):2127-2136. View abstract.

Huang, B. M., Chuang, Y. M., Chen, C. F., and Leu, S. F. Effects of extracted Cordyceps sinensis on steroidogenesis in MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cells. Biol Pharm Bull 2000;23(12):1532-1535. View abstract.

Huang, B. M., Hsiao, K. Y., Chuang, P. C., Wu, M. H., Pan, H. A., and Tsai, S. J. Upregulation of steroidogenic enzymes and ovarian 17beta-estradiol in human granulosa-lutein cells by Cordyceps sinensis mycelium. Biol.Reprod. 2004;70(5):1358-1364. View abstract.

Huang, B. M., Hsu, C. C., Tsai, S. J., Sheu, C. C., and Leu, S. F. Effects of Cordyceps sinensis on testosterone production in normal mouse Leydig cells. Life Sci. 10-19-2001;69(22):2593-2602. View abstract.

Huang, B. M., Ju, S. Y., Wu, C. S., Chuang, W. J., Sheu, C. C., and Leu, S. F. Cordyceps sinensis and its fractions stimulate MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cell steroidogenesis. J Androl 2001;22(5):831-837. View abstract.

Huang, H., Wang, H., and Luo, R. C. [Inhibitory effects of cordyceps extract on growth of colon cancer cells]. Zhong.Yao Cai. 2007;30(3):310-313. View abstract.

Huang, L. F., Guo, F. Q., Liang, Y. Z., and Chen, B. M. [Determination of adenosine and cordycepin in Cordyceps sinensis and C. militarris with HPLC-ESI-MS]. Zhongguo Zhong.Yao Za Zhi. 2004;29(8):762-764. View abstract.

Ikumoto, T., Sasaki, S., Namba, H., Toyama, R., Moritoki, H., and Mouri, T. [Physiologically active compounds in the extracts from tochukaso and cultured mycelia of Cordyceps and Isaria]. Yakugaku Zasshi 1991;111(9):504-509. View abstract.

Isaka, M., Tanticharoen, M., Kongsaeree, P., and Thebtaranonth, Y. Structures of cordypyridones A-D, antimalarial N-hydroxy- and N-methoxy-2-pyridones from the insect pathogenic fungus Cordyceps nipponica. J.Org.Chem. 7-13-2001;66(14):4803-4808. View abstract.

Jaturapat, A., Isaka, M., Hywel-Jones, N. L., Lertwerawat, Y., Kamchonwongpaisan, S., Kirtikara, K., Tanticharoen, M., and Thebtaranonth, Y. Bioxanthracenes from the insect pathogenic fungus. Cordyceps pseudomilitaris BCC 1620. I. Taxonomy, fermentation, isolation and antimalarial activity. J.Antibiot.(Tokyo) 2001;54(1):29-35. View abstract.

Jia, J. M., Ma, X. C., Wu, C. F., Wu, L. J., and Hu, G. S. Cordycedipeptide A, a new cyclodipeptide from the culture liquid of Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.) Sacc. Chem Pharm Bull.(Tokyo) 2005;53(5):582-583. View abstract.

Jin, D. Q., Park, B. C., Lee, J. S., Choi, H. D., Lee, Y. S., Yang, J. H., and Kim, J. A. Mycelial extract of Cordyceps ophioglossoides prevents neuronal cell death and ameliorates beta-amyloid peptide-induced memory deficits in rats. Biol Pharm Bull. 2004;27(7):1126-1129. View abstract.

Kiho, T., Nagai, K., Miyamoto, I., Watanabe, T., and Ukai, S. [Polysaccharides in fungi. XXV. Biological activities of two galactomannans from the insect-body portion of Chan hua (fungus: Cordyceps cicadae)]. Yakugaku Zasshi 1990;110(4):286-288. View abstract.

Kiho, T., Ookubo, K., Usui, S., Ukai, S., and Hirano, K. Structural features and hypoglycemic activity of a polysaccharide (CS-F10) from the cultured mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis. Biol Pharm Bull 1999;22(9):966-970. View abstract.

Kim, H. G., Shrestha, B., Lim, S. Y., Yoon, D. H., Chang, W. C., Shin, D. J., Han, S. K., Park, S. M., Park, J. H., Park, H. I., Sung, J. M., Jang, Y., Chung, N., Hwang, K. C., and Kim, T. W. Cordycepin inhibits lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammation by the suppression of NF-kappaB through Akt and p38 inhibition in RAW 264.7 macrophage cells. Eur J Pharmacol 9-18-2006;545(2-3):192-199. View abstract.

Kim, J. R., Yeon, S. H., Kim, H. S., and Ahn, Y. J. Larvicidal activity against Plutella xylostella of cordycepin from the fruiting body of Cordyceps militaris. Pest.Manag.Sci 2002;58(7):713-717. View abstract.

Kneifel, H., Konig, W. A., Loeffler, W., and Muller, R. Ophiocordin, an antifungal antibiotic of Cordyceps ophioglossoides. Arch Microbiol 5-13-1977;113(1-2):121-130. View abstract.

Koh, J. H., Suh, H. J., and Ahn, T. S. Hot-water extract from mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis as a substitute for antibiotic growth promoters. Biotechnol.Lett 2003;25(7):585-590. View abstract.

Lee, H., Kim, Y. J., Kim, H. W., Lee, D. H., Sung, M. K., and Park, T. Induction of apoptosis by Cordyceps militaris through activation of caspase-3 in leukemia HL-60 cells. Biol Pharm Bull. 2006;29(4):670-674. View abstract.

Li, F. H., Liu, P., Xiong, W. G., and Xu, G. F. [Effects of Cordyceps sinensis on dimethylnitrosamine-induced liver fibrosis in rats]. Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Xue.Bao. 2006;4(5):514-517. View abstract.

Li, S. P., Li, P., Dong, T. T., and Tsim, K. W. Anti-oxidation activity of different types of natural Cordyceps sinensis and cultured Cordyceps mycelia. Phytomedicine 2001;8(3):207-212. View abstract.

Li, S. P., Zhang, G. H., Zeng, Q., Huang, Z. G., Wang, Y. T., Dong, T. T., and Tsim, K. W. Hypoglycemic activity of polysaccharide, with antioxidation, isolated from cultured Cordyceps mycelia. Phytomedicine 2006;13(6):428-433. View abstract.

Li, Y., Chen, G. Z., and Jiang, D. Z. Effect of Cordyceps sinensis on erythropoiesis in mouse bone marrow. Chin Med J (Engl) 1993;106(4):313-316. View abstract.

Li, Y., Xue, W. J., Tian, P. X., Ding, X. M., Yan, H., Pan, X. M., and Feng, X. S. Clinical application of Cordyceps sinensis on immunosuppressive therapy in renal transplantation. Transplant.Proc. 2009;41(5):1565-1569. View abstract.

Lin, C. Y., Ku, F. M., Kuo, Y. C., Chen, C. F., Chen, W. P., Chen, A., and Shiao, M. S. Inhibition of activated human mesangial cell proliferation by the natural product of Cordyceps sinensis (h2-A): an implication for treatment of IgA mesangial nephropathy. J.Lab Clin.Med. 1999;133(1):55-63. View abstract.

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Yang, L. Y., Huang, W. J., Hsieh, H. G., and Lin, C. Y. h2-A extracted from Cordyceps sinensis suppresses the proliferation of human mesangial cells and promotes apoptosis, probably by inhibiting the tyrosine phosphorylation of Bcl-2 and Bcl-XL. J.Lab Clin.Med. 2003;141(1):74-83. View abstract.

Yoo, H. S., Shin, J. W., Cho, J. H., Son, C. G., Lee, Y. W., Park, S. Y., and Cho, C. K. Effects of Cordyceps militaris extract on angiogenesis and tumor growth. Acta Pharmacol.Sin. 2004;25(5):657-665. View abstract.

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Yoo, O. and Lee, D. H. Inhibition of sodium glucose cotransporter-I expressed in Xenopus laevis oocytes by 4-acetoxyscirpendiol from Cordyceps takaomantana (anamorph = Paecilomyces tenuipes). Med Mycol 2006;44(1):79-85. View abstract.

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Zhang, G., Huang, Y., Bian, Y., Wong, J. H., Ng, T. B., and Wang, H. Hypoglycemic activity of the fungi Cordyceps militaris, Cordyceps sinensis, Tricholoma mongolicum, and Omphalia lapidescens in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. Appl Microbiol.Biotechnol. 2006;72(6):1152-1156. View abstract.

Zhang, Q., Wu, J., Hu, Z., and Li, D. Induction of HL-60 apoptosis by ethyl acetate extract of Cordyceps sinensis fungal mycelium. Life Sci. 10-29-2004;75(24):2911-2919. View abstract.

Zhang, Z. and Xia, S. S. Cordyceps Sinensis-I as an immunosuppressant in heterotopic heart allograft model in rats. J Tongji Med Univ 1990;10(2):100-103. View abstract.

Zhang, Z. H., Zhang, W. D., and Yao, K. [Treatment of chronic allograft nephropathy with combination of enalapril and bailing capsule]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 2008;28(9):806-809. View abstract.

Zhao-Long, W., Xiao-Xia, W., and Wei-Ying, C. Inhibitory effect of Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris on human glomerular mesangial cell proliferation induced by native LDL. Cell Biochem.Funct. 2000;18(2):93-97. View abstract.

Zhou, X., Gong, Z., Su, Y., Lin, J., and Tang, K. Cordyceps fungi: natural products, pharmacological functions and developmental products. J Pharm.Pharmacol. 2009;61(3):279-291. View abstract.

Zhu, J. L. and Liu, C. [Modulating effects of extractum semen Persicae and cultivated Cordyceps hyphae on immuno-dysfunction of inpatients with posthepatitic cirrhosis]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 1992;12(4):207-9, 195. View abstract.

Bao ZD, Wu ZG, Zheng F. [Amelioration of aminoglycoside nephrotoxicity by Cordyceps sinensis in old patients]. Chung Kuo Chung Hsi I Chieh Ho Tsa Chih 1994;14:271-3, 259. View abstract.

Bok JW, Lermer L, Chilton J, et al. Antitumor sterols from the mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis. Phytochemistry 1999;51:891-8. View abstract.

Chen GZ, Chen GL, Sun T, et al. Effects of Cordyceps sinensis on murine T lymphocyte subsets. Chin Med J (English) 1991;104:4-8. View abstract.

Chen JR, Yen JH, Lin CC, et al. The effects of Chinese herbs on improving survival and inhibiting anti-ds DNA antibody production in lupus mice. Am J Chin Med 1993;21:257-62. View abstract.

Chen YJ, Shiao MS, Lee SS, Wang SY. Effect of Cordyceps sinensis on the proliferation and differentiation of human leukemic U937 cells. Life Sci 1997;60:2349-59. View abstract.

Cheng Q. [Effect of cordyceps sinensis on cellular immunity in rats with chronic renal insufficiency]. Chung Hua I Hsueh Tsa Chih (Taipei) 1992;72:27-9, 63. View abstract.

Chiu JH, Ju CH, Wu LH, et al. Cordyceps sinensis increases the expression of major histocompatibility complex class II antigens on human hepatoma cell line HA22T/VGH cells. Am J Chin Med 1998;26:159-70. View abstract.

Colson SN, Wyatt FB, Johnston DL, et al. Cordyceps sinensis- and Rhodiola rosea-based supplementation in male cyclists and its effect on muscle tissue oxygen saturation. J Strength Cond Res 2005;19:358-63. View abstract.

Kiho T, Hui J, Yamane A, Ukai S. Polysaccharides in fungi. XXXII. Hypoglycemic activity and chemical properties of a polysaccharide from the cultural mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis. Biol Pharm Bull 1993;16:1291-3. View abstract.

Kiho T, Yamane A, Hui J, et al. Polysaccharides in fungi. XXXVI. Hypoglycemic activity of a polysaccharide (CS-F30) from the cultural mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis and its effect on glucose metabolism in mouse liver. Biol Pharm Bull 1996;19:294-6. View abstract.

Kuo YC, Lin CY, Tsai WJ, et al. Growth inhibitors against tumor cells in Cordyceps sinensis other than cordycepin and polysaccharides. Cancer Invest 1994;12:611-5. View abstract.

Kuo YC, Tsai WJ, Shiao MS, et al. Cordyceps sinensis as an immunomodulatory agent. Am J Chin Med 1996;24:111-25. View abstract.

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Parcell AC, Smith JM, Schulthies SS, et al. Cordyceps sinensis (CordyMax Cs-4) supplementation does not improve endurance exercise performance. Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab 2004;14:236-42. View abstract.

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Wang SM, Lee LJ, Lin WW, Chang CM. Effects of a water-soluble extract of Cordyceps sinensis on steroidogenesis and capsular morphology of lipid droplets in cultured rat adrenocortical cells. J Cell Biochem 1998;69:483-9. View abstract.

Xu F, Huang JB, Jiang L, et al. Amelioration of cyclosporin nephrotoxicity by Cordyceps sinensis in kidney-transplanted recipients. Nephrol Dial Transplant 1995;10:142-3.

Xu RH, Peng XE, Chen GZ, Chen GL. Effects of cordyceps sinensis on natural killer activity and colony formation of B16 melanoma. Chin Med J (English) 1992;105:97-101. View abstract.

Yamaguchi N, Yoshida J, Ren LJ, et al. Augmentation of various immune reactivities of tumor-bearing hosts with an extract of Cordyceps sinensis. Biotherapy 1990;2:199-205. View abstract.

Yoshida J, Takamura S, Yamaguchi N, et al. Antitumor activity of an extract of Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.) Sacc. against murine tumor cell lines. Jpn J Exp Med 1989;59:157-61. View abstract.

Zhao Y. [Inhibitory effects of alcoholic extract of Cordyceps sinensis on abdominal aortic thrombus formation in rabbits]. Chung Hua I Hsueh Tsa Chih (Taipei) 1991;71:612-5, 42. View abstract.

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Zhu JS, Halpern GM, Jones K. The scientific rediscovery of a precious ancient Chinese herbal regimen: Cordyceps sinensis: part II. J Altern Complement Med 1998;4:429-57. View abstract.

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The Scientific Evidence for the Health Benefits of Cordyceps

The Cordyceps fungus is said to have the power to fix a host of health problems, from muscle fatigue to diabetes. But are the claims too good to be true?

Credit: Getty ImagesAdvertisement

A stronger immune system, more energy, improved endurance, and better stamina … one ingredient promises all of that. Whether it’s as an extract, a pill, or powdered into your coffee, the cordyceps fungus is promoted as a one-stop-shop to cure what ails you. Known as Himalayan Gold because it is often farmed in the Himalayan plateaus, cordyceps has long been used in ancient Chinese and Tibetan medicine for curing diarrhea, headache, cough, rheumatism, liver disease, kidney disease, and much more. But is it too good to be true? 

What is Cordyceps?

As we discussed in a previous episode, the cordyceps fungus grows like a parasite out of the brains of insects and spiders. The fungus takes over the bodies and brains of its victims forcing their zombified bodies to permanently relocate to the trees and low-lying jungle plants where the conditions are ideal for the fungus to thrive. 

There are around 400 different species of cordyceps and many different biologically active compounds, but those most commonly used in medicine tend to be cordyceps sinesis and cordyceps militaris. A jar of 90 capsules will run you around $20, but if you want your dose straight from the source, a single dried wild Himalyana cordyceps sinsensis can cost $10 or more. 

»Continue reading “The Scientific Evidence for the Health Benefits of Cordyceps” on QuickAndDirtyTips.com

ABOUT THE AUTHOR(S)

Sabrina Stierwalt, PhD, is an astrophysicist at Occidental College and the host of the Everyday Einstein podcast on Quick and Dirty Tips.

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Supplement Types & Health Benefits

Cordyceps mushrooms seem to be all the rage right now. You see them in every adaptogen and pre-workout supplement. They’re being talked about extensively in the mushroom community and are one of the top superfoods.

So what is all the hype surrounding this fascinating fungus? Let’s first explore exactly what this fungus is and how it can benefit your health. Then we will look at the common variations of Cordyceps on the market and help decipher what to look for in a Cordyceps supplement.

In This Article:
  1. What Are Cordyceps Mushrooms: Sinensis Vs. Militaris?
  2. Types of Cordyceps Supplements
  3. Health Benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms
  4. Supplementing with Cordyceps Mushrooms
  5. Takeaways About Taking Cordyceps Mushrooms

What Are Cordyceps Mushrooms: Sinensis Vs. Militaris?

Cordyceps mushrooms are parasitic fungi that include over 400 different species. They grow all over the world in countries like China, Japan, India, the United States, Australia, Peru, Bolivia, and many more. They typically infect insects and arthropods, with each species of Cordyceps infecting a very specific bug.

The life cycle begins with Cordyceps spores landing on the insect. The spore germinates, and small thread-like filaments called hyphae will begin to grow inside the insect and turn into mycelium. The mycelium (the fungi’s root-like structure that will develop into a mushroom) continues to consume the insect from the inside.

When the fungal mycelium fully consumes the insect and the environmental conditions are correct, a blade-like mushroom (fruiting body) is produced from the insect’s head. The mushroom then releases spores and the life cycle starts over.

Wild Cordyceps sinensis mushrooms grow out of the caterpillar body it consumes. The caterpillar is below ground while the mushroom is above ground. ©Nammex

Here is a BBC Planet Earth clip of Cordyceps infecting ants:

Even the popular video game The Last of Us, feature Cordyceps as the main antagonist. In it, a mutant Cordyceps strain infects humans creating “Cordyceps zombies.” And no, Cordyceps does not really infect humans.

The video game The Last of Us features an imaginary Cordyceps strain that infects humans in the same way this fungus takes over live insect bodies in the natural world.

Wild Cordyceps Sinensis – The Caterpillar Fungus

The most well-known species of Cordyceps mushrooms is Cordyceps sinensis (now known officially as Ophiocordyceps sinensis), which infects the caterpillar of the Hepialus moth. It mainly grows at high elevations in Tibet and the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Gansu. It can also be found in India, Nepal, and Bhutan, but is less abundant there.

In Tibet, it is known as Yarsagumba or yartsa gunbu and in China it is known as Dōnɡ Chónɡ Xià Cǎo (冬虫夏草), which translate to summer grass, winter worm.

Due to the rapid rise in price on this precious resource (more below), it has been dubbed “Himilayan gold.” It has become a significant contributor to household income in the harvesting regions, so much so that there have been disputes over harvesting territory, and outsiders have tried to push their way in. There are now harvesting permits being issued by the Chinese government and local land holders for access to the growing regions. For more on Cordyceps harvesting and the lifestyle in Tibet, see Daniel Winkler’s article in Fungi Magazine.

More recently, concerns over the sustainability of Cordyceps sinensis have been raised around overharvesting, ecosystem degradation and climate change (12).

Cordyceps Sinensis and the Chinese Runners

This is an entire article in itself but it needs a brief mention.

Cordyceps sinensis made international headlines in 1993 at the Chinese national games in Beijing, when multiple Chinese runners shattered track and field records.

Most notable was Wang Jungxia, who beat the 10,000m world record by 42 seconds. This record lasted for 23 years.

Three days later, she came second to teammate Yunxia Qu in the 1500m. They both beat the previous world record, and Yunxia’s record stood for 22 years.

Two days after that, Wang posted a world record in the 3000m. This record still stands today, and four of the five best times in the 3000m come from Chinese athletes in these 1993 games.

Their coach, Ma Junren, claimed their success was due to a tonic of Cordyceps sinensis and turtle blood.

This Olympic runner’s story is touted all around the internet to promote Cordyceps products, but what is typically left out is that many of Ma’s athletes later failed drug tests. Because of this, Junren Ma was eventually dropped as part of the Chinese Olympic team.

This era of sports in the 80s to mid-90s was rife with doping scandals, and it begs the question: was their success really due to Cordyceps?

Why

Cordyceps Sinensis Is NOT in Your Cordyceps Supplement

It’s true, wild Cordyceps sinensis (shown below) is not in 99.9% of Cordyceps supplements because of its exceptionally high price tag. In fact, wild Cordyceps sinensis costs over $20,000 per kilogram, making it the most expensive mushroom in the world. It is almost exclusively sold in Asia and rarely makes it into the North American market.

Commonly shown in marketing materials, yet these are not in your supplements.

The high price tag of Cordyceps sinensis mushrooms (including the caterpillar) is due to the fact that for many years, Chinese scientists have been unable to cultivate this mushroom. This has fueled increased demand on a set supply of wild Cordyceps sinensis. Recently Chinese scientists figured out how to cultivate this mushroom, but it is not at a production scale yet to make an impact on wild Cordyceps sinensis prices and cultivators want to cash in on the high price tag of the wild version.

These Cordyceps sinensis have been cultivated using the Hepialus moth. They retail for upwards of $20,000 per kilogram. ©Real Mushrooms

Even though the majority of Cordyceps supplements do not contain the caterpillar fungus, this has not stopped many companies from using photos of Cordyceps sinensis in their marketing materials and label information. This has caused customers to believe they are consuming this mushroom. Sadly, they are not.

But if the caterpillar fungus (Cordyceps sinensis) isn’t in your supplements, then WHAT is?

Types of Cordyceps Supplements

There are 3 types of Cordyceps supplements that are commonly found on the market as replacements for the extravagantly-priced Cordyceps sinensis:

Cordyceps Cs-4

In the 1980s, when wild Cordyceps sinensis was gaining in popularity and the price tag kept climbing, scientists in China set out to cultivate this fungus. Many tried and many failed. Still to this day, there is no affordable cultivated version of this mushroom. What the scientists did end up with are Cordyceps anamorphs, mycelium cultures that are unable to produce a mushroom (fruiting body).

These anamorphs were grown in a liquid growth medium to create mass amounts of pure mycelium.

This process is known as liquid culture mycelium, or liquid fermentation, and involves growing the mycelium in a liquid solution of nutrients that can then be removed, leaving you with pure mycelium. Most mycelium research is based on liquid fermentation mycelium.

Liquid fermentation mycelium factory in China. ©Real Mushrooms

These anamorphs were studied extensively and found to produce similar results to wild Cordyceps sinensis. This ended up turning into what is now known as Cordyceps Cs-4. After undergoing clinical trials in China, the Chinese government approved its use in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) hospitals and it is now recognized as a safe natural product in China.

If a Cordyceps supplement is claiming to be Cordyceps sinensis and it is made in China, it is almost certainly Cordyceps Cs-4.

Other Cs-4 products may also be labeled as Paecilomyces hepiali, which is an anamorph form of Cordyceps sinensis.

Do not confuse Cordyceps Cs-4 (pure mycelium) with Cordyceps myceliated grain (below), as these are very different products.

Cordyceps Myceliated Grain

Due to the fact that it is not economical to grow mushrooms in North America for supplement use, if a Cordyceps product is grown in North America, it is almost certainly Cordyceps myceliated grain.

Myceliated grain can also go by mycelium on grain (MOG), mycelium biomass, or grain spawn.

Myceliated grain products are typically labeled as Cordyceps sinensis or Cordyceps militaris.

Instead of growing the mycelium in liquid like what is used for Cordyceps Cs-4, the mycelium is instead grown in a plastic bag containing sterilized grain. This can also be referred to as solid-state fermentation.

Mycelium growing on a sterilized grain substrate. ©Nammex

The issue here is that unlike being in liquid, the mycelium cannot be separated from the grain, so the grain ends up in the final product. This reduces the volume of desirable Cordyceps compounds found in the final supplement product.

With mycelium-on-grain products, the mycelium does not fully consume the grain, so much of the final product is actually the grain the mycelium grows on. This is most apparent with Cordyceps mushrooms, as it is a slow-growing fungus.

From the table below, you see a high amount of alpha-glucans, which represent starch from the grain. Starch is an alpha-glucan. Therefore, the grain medium the Cordyceps mycelium grows on is nowhere close to being fully consumed by the fungus.

The high amount of grain translates into a low amount of mycelium, and this is confirmed in the low beta-glucan numbers. This is why it is important to measure beta-glucans and not polysaccharides for medicinal mushroom products. These samples can tout high polysaccharide numbers (beta + alpha), but the majority of them come from non-beneficial starches, which are alpha-glucans.

Beta-glucan and Alpha-glucan results of Cordyceps mycelium grown on grain: (3,4).

The three Cordyceps myceliated-grain samples tested indicated a high level of Alpha-glucans (from the grain). There are low amounts of desirable fungal beta-glucans in this kind of product.

Cs-4 vs Myceliated Grain

Myceliated grain is often justified by referencing research on pure mycelium made through liquid fermentation.

As pointed out above with Cs-4, Cordyceps myceliated grain is very different from Cordyceps Cs-4, so using Cordyceps Cs-4 research to justify the use of Cordyceps myceliated grain is not valid and is misleading to the consumer.

The higher amount of Beta-glucans in the pure Cs-4 mycelium demonstrates how much more diluted the myceliated grain is in beneficial active compounds.

Extract of Cordyceps Mushrooms (Militaris)

There is currently one type of Cordyceps species that can be commercially cultivated at scale to produce a mushroom (fruiting body), and it is becoming quite popular. This is Cordyceps militaris. By using Cordyceps militaris, for the first time, true Cordyceps mushroom extracts can be made.

Cordyceps militaris mushrooms (fruiting bodies) ©Nammex

Since they are derived from the mushroom (versus the mycelium), there are much higher levels of the important beta-glucans.

Our Cordyceps-M product, which is extracted exclusively from organic Cordyceps militaris mushrooms, has greater than 25% beta-glucans. Compare that to Cs-4, which typically has less than 10% beta-glucans, and Cordyceps mycelium on grain, which typically has 1-3% beta-glucans.

One of the unique things about Cordyceps militaris is that it produces the compound cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine) in much higher amounts when compared to Cordyceps sinensis.

Yuan, J. P., Zhao, S. Y., Wang, J. H., Kuang, H. C., Liu, X., Uan, J. I. A. N. I. N. G. Y., … Iu, X. I. N. L. (2008). Distribution of nucleosides and nucleobases in edible fungi. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56(3), 809–815.

As seen from the table above, Cordyceps militaris has up to 90 times more cordycepin (column “Co”) when compared with the wild Cordyceps sinensis. Cs-4 would likely have even less cordycepin than wild Cordyceps sinensis, and Cordyceps mycelium on grain would have almost no cordycepin due to the low amount of mycelium present.

This is very important, as products touting the benefits of cordycepin and labelled as Cordyceps sinensis would likely have undetectable amounts of this phyto-nutrient. Either that, or the product is improperly labelled as Cordyceps sinensis when it is actually Cordyceps militaris, which, by the way, is against FDA regulations and very misleading to consumers.

Note that Cordyceps militaris products grown in North America are still myceliated grain and not a true mushroom extract. Pure mushroom extract powders almost solely come from Asia, with China accounting for over 90% of the world’s mushroom production.

More and more research is coming out showing that Cordyceps militaris has similar benefits to traditional wild Cordyceps sinensis. It has traditionally been used as an alternative to Cordyceps sinensis in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Nutritional Comparison between Cordyceps mushroom extracts & mycelium grain

A nutritional comparison of Cordyceps militaris mushroom and Cordyceps myceliated grain as well as the grain the mycelium grows on. Data provided by Nammex.

  Fat Protein Carbohydrates Beta-glucans Alpha-glucans
Cordyceps militaris mushroom 4% 27.1% 54.4% 34.4% 1.7%
Cordyceps mushroom extract 1.6% 27.4% 55.9% 34.5% 2.5%
Coyrdceps mycelium grown on sorghum 4% 9.7% 73.2% 0.1% 55.5%
Sorghum 3.46% 10.62% 72.09% 2% 64%
Coyrdceps mycelium grown on rice 2% 7.5% 84% 0.1% 68.4%
Rice 2.68% 7.5% 76.17% 1% 74%
Coyrdceps mycelium grown on oats 4.7% 12.4% 74.8% 2.3% 36.8%
Oats 6.52% 13.15% 67.7% 1% 58%
Cordycepic Acid & Other Nucleosides

Cordycepic acid is not to be confused with cordycepin, which is a unique compound in Cordyceps. Many Cordyceps products talk about Cordycepic acid (sometimes spelled Cordyceptic) as a beneficial compound in Cordyceps. But this was debunked back in the 1960s as not being a compound unique to Cordyceps, but a compound that is found in all medicinal mushrooms, which is D-Mannitol or Mannitol (1).

Other nucleosides like adenine, adenosine and uridine, which are commonly touted in Cordyceps, are also found in other fungi as well (see table above).

Health Benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms

Now that we’ve dispelled a lot of the misinformation around Cordyceps, let’s look at some of the benefits of using Cordyceps.

Health benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms, at a glance:

Traditional Chinese Medicinal Uses

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Cordyceps mushrooms are considered a very special tonic. Called Dōnɡ Chónɡ Xià Cǎo (冬虫夏草), these mushrooms were offered to the Emperor’s court and others among Chinese nobility. The first written record was mentioned in the year AD 620. Traditionally it was used as a lung and kidney tonic, making it useful for respiratory complaints, physical tiredness, and for those with a weak constitution. Sexual function, libido, and performance are also keynotes for Cordyceps mushrooms’ traditional use.

Cordyceps is considered a jing tonic by nourishing yin, boosting yang, and supporting kidney essence. Essence is considered to be the elixir of life in TCM. Essence comes from lifestyle (post-natal qi: breathing, diet, meditation, mushrooms and herbs) or from energetic reserves we are born with (pre-natal qi). Cordyceps is considered to be placed on equal value with other valued tonics like ginseng, reishi and deer antler velvet.

Cordyceps mushrooms have a sweet flavor and are slightly warm in energetics. These more subtle qualities of Cordyceps are used to make sure Cordyceps isn’t used in the wrong scenarios. For example, due to the stimulating and strengthening nature of Cordyceps mushrooms, they are contraindicated in conditions with lung heat based on their ability to not only strengthen the person but also the current state of the body.

There have been 50 medicines and two Cordyceps supplements approved in China since 2002.

Think vigor and vitality when looking at the traditional applications of Cordyceps: a secret tonic traditionally used to strengthen, rebuild and energize the body and mind.

Increase Exercise Performance

Supplements of Cordyceps mushrooms showed improved exercise performance in healthy older patients, as demonstrated by improved respiratory and metabolic functioning (44). This study took 20 healthy elderly individuals ages 50-75. One group was the control, and the other group took 999 mg of Cs-4 (three 333-mg capsules) per day. The subjects performed the stationary cycle ergometer using breath-by-breath examination at baseline and the end of the study. The results were quite good! Following 12 weeks of Cs-4 supplementation, the healthy elderly individuals’ lactate threshold increased by 10.5%, and their ventilatory threshold increased by 8.5%. On the other hand, the control group saw no changes in VO2 max (5).

Similar results were shown in a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial, which showed a 7% improvement in VO2max in healthy older individuals, this time in a bigger sample size (48).

Cordyceps was shown in a small study to have no effect on aerobic capacity in trained athletes. The researchers theorize that trained athletes are already close to their aerobic capacity, and Cordyceps’ mechanisms of action have less of an effect (45).

Another human study supported the use of Cordyceps on energy and sympathetic activation during exercise (49).

Animal studies show that the polysaccharides in Cordyceps mushrooms can have an anti-tiredness effect and improve exercise performance biomarkers (46). One such study found that rodents that received two weeks of Cordyceps militaris (CM) supplementation displayed greater levels of delayed tiredness compared to rodents not given Cordyceps militaris. Not only that, but the CM rodent group had higher levels of ATP, antioxidant enzyme levels and best of all, lower levels of lactic acid (a key component affecting tiredness and time to exercise-induced exhaustion). In other words, these rodents were able to push longer and harder without tiring out as quickly (8).

Cordyceps mushrooms have been documented to have antioxidative effects (50). In theory, this could support athletes during and after their performance. Recovery is a critical time often overlooked by athletes of all levels. Athletes using Cordyceps for performance enhancement should also consider its recovery potential.

For more information about the use of Cordyceps mushrooms and other functional fungi to support exercise performance and athletics, read our article on Stimulant-Free Pre-Workout & Post-Workout Mushroom Supplements.

Support Healthy Inflammation Response

Preliminary human and animal cell studies suggest Cordyceps may support healthy levels of inflammation and immune markers (15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20). Beta-glucans and cordycepin in Cordyceps militaris have been theorized to be the main compounds responsible for their apparent ability to support a healthy inflammation response (14, 23).

Mouse studies on blood sugar balance suggest that Cordyceps mushrooms may support the health of pancreatic beta cells (21). The immunomodulating and inflammation-balancing properties of Cordyceps may help rebalance the T regulatory and Th27 cell ratio seen in one mouse study (22).

Age-related inflammation of the cells and mitochondria can be influenced by free radicals and reactive oxygen species. In vitro and in vivo animal research suggests Cordyceps helps oxygen delivery at a cellular level, which may support a healthy inflammation response (25).

Animal research indicates Cordyceps mushrooms may have an effect on adenosine receptors, which explains some of its inflammation-balancing properties (55, 56).

Support Healthy Testosterone Levels

Traditionally, Cordyceps mushrooms were used as an aphrodisiac to support sexual performance and healthy libido. Modern science indicates they may support healthy levels of androgens in men.

One animal study showed that Cordyceps helped mitigate the impact of bisphenol A (BPA, a hormone-disrupting plastic) on the reproductive system while supporting healthy testosterone levels, sperm motility, and sperm count (26).

Cordycepin may support healthy steroidogenic acute regulatory (STAR) enzyme, which allows the starting substrate of all hormones, cholesterol, to enter the mitochondria for the production of steroid hormones. Cholesterol is converted to pregnenolone and pregnenolone to testosterone (27, 28).

A lot of individuals looking to support healthy levels of testosterone often make the mistake of overtraining. Overtraining can lead to an increase in free radicals, leading to oxidative stress and a negative impact on the hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal and gonadal axis (29). Cordyceps mushrooms also have abundant have anti-oxidative properties (30).

A pilot endurance athlete study (7 participants) showed that Cordyceps supplementation combined with reishi mushroom supplementation decreased overtraining markers and supported healthy testosterone to cortisol ratio. This same study showed decreases in oxidative stress (32).

A small study sample (16 participants) showed that young, healthy male adults showed no support of physical endurance or testosterone levels when supplementing with 2.4g/day of cordyceps (33). Again, this may be similar to the VO2 max studies showing that Cordyceps may have less of an effect on physically fit individuals.

Less may be more when looking at dosing for hormonal-balancing effects; a few of these animal studies showed better results with the lower dosage (1% vs 5%).

Libido Enhancement

Cordyceps mushrooms were used traditionally to support libido and all things related to sexual functioning, but clinical data is lacking in this area.

Most of the in vitro studies and in vivo animal studies suggest that Cordyceps’ libido-enhancing effects may come from its hormone-supportive actions.

A study on individuals with low libido treated with cultured Cordyceps showed a 64.5% subjective improvement (41). A 2016 review referenced a Cordyceps study which increased libido and sexual performance in men and women (62).

One other thing to consider is that medicinal mushrooms may be 5-alpha-reductase (5AR) inhibitors, which could prevent testosterone from being converted to dihydrotestosterone (DHT). This is why you see claims that medicinal mushrooms can support healthy hair in men over 50 (63). Whether or not that is true remains to be seen.

The evidence to support the libido-enhancing effects of Cordyceps mushrooms is weak at best. Other than traditional and historic use, there is minimal research (34, 35). However, taking into consideration the other positive physiological effects Cordyceps mushrooms exert, they may support a healthy sex drive, as libido has biopsychosocial factors.

Maintain Blood Sugar Balance

Maintaining a healthy blood sugar balance is important since imbalances can negatively affect the kidneys due to increased oxidative stress.

Animal studies suggest that Cordyceps mushrooms may help maintain blood sugar levels already within a healthy range (36). Cordyceps mushrooms also appear to have kidney-protective and antioxidant effects (37).

Further evidence is needed to explore the preliminary findings of Cordyceps’ biomedical application in supporting kidney function (38).

There is currently no randomized clinical trial data to support Cordyceps assisting with blood sugar balance.

Maintain Heart Health

In animal studies, Cordyceps mushrooms appear to help maintain LDL cholesterol levels already within a healthy range (41, 42).

Cordyceps’ protective role toward the cardiovascular system may be due to its adenosine and antioxidative effects. The compounds in Cordyceps mushrooms are thought to activate adenosine receptors, which can provide some cardioprotective effects. In fact, Cordyceps is used in China to support a regular heart rhythm (43).

Cordyceps’ possible performance enhancement mentioned above is another significant indicator of its effect on the cardiovascular system. (44,46,47,48,49).

Soothe Everyday Worry

Direct data regarding everyday worry and Cordyceps is lacking, though there is some supportive research.

Cordyceps mushrooms may theoretically help relieve occasional stress, which has been associated with higher levels of oxidation (52, 53). Cordyceps decreases oxidative stress while providing support to the psychoneuroimmunology processes in the body (i.e.processes in which psychology, neurology, and immunology interact). Adaptogens are mediators of this system with their ability to build resilience (54).

Animal studies show that cordycepin may be neuroprotective in certain populations and conditions (57). Synaptic functions (needed to transmit nerve impulses) depend on healthy mitochondria and ATP for proper functioning (58)

Cordyceps mushrooms are considered a stimulating adaptogen, meaning it is more energizing compared to other adaptogens that are more neutral, calming, or restorative. An example of a calming adaptogen is holy basil. TCM, energetic herbalism, and Ayurvedic knowledge have best understood the applications of different classes of adaptogens.

Supplementing with Cordyceps Mushrooms: Safety, Dosage, and Side Effects

Safety

Cordyceps mushroom extracts may interact with anti-coagulant, immunosuppressant, hormone replacement, and prednisolone medications.

Cordyceps may be contraindicated in breast and prostate cancer until further studies are performed (59).

In Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cordyceps is contraindicated in acute fever, flu, or other pathogen invasions.

Dosage

The typical dosage in the scientific literature is 1-3 g/day of Cordyceps extract powder. However, this depends on the form of Cordyceps and the potency.

Generally speaking, higher doses have been found effective in research. One human clinical study used 4g/day for exercise performance enhancement (47). Even higher doses can be considered for specific immune support with the recommendation from a medical professional.

Side Effects

Cordyceps is considered a generally well-tolerated supplement with limited side effects. Some users may experience mild diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal discomfort, which may be decreased by taking Cordyceps after a meal. There has been one case of a slight decrease in kidney function in an already compromised individual (60).

Cordyceps extract may cause anxiety in some individuals due to its energizing nature; Cordyceps has been shown to increase ATP production in rodents (8). An individual’s constitution and adrenal function status is something to consider when using this medicinal mushroom.

How to Take Cordyceps Mushrooms

The easiest way to take advantage of the health benefits of Cordyceps militaris mushrooms is to use an extract, either in capsule or powder form. The cell wall of mushrooms is made up of chitin, which is the same substance that makes up crab shells. By extracting the mushrooms, this chitin will break down, allowing the body to have better access to the active constituents.

Extracting Cordyceps mushrooms produces a powder that is highly concentrated in bioactive compounds like beta-glucans and cordycepin. This is the method that Real Mushrooms uses with our organically-farmed mushrooms to produce the potent supplements we offer.

In comparison, eating Cordyceps militaris mushrooms or using a myceliated grain-based Cordyceps supplement will provide much smaller concentrations of the beneficial constituents.

Recipes with Extract of Cordyceps Mushrooms

While Real Mushrooms allows for simplicity of use by offering encapsulated Organic Cordyceps Extract Capsules, we also offer pouches of Organic Cordyceps Mushroom Extract Powder, so the extract can easily be incorporated into healthy recipes. Once you discover the pleasure of taking our Cordyceps powder, the sky’s the limit for its uses in smoothies, stews, coffee, stir frys, and other meals and drinks.

To spark your creative application of Cordyceps powder in your diet, consider trying one of the recipes that Real Mushroom users and health practitioners have submitted:

Takeaways About Taking Cordyceps Mushrooms

It is very important when selecting a Cordyceps mushrooms product to know exactly where it came from and how it was made. Scrutinize the label and Supplements Facts panel very carefully.

Here are 6 primary takeaways to remember about Cordyceps supplements:

  1. Cordyceps sinensis, the caterpillar fungus, is not in 99.9% of Cordyceps supplements due to its price tag. Anything claiming to contain the caterpillar fungus should be heavily investigated.
  2. Cordyceps militaris is currently the only species able to be cultivated at scale to create a mushroom extract, and mushroom extract powders almost solely come from Asia.
  3. North American-grown Cordyceps products are myceliated grain, and that grain ends up being a large portion of the final product.
  4. Look for certified organic sources.
  5. Make sure the Supplements Facts panel specifies beta-glucan content.
  6. As with most medicinal mushrooms, clinical data is still limited, so we are required to extrapolate and infer from in vitro and in vivo data.

We always recommend selecting products that are extracted from the mushroom (fruiting body), ideally certified organic, with measured levels of beta-glucans, like our very own Cordyceps mushroom extract. For more information about buying mushroom supplements and what to look out for, visit our article on the difference between mycelium and fruiting bodies for medicinal uses.

*Disclaimer: The statements made in this article have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Any products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. The information in this article is intended for educational purposes. The information is not intended to replace medical advice offered by licensed medical physicians. Please consult your doctor or health practitioner for any medical advice.

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  46. Xu Y. F. (2016). Effect of Polysaccharide from Cordyceps militaris (Ascomycetes) on Physical Fatigue Induced by Forced Swimming. International journal of medicinal mushrooms, 18(12), 1083–1092. https://doi.org/10.1615/IntJMedMushrooms.v18.i12.30
  47. Hirsch, K. R., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Roelofs, E. J., Trexler, E. T., & Mock, M. G. (2017). Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation. Journal of dietary supplements, 14(1), 42–53. https://doi.org/10.1080/19390211.2016.1203386
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  49. Nagata, A., Tajima, T., & Uchida, M. (2006). Supplemental anti-fatigue effects of Cordyceps sinensis (Tochu-Kaso) extract powder during three stepwise exercise of human. Japanese Journal of Physical Fitness and Sports Medicine, 55(Supplement), S145-S152.
  50. Yu, H. M., Wang, B. S., Huang, S. C., & Duh, P. D. (2006). Comparison of protective effects between cultured Cordyceps militaris and natural Cordyceps sinensis against oxidative damage. Journal of agricultural and food chemistry, 54(8), 3132–3138. https://doi.org/10.1021/jf053111w
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  57. J. Wang, Y.-M. Liu, W. Cao, K.-W. Yao, Z.-Q. Liu, and J.-Y. Guo, “Anti-inflammation and antioxidant effect of cordymin, a peptide purified from the medicinal mushroom Cordyceps sinensis, in middle cerebral artery occlusion-induced focal cerebral ischemia in rats,” Metabolic Brain Disease, vol. 27, no. 2, pp. 159–165, 2012.
  58. Pathak, D., Shields, L. Y., Mendelsohn, B. A., Haddad, D., Lin, W., Gerencser, A. A., Kim, H., Brand, M. D., Edwards, R. H., & Nakamura, K. (2015). The role of mitochondrially derived ATP in synaptic vesicle recycling. The Journal of biological chemistry, 290(37), 22325–22336. https://doi.org/10.1074/jbc.M115.656405
  59. Ma, M. W., Gao, X. S., Yu, H. L., Qi, X., Sun, S. Q., & Wang, D. (2018). Cordyceps sinensis Promotes the Growth of Prostate Cancer Cells. Nutrition and cancer, 70(7), 1166–1172. https://doi.org/10.1080/01635581.2018.1504091
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What Does Science Say About the Health Benefits of Cordyceps?

It was a warm day on Sept. 8, 1993, when 20-year-old Wang Junxia took to the track at Beijing Workers’ Stadium for the 10,000-meter race at the National Games of China. During the months prior she had already earned the title of the fastest female Asian marathoner, set a national record in the 3000-meter at the Chinese National Championships and won a world title in the 10,000-meter contest.

But this 10,000-meter event in 1993 would not only place the cross-country star in the record books, it would also light a worldwide interest in an otherwise little-known fungus: the cordyceps.

Wang broke ahead of the pack of runners early in the race, not only maintaining the lead but getting faster with each lap. Her stride lengthened, her paced quickened. She appeared to run so effortlessly she barely broke a sweat. When Wang crossed the finish line at 29 minutes and 31 seconds, she looked refreshed, like she could run another 10,000 meters, one sports commentator said. Moments later, Wang trotted down the track waving the Chinese flag as her fellow competitors collapsed, finishing several seconds behind her.

In that moment, Wang had accomplished what no other woman on Earth had done: She ran 10,000 meters in less than 30 minutes, a World Record that would hold for the next 23 years. When asked the secret of the young runner’s success, her coach, Ma Junren, gave credit to Wang’s regular consumption of a tonic containing cordyceps.

What Are Cordyceps?

Cordyceps are technically not mushrooms. They’re a type of parasitic fungus. More than 400 species grow in different parts of the world, commonly Asia, but also in Bolivia, Peru and the United States. These fungi tend to thrive in tropical rain forests.

But the type reportedly consumed by Wang during her training and credited for giving her an athletic edge is from a species once known as Cordyceps sinensis, now scientifically known as Ophicordyceps sinensis or O. sinensis. This species is found naturally in China, Nepal, Tibet and India.

O. sinensis are entomopathicgenic fungus, meaning it grows on insects. This species, in particular, grows on the caterpillar of the Thitarodes ghost moth, which live in elevations above 10,000 feet (3,048 meters). The fungal spores attach to the caterpillar and slowly consume its body. As the larvae begins to die, it burrows into the ground. As the fungus grows, it sends a small beige-orange shoot, or fruiting body, up through the soil. These are harvested beginning in late May with pickaxes to gently upturn clumps of dirt. O. sinensis bring in big bucks, but ones with the caterpillar still attached fetch far more money than those without.

These unusual fungi have acquired several nicknames, too. The Tibetans call it “yartsa gunbu,” meaning “summer grass, winter worm,” which describes when the larva and fungus remain intact. The Nepalese call it the keera jhar, or insect herb. Because the fungus must consume its host to grow, it’s also referred to as “caterpillar fungus” and more casually, “zombie fungus.”

What’s the Health Hype?

What drew locals to even sample cordyceps in the first place were yaks. Centuries ago, herders in Nepal would take their yaks to higher elevations to graze in the fresh spring grasses. Afterward, the herdsmen noticed the animals were more active and aggressive during rutting.

Curious what might be causing such vigor in their cattle, the herdsmen took closer notice of what the yaks were eating and discovered among the grass the fruiting body of the O. sinensis rising up through the blades. Adventurous herdsmen apparently thought, what’s good for the goose is good for the gander, and consumed it themselves. Finding it quite satisfactory, the fungus was then gathered for its aphrodisiac qualities.

The first known reference of its medicinal uses date back to a 15th-century Tibetan text, which credits O. sinensis as being “the most marvelous of all pleasures.” It was first used in traditional Chinese medicine to increase longevity and cure erectile dysfunction, and has grown among traditional healers to treat as many as 21 different ailments, from cancer and tuberculosis to colds and jaundice.

Cordyceps contain the active ingredient cordycepin, which has been shown to have anti-inflammatory and anticancer effects. The fungus is believed to enhance oxygen utilization and increase blood flow, which may improve athletic performance and is considered the secret to Wang’s success.

Wang’s showing at the National Games did a lot to raise awareness of the fungus. But in 2003, during the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS) outbreak, O. sinensis was touted as a cure, and sales exploded, as did the price. Today they can cost as much as $20,000 a kilogram, according Realmushrooms.com, making it the most expensive fungus in the world.

Know What’s in Your Supplement

A quick Google search unearths dozens of “Cordyceps supplements” in the form of tinctures, powders, pills and teas. These may contain cordycepin, the same active ingredient in O. sinensis, but they are most likely not made with wild O. sinensis fungi. This is primarily because O. sinensis demands such a high price.

When demand skyrocketed in the 1980s, scientists and supplement manufacturers in China found ways to cultivate cordyceps anamorphs, essentially mycelium (where cordycepin is found) that do not produce fruiting bodies. These anamorphs, known as cordyceps Cs-4, have been found to be similar to O. sinensis grown in the wild.

“On one level, these are different organisms, not even in the same family, but they share some of the active ingredients,” ethno-mycologist Daniel Winkler, who runs Mushroaming.com, says via email. In 2007, Cordyceps sinensis and several other cordyceps were moved from the genus Cordyceps to the genus Ophiocordyceps. “If you buy Ophiocordyceps sinensis in a supplement store in the West, these products do not contain O. sinensis but Paecilomyces sinensis, a related fungus living within the wild Ophiocordyceps sinensis.”

“Most medical research has been carried out using this fungus known as Cs-4 (cordyceps sinensis strain No. 4),” with promising results, Winkler says. “But recently DNA analyses revealed this strain not to be identical to Ophiocordyceps sinensis.”

In the United States, some manufacturers have developed ways to grow cordyceps on grain, referred to as cordyceps militaris. From this they create cordyceps mushroom extracts that are promoted for similar health benefits as O. sinensis.

The species cordyceps militaris has been found to have anti-fatigue effects in mice. Other studies — also only on mice — found that extracts of cordyceps sinesis and cordyceps militarisimproved brain function and boosted antioxidative enzyme activity, which could fight cell damage that comes with aging. Cordyceps sinesis also improved the sexual function of castrated rats. More studies need to be performed to know whether the same results would be replicated in humans.

Other studies have shown it difficult to determine how much mycelium or cordycepin is actually in cordyceps militaris. Some supplements that contain cordyceps militaris tout the benefits of their products by using cordyceps Cs-4 research, which is misleading.

And limited government oversight of supplements further muddies the water, making it difficult for consumers to know whether the products they buy actually contain the active ingredient or dosage listed on the label. In short, you should research to determine if a supplement is authentic and trustworthy.

It is also important to note that while Wang Junxia’s 1993 athletic performance may have been aided by her use of caterpillar fungus, there may have been other factors in play. In 2016, she admitted that during her best running season when she broke the world record, she was involved in a Chinese state-sponsored doping regime.

Originally Published: Aug 20, 2020

Top 7 Benefits of This Miracle Mushroom

For centuries, traditional Chinese medicine practitioners used Cordyceps to give men a natural boost of vitality. That’s one of the reasons why it’s so popular in coffee blends these days. Men are, once again, turning to medicinal mushrooms like Cordyceps to boost sex drive, energy, and exercise performance.[1, 2]

Ang Wang, a Chinese author from the 1600s, brought Cordyceps to the world’s attention. He wrote about its uses in his 1694 book, The Classic of Herbal Medicine, a record of all known Chinese medicinal herbs.

What Is Cordyceps?

Though often called a mushroom, Cordyceps is a mushroom-like fungus. It’s native to high-altitude prairies of the Himalayan mountains, particularly in the Qinghai, Tibet, Sichuan, Yunnan, and Gansu provinces of China.[1]

Aside from the booming world of mushroom coffee, you can take Cordyceps supplements in powder, liquid extract, and capsule forms.

You can find two main species in supplements: Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. Cordyceps sinensis spores land on a caterpillar and consume it. These fruiting bodies resemble the caterpillar host and are not vegan — they can not be cultivated without the use of insects. Further, because of collection from the wild, they’ve become rare and hard to find, bringing their cost sky-high.

Cordyceps militaris have orange-red club-shaped fruiting bodies that — in the wild — grow out of pupa in the ground. However, most supplements are grown on farms without the use of insects. Cultivated varieties grow on grains, such as brown rice and are vegan.

Your supplement may contain mycelium, or the branching “hyphae” of a fungus that usually grows underground, the fruiting body, and some starch from the food source. Together, these components contain alpha and beta-glucans, cordycepin, and other health-giving nutrients.[1, 2, 3]

How Cordyceps Can Boost Your Health

Below, we’ve listed the top seven ways Cordyceps benefits your health.

1. Enhances Sex Drive

People in Asian cultures refer to Cordyceps as “Himalayan Viagra.”[4] Historically, people have turned to Cordyceps when they want a little boost of sexual energy. Not only does it enhance your libido, but it also helps keep your reproductive systems working properly.[1, 2]

Long-term use of the active ingredient cordycepin may promote normal testicular function, countering the effects of middle age decline.[5] Thanks to the testosterone boost, Cordyceps could be the best natural product to take for low sex drive — eliminating unnecessary chemicals and their side effects on your body.

2. Boosts Your Energy

Bust through drowsiness with a boost from Cordyceps, used in Asia to beat fatigue.[1, 2] The fungus has adaptogen properties — which means it helps the body adapt to stress.

Stress often comes with exhaustion, so Cordyceps can boost energy, performance, and reduce fatigue. It’s helpful if you are frequently sleepy or if you are recovering from something. Regularly taking Cordyceps promotes healthy energy levels. That way, when you aren’t (appropriately) tired, you can get more done at a more efficient rate.

3. May Improve Exercise Performance

Cordyceps may give a boost to your exercise performance. This fungal supplement works by helping muscles use oxygen more efficiently during exercise. It supports enhanced blood flow through the body. Studies showed that Cordyceps acts as an antioxidant, countering the harm from free radicals.[1]

These combined effects create a noticeable increase in athletic performance. Your body may end up with a higher capacity for aerobic exercise, as well as more power during high-intensity interval training (HIIT). Not only that, you’ll also come out on the other side with less muscle stress and fatigue.[1, 6]

4. Promotes Healthy Aging

Traditional healers throughout the Sikkim region of India and Tibet found that yaks, goats, and sheep consuming Cordyceps sinensis stayed youthful longer.[7] After that observation, they started using it to support increased longevity in people, as well. This led to its widespread use in traditional Chinese medicine.

Today, people have overharvested Cordyceps sinensis in the wild. It’s so rare that most people get a farm-cultivated version of Cordyceps militaris, instead, which has similar health benefits.[1]

Cordyceps has positive effects on your brain health and performance.[1] No more forgetting where your keys or glasses are!

5. Supports Gut Health

The microbiome inside your belly is essential for proper gut health and digestion. About 80 percent of your immune system is in your gut. Taking Cordyceps modulates the gut and immune system, helping you maintain a healthy, balanced digestive system.[1]

Harmful bacteria are no match for Cordyceps. This fungus can deter harmful organisms while supporting good bacteria. Your microbiome will flourish.[1]

6. Promotes Kidney & Liver Health

This fungus supports improved kidney function and liver health. These organs naturally detoxify your body. Not only does Cordyceps promote a normal response to inflammation, but it also protects these organs at a cellular level.[1, 2]

If your kidneys aren’t healthy, you increase your risk of developing chronic kidney disease. Cordyceps helps protect renal function overall.[1, 2] Cordyceps protects kidneys by promoting a normal response to inflammation and preventing chemical processes in these vital organs from getting off-kilter.[1]

7. Boosts Your Immune System

Your immune system has three parts. First, you have the physical parts of your body that prevent viruses and bacteria from getting inside, like your nostrils. Second, your innate immune system immediately reacts to eliminate intruders that do enter. Third, your adaptive immune system acts in a way that’s specific to each pathogen. For example, once you’re exposed to a virus, like Varicella (chickenpox), you’re unlikely to get it again because of the adaptive immune system.[1]

Research on Cordyceps shows that it influences both the innate and adaptive immune systems. It modulates both systems at once, supporting your body at a cellular level.[1]

Best Ways to Use Cordyceps

Reputable supplement manufacturers use mycelia and sometimes the fruiting bodies of Cordyceps.[1] It’s generally mixed into another product. Below are some of the ways you can find this supplement.

Mushroom Coffee

Mushroom coffees have become very popular, and you’ll often see Cordyceps with Chaga, lion’s mane, maitake, and reishi — plus coffee grounds.

Capsules

Choose vegan capsules filled with Cordyceps militaris — with or without other herbs — for the healthiest option.

Liquid Supplements

Taken with a dropper, liquid supplements are often Cordyceps mixed with other herbs. Global Healing’s Androtrex® Raw Herbal Extract is a male vitality supplement that includes Cordyceps militaris along with ashwagandha, Panax ginseng, Maca, and other herbs that boost stamina, libido, and energy.

Look for certified organic labels, plant-based products, thorough lists of ingredients, and complete and easy-to-read directions.

For all supplements, choose certified-organic, plant-based products.

Points to Remember

Cordyceps is a mushroom-like fungus that people have used as a traditional herbal medicine for hundreds of years. It enhances sex drive, counters the effects of aging, and boosts gut, kidney, liver, and immune health. Cordyceps also increases energy and revs up athletic performance.

Cordyceps will likely be mixed in with other ingredients when you take it, like in Global Healing’s Androtrex, an all-natural vitality booster for men.

References (7)

  1. Lin B-Q, Li S-P. 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.
  2. Das SK, et al. Medicinal uses of the mushroom Cordyceps militaris: current state and prospects. Fitoterapia. 2010 Dec;81(8):961-968.
  3. Tuli HS, et al. Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin. 3 Biotech. 2014 Feb;4(1):1-12.
  4. Panda AK. Tracing historical perspective of Cordyceps sinensis an aphrodisiac in Sikkim Himalaya. Indian J Hist Sci. 45.2(2010):189-198.
  5. Sohn SH, et al. Effect of long-term administration of cordycepin from Cordyceps militaris on testicular function in middle-aged rats. Planta Med. 2012 Oct;78(15):1620-1625.
  6. Hirsch KR, et al. Cordyceps militaris improves tolerance to high-intensity exercise after acute and chronic supplementation. J Diet Suppl. 2017 Jan 2;14(1):42-53.
  7. Panda AK, Swain KC. Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim. J Ayurveda Integr Med. 2011 Jan;2(1):9-13.

†Results may vary. Information and statements made are for education purposes and are not intended to replace the advice of your doctor. If you have a severe medical condition or health concern, see your physician.

This entry was posted in Foods, Health, Healthy Foods, Men’s Health, Mind and Body, Nutrition, Plants for Health, Whole Body Wellness