Mushrooms are quite divisive, aren’t they? People seem to either love or hate mushrooms, whether it’s on pizza, in salads, or even hidden in pasta, there’s always going to be someone who won’t try them.
Personally, I think mushrooms are magical (especially garlic roasted ones!). They have incredible health and wellness properties which have been explored by cultures across the world for centuries. Every day, more and more medicinal properties of mushrooms are being unearthed (no pun intended), researched, and presented to the world in various forms.
Most of them I’ve never heard of before, and Cordyceps were no exception! Yet there are so many potential health benefits to taking Cordyceps I wish I’d heard of them sooner. In this guide, we’ll be exploring the benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms, a fungus considered to be one of the most powerful adaptogens on the planet, how it can help you, and if there are any side effects to consider.
What are Cordyceps mushrooms?
Well, the first thing to note about Cordyceps mushrooms is that they are a type of parasitic fungus which grows on certain types of caterpillars. They are difficult to harvest, and as such are incredibly expensive. Of course, this also makes them unsuitable for anyone who is vegan or eats a plant-based diet.
For this reason, the majority of Cordyceps supplements (including any used by Vivo Life) use Cordyceps CS-4, a synthetically grown version. Vivo Life’s Cordyceps CS-4 is a pure mycelium grown in liquid fermentation tanks, without any fillers, demonstrated to have the most similar activities as wild Cordyceps varieties. CS4 is also backed by the largest amount of clinical research.
Cordyceps are well known in traditional Chinese medicine and have been used for centuries to treat many types of ailments, including kidney disease. They have been shown to affect energy, mood, sexual function, and focus, and they are now being researched to see if these health benefits have a direct effect over time. (Panda and Swain, 2011)
What are the benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms?
May boost your ability to exercise: Studies suggest that Cordyceps supplements may help your body to produce a certain molecule which helps to deliver energy to your muscles. It is thought that this process can also help to improve the way oxygen is delivered to your muscles when you’re working out (Xu, 2016). Oxygen usage has also been seen to be improved when not exercising. However, studies have also shown that Cordyceps have no exercise boosting effects for professional athletes (Parcell et al., 2004).
May hold anti-aging properties: Cordyceps have been used in traditional medicinal practices for centuries, and they are often used by older people to reduce fatigue and promote a stronger physique. Research suggests that this is due to the high levels of antioxidants in the mushrooms themselves. It has also been shown that Cordyceps can increase levels of antioxidants, promoting both memory and sexual function, and may even help you to live longer, although more research is being undertaken in this area. (Ji et al., 2009)
May help to slow tumour growth: The idea that Cordyceps might have the ability to slow or reduce tumour growth has been the subject of a lot of scientific interest. Studies have shown that certain types of human cancer cells have had their growth inhibited by the presence of Cordyceps, including liver, skin and colon cancers (Lee et al., 2015)
May reduce the side effects of cancer treatments: Cordyceps mushrooms have been shown to reduce a condition called leukopenia, a side effect of certain cancer treatments. Leukopenia decreases the amount of white blood cells in the body, lowering the immune system and making you more prone to infection. However, these studies were not conducted on humans, so more research is needed (Liu et al., 2008).
May help with diabetes management: Diabetes is a chronic condition in which the body does not respond to insulin, a hormone responsible for regulating blood sugar. When the body doesn’t respond to insulin (or doesn’t make enough of it), glucose stays in our bloodstream rather than being used in our cells, which can cause very serious complications. However, Cordyceps mushrooms may hold the answer. They contain a specific type of sugar which might be able to mimic the properties of insulin and keep blood sugar levels within a healthy range (Lo et al., 2004).
May help prevent kidney disease: One of the complications of diabetes is the impact that it has on our kidneys. Cordyceps mushrooms have been shown to improve kidney function in people with kidney disease. Research is ongoing in this area, but the initial studies seem promising (Zhang et al., 2014)
May have a positive impact on heart health: Cordyceps supplements are already a prescribed medication in China for arrhythmia, a condition which causes an irregular heartbeat. Cordyceps contain a compound called adenosine which has positive effects on the heart, especially in the reduction of heart injuries which can lead to heart failure (Yan et al., 2012)
May help to reduce LDL cholesterol: LDL is the form of cholesterol which can build up in your arteries, and studies have shown that Cordyceps can help to reduce the levels of LDL cholesterol and Triglycerides (a type of fat) in your blood. However, research is ongoing! (Gao et al., 2011)
May help to fight inflammation: Inflammation can be a good thing, but too much can increase the chances of developing heart disease and cancer. Cordyceps can help to suppress the compounds in our body which cause inflammation, including in the lungs, which may help relieve some of the symptoms of asthma (Hsu et al., 2008)
Are there any side effects?
As research is ongoing into the health benefits of Cordyceps, there are currently very few studies which have examined the side effects of Cordyceps in the long term. However, as with any new supplement, there are the chances that it might cause slight stomach discomfort in the first few instances.
It is recommended that Cordyceps be avoided if pregnant or breastfeeding as there isn’t enough research to determine safety. Cordyceps might also increase the symptoms of various auto-immune conditions, as it might make the immune system more active. If you are concerned about taking Cordyceps supplements, then please consult with a healthcare professional prior to taking them to check their suitability. (Lu, 2002)
However, centuries of use in traditional Chinese medicine suggests that they are not toxic. Further, the use of Cordyceps CS-4 has been approved by the Chinese government for use in hospitals and as prescribed medication, and are considered to be a safe, natural compound.
Vivo Life uses expertly sourced Cordyceps CS-4 in its MAGIC Matcha Coconut Latte to promote healthy energy levels and focus by increasing oxygen utilisation alongside matcha, which is also famous for its ability to to boost brain power. It’s these little details that make our mushrooms much more MAGIC (and tasty)!
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), pp.1083–1092. doi:10.1615/intjmedmushrooms.v18.i12.30.
Parcell, A.C., Smith, J.M., Schulthies, S.S., Myrer, J.W. and Fellingham, G. (2004). Cordyceps Sinensis (CordyMax Cs-4) Supplementation Does Not Improve Endurance Exercise Performance. International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, 14(2), pp.236–242. doi:10.1123/ijsnem.14.2.236.
Ji, D.-B., Ye, J., Li, C.-L., Wang, Y.-H., Zhao, J. and Cai, S.-Q. (2009). Antiaging effect of Cordyceps sinensis extract. Phytotherapy research: PTR, [online] 23(1), pp.116–122. doi:10.1002/ptr.2576.
Lee, H.H., Lee, S., Lee, K., Shin, Y.S., Kang, H. and Cho, H. (2015). Anti-cancer effect of Cordyceps militaris in human colorectal carcinoma RKO cells via cell cycle arrest and mitochondrial apoptosis. DARU Journal of Pharmaceutical Sciences, 23(1). doi:10.1186/s40199-015-0117-6.
Lu, L. (2002). [Study on effect of Cordyceps sinensis and artemisinin in preventing recurrence of lupus nephritis]. Zhongguo Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi Zhongguo Zhongxiyi Jiehe Zazhi = Chinese Journal of Integrated Traditional and Western Medicine, [online] 22(3), pp.169–171. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12585097/
Panda, A. and Swain, K. (2011). Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, [online] 2(1), p.9. doi:10.4103/0975-9476.78183.
Liu, W.-C., Chuang, W.-L., Tsai, M.-L., Hong, J.-H., McBride, W.H. and Chiang, C.-S. (2008). Cordyceps sinensis Health Supplement Enhances Recovery from Taxol-Induced Leukopenia. Experimental Biology and Medicine, [online] 233(4), pp.447–455. doi:10.3181/0708-rm-230.
Lo, H.-C., Tu, S.-T., Lin, K.-C. and Lin, S.-C. (2004). The anti-hyperglycemic activity of the fruiting body of Cordyceps in diabetic rats induced by nicotinamide and streptozotocin. Life Sciences, 74(23), pp.2897–2908. doi:10.1016/j.lfs.2003.11.003.
Zhang, H.W., Lin, Z.X., Tung, Y.S., Kwan, T.H., Mok, C.K., Leung, C. and Chan, L.S. (2014). Cordyceps sinensis (a traditional Chinese medicine) for treating chronic kidney disease. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, [online] (12), p.CD008353. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD008353.pub2.
Yan, X.-F., Zhang, Z.-M., Yao, H.-Y., Guan, Y., Zhu, J.-P., Zhang, L.-H., Jia, Y.-L. and Wang, R.-W. (2012). Cardiovascular Protection and Antioxidant Activity of the Extracts from the Mycelia of Cordyceps Sinensis Act Partially Via Adenosine Receptors. Phytotherapy Research, 27(11), pp.1597–1604. doi:10.1002/ptr.4899.
Gao, J., Lian, Z.-Q., Zhu, P. and Zhu, H.-B. (2011). Lipid-lowering effect of cordycepin (3’-deoxyadenosine) from Cordyceps militaris on hyperlipidemic hamsters and rats. Yao Xue Xue Bao = Acta Pharmaceutica Sinica, [online] 46(6), pp.669–676. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21882527/
Hsu, C.-H., Sun, H.-L., Sheu, J.-N., Ku, M.-S., Hu, C.-M., Chan, Y. and Lue, K.-H. (2008). Effects of the Immunomodulatory Agent Cordyceps militaris on Airway Inflammation in a Mouse Asthma Model. Pediatrics & Neonatology, [online] 49(5), pp.171–178. doi:10.1016/S1875-9572(09)60004-8.