Cordyceps is small, thin medicinal mushroom which grows in parts of China, Korea and Tibet. There are over 400 species of cordyceps, with cordyceps sinensis being the most commonly used and medicinally potent of the lot. Used by athletes, spiritual seekers and health conscious individuals, cordyceps is one of the most miraculous medicinal mushrooms on the planet. The mushroom is commonly enjoyed as a supertonic tea which provides a near instant boost of energy, nourishes the lungs and supports the liver and immune system.
The History of Cordyceps
Legend has it that Tibetan herders noticed that their yaks had increased stamina after they grazed on wild cordyceps mushrooms. Once the herders ingested these mushrooms, they found that they naturally increased their own energy levels and also helped to reduce the symptoms associated with respiratory illnesses.
Cordyceps is a really royal mushroom, as when the word on its health benefits spread across the East, the Chinese Royal family requested that it was reserved solely for their use. Luckily, that rule was soon lifted and cordyceps mushrooms are now enjoyed by many.
Cordyceps Nutritional Profile
When you take cordyceps supplements, you will be nourishing your body with many vitamins, minerals and health compounds. It contains vitamins B1, B2, & B12, E, K, calcium, magnesium, sodium, iron, potassium and zinc, as well as a unique combination of beta-glucans, polysaccharides, nucleic acid, amino acids, alkanols and plant sterols.
Cordyceps Mushroom Health Benefits Overview
Detoxifying: Helps the liver to eliminate toxins more easily
Increases Libido: Encourages a healthy sex drive
Anti-Ageing: May slow-down the ageing process and help to improve the skin
Aids Respiration: Increases lung capacity and fights respiratory infections
Performance-Enhancing: Increases endurance and stamina
Immune-Supporting: Strengthens the immune system
Hormone-Balancing: May help to balance moods
Lung Tonic: Can improve lung capacity
Energy Enhancing: Provides a steady supply of caffeine-free energy
Anti-Inflammatory: Chloroform reduces inflammation in the body and eases aches
Liver Tonic: Helps the liver to function optimally
Antitumor: In vitro studies suggest it can help to inhibit proliferation of cancer cells
Antioxidant: Fights free radical damage to prevent oxidation
Adaptogen: Enables the body to better deal with a range of stresses
Safe to Use: A totally natural tonic herb with no reported side effects
Cordyceps as a Performance Enhancer
Cordyceps has been proven to positively impact athletic performance, as provide a natural and legal way to enhance strength and stamina. History and science back up these claims. One incident that launched cordyceps into the spotlight happened at the 1993 Beijing Athletic Games. The women's Chinese track and field team smashed three Olympic records, which led to public outcry with the media pointing to claims of doping. However, drug tests revealed no traces of illegal substances in the team’s bloodstream. The team’s coach, Mr. Ma Ju Ren, revealed that the secret weapon was a tonic herb drink that the athletes took daily which included cordyceps mushroom powder.
The adenosine in cordyceps helps to naturally increase the amount of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) that the body is able to produce. ATP is a biochemical which helps to control the way that your body stores energy, and it is also required in every single muscle movement. Increased ATP production can help to increase the length of time that athletes are able to perform for.
Cordyceps in Traditional Chinese Medicine
Although its most famous for its energy boosting capabilities, cordyceps is one of the most prized agents in Traditional Chinese Medicine. It is prescribed for 21 other ailments including immune disorders, respiratory issues, excess sweating and liver and kidney damage. Its numerous health benefits are detailed in hundreds of ancient texts, including one of the most famous herbal handbooks of all time, the Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing. Cordyceps is believed to help to replenish kidney yang, nourish the lungs and dissolve phlegm.
How to Choose the Best Cordyceps
The potency of cordyceps can vary greatly depending on its growing conditions, age, preparation methods, storage and packaging. For the highest quality cordyceps powder, choose a product which has been prepared without the use of chemicals or high temperatures, and that is 100% natural and free from fillers. Cordyceps does not need preservatives to keep it fresh, and it has a shelf-life of between one and two years provided that it is stored in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight.
It is worth noting that cordyceps can act as a parasite to take over its host (a caterpillar) and invade its tissues, eventually mummifying and killing it. Thankfully, there are ways to grow cordyceps mushroom without it taking over a host. Always choose this option for ethical, vegan-friendly cordyceps mushroom.
If you can’t decide between cordyceps and chaga or shiitake or maitake, then you may want to buy a medicinal mushroom complex. These economical blends contain a powdered mix of some of the most-loved medicinal mushrooms around, so you can receive more goodness in each and every serving.
How to Prepare and Use Cordyceps
Raw cordyceps mushrooms need to be carefully prepared before they can be ingested. Hot water extraction helps to get rid of some of the mycotoxins to create a tea which bio-active nutrients that can be more easily digested by the body. In China, cordyceps mushrooms are stewed in hot water, strained, and then the liquid is used to make warming stews and soups. In the West, it is becoming increasingly popular to add cordyceps to smoothies and healthy green juices. If you are boiling cordyceps, be careful to not over boil the mushroom as it can damage some of the important health compounds.
You can enjoy cordyceps without having to prepare it yourself as it is available in tincture, liquid extract, tablet and capsule format. One of the most potent chaga forms is a concentrated medicinal extract powder. This powder is where the raw mushroom has been transformed into a more concentrated extract. For example, a 10x concentrated extract powder contains ten times the amount of goodness than the raw mushroom.
Cordyceps Dosage and Side Effects
Cordyceps is non-toxic will typically not cause any side effects. However, it is a powerful mushroom which can provide quite a big burst of energy. If you're a first time user, it is recommended that you start with a smaller dose, see how you feel, and then work your way up to larger doses if it is required. A general dose is between five and ten grams per day, and it can be taken one or two times a day, although smaller doses should be taken with the concentrated extract powders. Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners may prescribe higher doses under certain circumstances.
Diabetics should seek professional medical advice before taking the mushroom, as it has been known to lower blood pressure levels, while anyone with bleeding disorders should also avoid using it as it can have blood-thinning effects.
One Minute Cordyceps Tea
Cordyceps has a pleasant flavour which means that it can be enjoyed alone as a simple tonic tea. The trick is to buy cordyceps mushroom powders which are ready to use. All you have to do is drop your required dose into a mug of warm water, stir and then enjoy. Add a dash of nut or coconut milk if you prefer a milky tea, or agave or maple syrup if you like a touch of sweetness. Use this cordyceps tea recipe as a base to make other tonic elixirs using your favourite medicinal mushrooms (reishi, chaga, turkey tail, tremella), tonic herbs (schizandra, he shou wu, pine pollen), and well as spices.
Cordyceps Berry Smoothie
Because of its performance enhancing capabilities, cordyceps is commonly taken before workouts. You can harness these benefits by using the cordyceps powder in a smoothie that you can sip before you hit the gym. The spinach and broccoli help to give an added dose of protein, the banana provides a slow release of energy, and the coconut water contains electrolytes which help to keep you hydrated.
To make the cordyceps smoothie, blend half a cup of coconut water with a ripe banana, spinach, a few florets of broccoli, a handful of blueberries and up to a teaspoon of cordyceps mushroom powder. Add in additional coconut water until you reach the desired consistency. It’s best to enjoy this cordyceps smoothie within several hours of making it.
Three Ingredient Cordyceps Chocolate Balls
For a delicious and nutritious snack which you can enjoy on the go, these cordyceps chocolate balls will be sure to hit the spot. A plus is that they do not require any cooking, and they contain only three ingredients.
For the best results, use a gooey type of date such as medjool, as well as high-quality raw cacao chocolate powder and concentrated cordyceps extract powder. Pit the dates and then blend them in a high-speed blender with the desired amount of cordyceps powder until they form a smooth paste. Sprinkle a generous amount of the cacao powder over a baking tray, roll the paste into bite-size balls and then roll them in the powder. Keep the cordyceps balls in the fridge.
The great thing about this recipe is that it can be used as a base to create balls with different tastes and textures. Try adding in chopped nuts, dried fruits, coconut flakes, chia seeds, vanilla and sesame seeds.
Scientific Name: Cordyceps Sinensis
Common Names:Caterpillar fungus, dong chong xia cao, semi take, hsia ts’ao tung ch’ung, and yarsha gumba.
Cordyceps References and Sources
There are thousands of scientific studies, books and reports on cordyceps mushroom. If you want to learn more about it as well as other medicinal mushrooms then we highly recommend these references:
Valkov, Nathalie: Cordyceps: Treating Diabetes, Cancer and Other Illnesses: It Could Save Your Life
Huang H, et al. Inhibitory effects of cordyceps extract on growth of colon cancer cells. Zhong Yao Cai; 30: 310-313. (2007)
Gu YX, et al. Antioxidant activity of natural and cultural Cordyceps sp. Zhongguo Zhong Yao Za Zhi; 32: 1028-1031. (2007)
Solzhenitsyn, Aleksandr: The Cancer Ward
Nong, Shen: Shennong Bencao Jing (The Classic of Herbal Medicine)
Wolfe, David: Eating for Beauty
Stamets, Paul: Mycelium Running: How Mushrooms Can Help Save the World