The 5 Health Benefits of Cordyceps
Updated April 14, 2023.
Cordyceps variants are fungi that promise several health benefits with regular consumption. Though there are hundreds of separate species of this fungus, only a few are commercially produced and affordable. As such, this article will look specifically at the benefits of Cordyceps militaris and Cordyceps sinepsis since the two are so closely related.
1. Cordyceps May Be Anti-Aging
Cordyceps won't make you younger if that's what you're thinking. The reason it is believed to be "anti-aging" is a result of several different benefits:
May Improve Athletic Performance & Libido
The first of these benefits is an improvement to athletic performance via a reduction in fatigue. This study found that extracts of the Cordyceps fungus caused an increase in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which improves the body's ability to transport oxygen to the muscles. Essentially, Cordyceps can give you a stamina boost. This also might explain why Cordyceps seems to improve sexual desire, libido, and reduce symptoms of impotence or infertility in men and women, as noted by this study.
Possibly Assist with Sleeping Disorders
Additionally, a constituent of the Cordyceps fungus (cordycepin) is similar in structure to adenosine, the body's sleep hormone. Another study found that Cordyceps could be useful for reducing symptoms of sleep-disturbing disorders like insomnia and the quality of non-rapid eye movement (NREM) sleep by reducing wakefulness during sleep cycles. Since sleep is so important for the body's rest-and-repair (cell rejuvination) functions, better sleep quality will decrease the effects of ageing.
Could Be an Anti-Oxidant
Similarly, Cordyceps exhibits antioxidant properties. Oxidative stress can damage cells and DNA, thus contributing to ageing. Reducing oxidative stress might slow the ageing process.
2. Cordyceps May Be Good for Cancer
Potential for Anti-Tumour Properties
Several studies have looked at the potential anti-tumour properties of Cordyceps and found promising results for various cancer types. The fungus appears to kill many types of cancer cells and inhibit their growth, though it's important to understand that human trials on this topic are lacking.
May Reduce Adverse Reactions From Cancer Treatments
Additionally, Cordyceps may be effective in reducing the adverse reactions of other cancer treatments. A common side effect of chemotherapy is leukopenia, a reduction in the number of white blood cells. Several studies have found that extracts of Cordyceps can promote complete recoveries of this and other cancer-treatment-related conditions.
3. Cordyceps May Be Good for Diabetes
Although the existence of this benefit is promising, it is also a double-edged sword.
This study found that Cordyceps could reduce blood glucose levels in mice that suffered from high-fat diet-induced type 2 diabetes, similar to medications used to treat diabetes.
While this does suggest promising evidence that Cordyceps could be a potential treatment for diabetes in the future, diabetics should exercise caution: Combining Cordyceps with other blood sugar-lowering medication could result in dangerous hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).
4. Cordyceps May Boost the Immune System
Cordyceps is believed to possess immunomodulatory effects by increasing the activity of natural killer cells, as noted by this study.
Although the ability of Cordyceps to boost the immune system is a significant benefit in healthy individuals, those with autoimmune diseases like rheumatoid arthritis should exercise caution with Cordyceps as a stimulated immune system could potentially enhance the activity of these diseases.
5. Cordyceps May Reduce Inflammation
Research has found that extracts of Cordyceps mushrooms inhibited the secretion of inflammatory cytokines in the body. Less inflammation has several further health benefits. Aside from Cordyceps improving the symptoms of inflammatory disorders like asthma and psoriasis, less inflammation can also reduce the risk of the following:
- Heart disease
Another factor to consider on the topic of heart disease is the presence of antiplatelet and antithrombotic effects of Cordyceps, as noted here. This effect reduces the clotting ability of blood cells. While this may result in increased bleeding or bruising, it has proven to be effective in reducing the risk of heart disease and pulmonary embolisms.
Is Cordyceps Better Than Other Functional Mushrooms?
Although this is a popular question, there isn't really a definitive answer. It depends on an individual's personal needs and conditions. For instance, other functional mushrooms like Lion's Mane might be better for cognitive health and neurogenesis than Cordyceps, but Cordyceps can effectively cancel out some of the negative side effects of Lion's Mane, such as reduced libido.