Cordyceps, commonly placed within the category of mushrooms are known as an edible medicinal fungus. While they share many of the same characteristics, they aren’t technically mushrooms, instead they are classified as Ascomycetes fungus. They are found in the high mountains regions of the world, mostly in China’s Himalayas. They actually grow on the backs of caterpillars! They are considered such exotic healers because they are only found above 3,800 meters above sea level, during certain times of year, and in only certain parts of the world where these caterpillars exist. Yet their potency to provide notable health benefits keeps them on top of alternative health proponents (the first surfaced in Chinese Medicine 5,000 years ago!)
Cordyceps can be used for a variety of health issues and have been proved effective across the board. Let’s dive into five key areas of healing this strong fungus can provide.
Cordyceps are truly powerful when it comes to bringing the anti-inflammatory compounds they contain to our bodies. They hold inflammation lowering polysaccharides, cyclosporines, and modified nucleosides that have been shown to positively impact the immune function of our respiratory, cardiovascular, reproductive, and endocrine systems. Studies have been shown to have positive healing results to autoimmune diseases like leaky gut. They have also been studied to have anti-tumor activity to various types of cancer when supplementation of cordyceps were given. Some evidence lends itself to the improvement of symptoms after chemotherapy and an increase in the body’s defense mechanisms after treatment. Cordyceps have also been shown to improve resistance against heart disease and cognitive decline because they have show the ability to restore normal fat mobilization in the body that can, in turn, reduce oxidative damage.
Improve Respiratory Health/Infections
Cordyceps have been used to alleviate the symptoms of several respiratory illnesses, including coughs, asthma, and chronic bronchitis. Supplementation can help to improve detoxification and circulation in the body allowing for more oxygen to reach the lungs, helping them to heal more efficiently. They have been shown to increase the number of T-fighters cells in the body that help to fight off infections, while not suppressing the T-suppressor cells.
Likely due to the high amounts of antioxidants they contain studies have shown that cordyceps can have an anti-aging affect on the body. They include antioxidant varieties such as; glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase. They have also been shown to lower the level of lipid peroxidation and monoamine oxidase activity that contributes to aging.
Improve Athletic Performance (Read: Increased Stamina)
Studied specifically in older adults cordyceps have been shown to improve exercise performance and contribute to increased overall wellness markers. They are considered to be somewhat energizing (think maca) and can help to fight off weakness, muscle fatigue, and soothe muscle aches. They contain adenosine, a type of nucleic acid that is a component of ATP, the effects of which can increase the body’s supply of ATP which helps us in turn improve our own endurance and physical capabilities during exercise.
Act as an Aphrodisiac
In traditional medicine both sexes took tonics containing cordyceps to help the body utilize oxygen more efficiently and improve blood flow; a key factor to sexual health and function. They help to improve fertility since they affect aspects of the body such as; lowering inflammation in the body and improved endurance. They have long been considered a good treatment factor for those experiencing infertility and a natural remedy for impotence.
Liver Function and Detox Benefits
Due to their capabilities of lowering toxin levels in the body, cordyceps have a positive effect on the liver allowing it to function more optimally towards removing them even more effectively. Studies have shown that cordyceps have a positive influence on energy metabolism, amino acid, protein and choline metabolism, and oxidative stress since they can play a key role in supporting digestive organ function. Cordyceps have been observed to utilize fatty acids more efficiently therefore improving triglyceride levels and benefit liver and heart health. Two specific compounds in cordyceps (d-mannitol cordycepin and 3’-deoxyadenosine) have even been found to help lower blood sugar levels, having a positive, healing effect on those with diabetes.
How do we consume Cordyceps?
You can find cordyceps capsules, powders, and tablets in most health food stores or from a credible source on the inter-webs. You may take the supplement orally or open the capsule and stir into soups or stews, as it is traditionally done in Chinese Medicine. Dosage depends on what type of affects your after, but as always it is best to consult a doctor to make sure the supplementation will not interfere with any other medications. Be particularly careful if you are pregnant or already have an existing autoimmune disease (lupus for example). Cordyceps help to stimulate the immune system and this can actually cause a negative response in the body of those suffering from an already heightened immune response.