Cordyceps: Benefits & Side-Effects

Janis

By Janis | Updated December 4, 2023

Cordyceps, a genus of parasitic fungi, has gained popularity in recent years due to its remarkable health benefits.

Cordyceps is often referred to as caterpillar fungus because it grows on the larvae of moths and butterflies. The fungus invades the insect’s body, eventually killing it and mummifying the remains. The fungus then grows out of the insect’s head, creating a long, thin stalk.

Cordyceps species, such as Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris, have been used extensively in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine for centuries to treat fatigue, kidney disease, and respiratory problems. 

It is also believed to have immune-boosting properties and may be helpful in treating certain types of cancer. These fungi boast a wide range of benefits, from boosting exercise performance to fighting inflammation. 

In this article, we’ll explore nine (9) science-backed health benefits of Cordyceps, unlocking the potential of this unique fungus to enhance your well-being.

The Science Behind Cordyceps

Cordyceps has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, and scientific research has now backed up its numerous benefits.

Researchers are diving deep to decode the compounds and mechanisms that grant this fungus its notable properties.

Active Components

One of the key components of cordyceps is adenosine, a nucleoside that plays a critical role in energy metabolism.

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is the primary source of energy for cells, and cordyceps have been shown to increase ATP production, leading to improved energy levels and endurance.

Beneficial Properties

In addition to its energy-boosting effects, cordyceps also have potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.

It contains polysaccharides, sterols, and fatty acids, which have been shown to have numerous health benefits, including improved immune function and reduced inflammation.

Cancer-Fighting Cordycepin

Cordycepin is another essential compound found in cordyceps, which has been shown to have anti-cancer properties. It works by inhibiting the growth and proliferation of cancer cells, making it a promising natural treatment for cancer.

Overall, the science behind cordyceps is impressive, with numerous studies backing up its many benefits. Whether you are looking to boost your energy levels, improve your immune function, or reduce inflammation, cordyceps is a natural and effective solution.

9 Science-Backed Benefits of Cordyceps

May Boost Energy Levels

Cordyceps may help boost exercise performance by increasing the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP). 

This molecule delivers energy to your muscles, improving your body’s utilization of oxygen and potentially increasing your VO2 max.

As a result, you may experience better endurance and stamina during physical activities.

One study found that taking cordyceps supplements for 12 weeks led to a 7% increase in VO2 max in healthy older adults. Another found that taking cordyceps supplements for six weeks improved performance in trained cyclists.

May Improve Exercise Performance

Cordyceps may also act as an energy booster, helping you power through your workouts. By increasing ATP production, cordyceps may reduce fatigue and improve overall energy levels.

This can help you push harder during your workouts and get more out of your training sessions.

Has Anti-Aging Properties

Cordyceps are believed to possess anti-aging properties. They contain antioxidants that combat cell damage caused by free radicals. This can help reduce oxidative stress, contributing to overall longevity. 

Incorporating cordyceps into your routine may therefore support a more youthful appearance and better health as you age. 

Cordyceps also have potential benefits for memory and cognitive function. One study found that cordyceps extract improved memory and learning. 

Though more research is needed to determine if these benefits are actually effective, it suggests that cordyceps may have cognitive benefits.

Potentially Inhibit Cancer Development

There is evidence suggesting that cordyceps could have anti-tumor effects. They may inhibit tumor growth and enhance the efficacy of cancer-fighting drugs, as well as increase your body’s resistance to the harmful effects of radiation.

While further studies are needed, cordyceps could potentially play a role in cancer prevention.

May Help Manage Type 2 Diabetes

Cordyceps may be beneficial for managing type 2 diabetes, as they are known to help balance insulin and blood sugar levels.

By keeping your blood sugar in check, you may experience better overall health and a reduced risk of diabetic complications.

Possible Benefits for Heart Health

Cordyceps could support heart health by improving cholesterol and triglyceride levels. They may also help regulate arrhythmias and protect the lungs.

Including cordyceps in your wellness routine could contribute to a healthier cardiovascular system.

May Improve Sexual Function

Recent scientific research has also shown that cordyceps may have a positive impact on sexual health, as it has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve sexual function. 

Cordyceps may work by increasing levels of nitric oxide, thus improving blood flow and enhancing sexual function.

Overall, while more research is needed, cordyceps may be a natural way to improve sexual function and libido in both men and women.

May Help Prevent Diseases

Cordyceps is known for its potential disease-fighting properties.

It boosts the immune system and helps combat various bacterial and viral infections.

May Help Fight Inflammation

Lastly, cordyceps are believed to have anti-inflammatory properties. They may help combat inflammation in the body, supporting a healthy immune system.

Incorporating cordyceps into your daily regimen helps maintain overall well-being and reduce inflammation-related ailments.

Taking Cordyceps Supplements

If you’re interested in taking cordyceps supplements, you can find them in various forms, such as pills, extracts, and even coffee blends.

These supplements contain beneficial components like cordycepin, amino acids, polysaccharides, sterols, and fatty acids, which all contribute to the various benefits of this supplement.

Incorporating cordyceps into your daily routine is relatively simple. Take the supplement with or without food as directed on the label. Always seek advice from your medical specialist prior to making considerable adaptations to your nutritional supplements. 

By doing so, you’ll be able to enjoy the benefits cordyceps has to offer while minimizing possible risks.

Possible Side Effects of Cordyceps

While cordyceps have many potential health benefits, they may also cause some side effects. These side effects are generally mild and short-lived, but it’s important to be aware of them.

Diarrhea

While cordyceps offer noteworthy benefits, it may also cause diarrhea in some individuals. This unwelcome side effect usually subsides as your body adjusts to the supplement.

Remember to start with a low dosage and gradually increase to prevent gastrointestinal upset. Consult a doctor if symptoms persist.

Headaches

Another possible side effect of cordyceps intake includes experiencing headaches. This might be more prominent among individuals with pre-existing headache disorders or sensitivities.

If you find persistent headaches post-intake, it is advisable to reduce the dosage or consult with a healthcare provider.

Allergic Reactions

In rare cases, however, cordyceps may also cause an allergic reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction may include itching, swelling, and difficulty breathing.

It’s important to talk to your healthcare provider before taking cordyceps, especially if you have any underlying health conditions or are taking medications. They can help you determine if taking cordyceps is right for you and monitor any potential side effects.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the health benefits of Cordyceps?

Cordyceps has been used in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine for centuries.

Scientific research has shown that Cordyceps may have several health benefits, including increased exercise performance, boosted immunity, reduced inflammation, improved heart health, and regulated blood sugar.

How do Cordyceps affect energy levels?

Cordyceps are believed to boost your body’s production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is crucial for delivering energy to your muscles.

This could help your body use oxygen more efficiently, potentially increasing energy levels and reducing fatigue.

Can Cordyceps improve athletic performance?

Yes, Cordyceps may enhance athletic performance by improving your body’s ability to utilize oxygen, particularly during physical activity.

This can lead to increased stamina and endurance, allowing you to perform better in sports and other exercises.

How do Cordyceps support the immune system?

Cordyceps may act as an immune booster due to their antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.

These properties can potentially enhance your body’s defense against infections and diseases while curbing inflammation that could contribute to a weakened immune response.

Can Cordyceps enhance brain function?

While more research is needed, some evidence suggests Cordyceps may support healthy brain function by promoting the production of ATP, which is vital for delivering energy to brain cells.

This increased energy could enhance cognitive performance, memory, and focus.

What is the role of Cordyceps in regulating hormones?

Cordyceps may have a regulatory effect on hormones, particularly those related to stress and energy balance.

By supporting the production of ATP and improving your body’s oxygen utilization, Cordyceps may help maintain the overall balance and health of your endocrine system.

What are the potential side effects of Cordyceps?

Cordyceps are generally considered safe, but some potential side effects include mild gastrointestinal discomfort and dry mouth.

If you experience any severe, persistent, or worsening symptoms, it’s essential to consult your healthcare provider before continuing use.