What is cordyceps?
Cordyceps is a type of fungus that lives on certain types of caterpillars. It is a species of edible medicinal mushroom, which is quite beneficial to health. They are very much closely related to other types of mushrooms, but they cannot be technically termed as the same as other mushrooms. They are categorized as a powerful form of Ascomycetes fungus. Cordyceps are usually harvested in the high-mountainous regions of the world, mostly in parts of China's Himalayan mountains. They also grow on the backs of caterpillars.
Cordyceps are considered to be one of the exotic types of healing mushrooms. However, for the most part of history, they are found to be a rare species. This fungus has a variety of names such as Chinese caterpillar fungus, vegetable caterpillar, caterpillar fungus (Ophiocordyceps sinensis), caterpillar mushroom, or tochukaso. This fungus has been widely used in various Asian and Chinese medicine. Now, the Western medicine front is also trying to tap its medicinal properties.
Cordyceps are called as a superfood due to the fact that they efficiently fight the signs of aging and stress. It also helps the body fight against free radicals, inflammation, and illnesses, as well as increases the body's energy levels. Parasitic in nature, cordyceps are usually grown on a special type of caterpillar and then eats its own host.
Animals were first to benefit from the healing nature of cordyceps since they would eat this wild fungus, and in the process, would become stronger. Later, farmers or herders would use the powder of the fungus to prepare tonics and teas. A few of the first uses of these tonics were for the production of milk and to bring about an improvement in the reproductive capacity of livestock. As more people understood its benefits, they would let the cordyceps dry in sunlight to preserve their benefits.
There are also cordyceps supplements, which are widely used to regulate the functioning of the immune system, following any kind of life-threatening diseases or any kind of infections affecting the body. This fungus is also known to control cases of autoimmune diseases, speed up the body’s healing process, and controls any forms of excessive inflammation leading to tissue damage.
The mushroom’s base is formed from the larva of the insect, and has a dark brown or black color. It attaches itself to the organism and tends to grow about six inches in length. By the time cordyceps matures, it tends to eat about 90 percent of the insect. This fungus then swells up and enlarges itself to weigh around 300-500 milligrams.
Cordyceps is known to have a lot of anti-inflammatory benefits, which would have a positive impact on the immune system. It keeps the body healthy, helps fight against oxidative damage, and helps in stimulating the protective cells that keep the body free from cancer-causing cells. Research has shown that this fungus acts as a natural treatment for cancer along with preventing any growth of skin or lung tumors. Other health benefits include:
1. Immune System Booster with Anti-Aging Effects
Studies have found that cordyceps have a positive impact on the functioning of the immune system along with providing lots of health benefits to the heart, reproductive system, and respiratory system. This fungus also helps fight against cancer and other immunological disorder since it can control inflammation.
Studies conducted on animals have shown that it possesses healing properties when it comes to autoimmune diseases such as the leaky gut syndrome. Certain evidence have shown that by taking cordyceps supplements during or after chemotherapy reduces any kind of symptoms that are are related to the treatment. It also increases the defense mechanism of the body. It helps reduce oxidative damage, which can lead to chronic health conditions. It has also been found that cordycep extract supplements have anti-aging benefits. It improves the activity of the antioxidants, which also include superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase.
2. Treats Chronic Bronchitis
Cordyceps are also used for the treatment of cough and common respiratory problems such as chronic bronchitis and asthma. Aside from respiratory issues, it also treats male sexual problems, ringing sound in the ears, chronic bronchitis, dizziness, unwanted weight loss, urination during nighttime, increased or irregular heartbeat, kidney problems, and liver problems.
3. Prevents Diabetes
Cordyceps has two important constituents, and they are d-mannitol cordycepin and 3'-deoxyadenosine. They are both partially responsible for various kinds of physiological actions, which are known to help insulin control as well as blood sugar regulation.
In some animal studies, it was found that cordyceps supplements may help combat the hypoglycemic effects in people with diabetes. This would show that cordyceps is a natural treatment for diabetes. The extracts of cordyceps have shown to provide a lot of benefits such as inducing weight loss in diabetic patients, improving the tolerance level of glucose, reduces the problem of feeling excessively thirsty, and lowering blood sugar levels in the body. All of these benefits indicate a lower risk of diabetes. In patients with chronic diabetes, the damage caused due to high levels of blood sugar on the kidneys leads to the development of diabetic nephropathy. In one of the studies, it has been observed that the powdered extracts of cordyceps offer protection towards the health of the kidneys.
4. Improves Stamina and Performance of Athletes
Cordyceps supplements or in its natural form are known to help improve the performance of athletes and older adults. It is also known to be effective against fatigue, muscle aches, and weakness. It has shown to improve one's physical endurance along with stamina. The reason is that these small fungi are known to boost the body’s supply of ATP, which is considered to be one of the primary sources of energy during exercise.
Cordyceps are also known to contain adenosine, which is a type of nucleic acid. Adenosine is a compound, which is very much required for making ATP. A higher production of ATP would lead to an increase of intense workouts carried out by athletes along with extending the length of time of staying active.
5. Improves Body Detoxification and Liver Function
Cordyceps are believed to have the ability to improve the functioning of the liver. This is mostly in the case of individuals who are suffering from liver damage due to certain medical conditions such as hepatitis B. Since the liver is known to be an organ that removes harmful toxins from the body, the proper functioning of the liver becomes a must. Cordyceps can have a positive impact on the immune system as well. Also, a healthy liver would aid in better digestion as well as proper utilization of fatty acids. Cordyceps are known to help in the improvement of the levels of triglycerides, thereby improving heart health.
6. Fights Respiratory Tract Infections
Research has proven that cordyceps also helps reduce the symptoms of various medical conditions caused by respiratory infections. Cordyceps acts as a natural cure for cough, asthma, and bronchitis. With the help of supplements, it would help improve the body's detoxification process and blood circulation, so more oxygen can reach the lungs.
7. Good for the Heart
In various studies conducted on animals, it was found out that the cordyceps extract can help correct heart rhythm irregularities, which is medically termed as arrhythmias. In China, arrythmias are treated through the use of cultured mycelia of cordyceps. It is one of the parts of the fungus and is made up of fine white-colored filaments. Moreover, the consumption of cordyceps in its natural form or in the form of supplements were seen to prevent a metabolic damage caused by the heart and liver.
In one of the laboratory testings done on rats, it was observed that cordyceps extracts reduced the rate of rejection when it came to heart transplantation. This would lead to the indication that cordyceps could one day become one of the important components required for any post-organ transplant treatment.
8. Enhances Libido
In many Eastern societies, cordyceps has been traditionally used for the enhancement of libido as well as sexual functioning. Cordyceps are known to improve the reproductive activity aside from restoring any kind of impairment in the functioning of the reproductive system. Hence, this fungus helps improve libido as well as sexual activity in both men and women by potentially enhancing the release of testosterone.
9. Protects the Kidneys
In China, cordyceps has been approved for various health-related treatments. It is also commonly used for the treatment of different kinds of diseases linked to the kidney. Such issues would include chronic renal dysfunction, chronic nephritis, and the nephritic syndrome.
Cordyceps are known to play an important role when it comes to kidney transplantation. In one of the studies, it was indicated that the preparation, which was made from cordyceps mycelia helped reduce the rejection of kidney transplantation. It also helped improve the smooth functioning of the kidney and liver, lowered any kind of infection rates in patients who underwent kidney transplantation, and stimulated the production of red blood cells. In patients who suffered from a chronic case of kidney failure, one formula called the Cordyceps Mycelia CS-4 helped boost the functioning of the kidneys along with lowering the blood urea levels. It also helped increase the levels of total blood calcium and protein.
How to Use Cordyceps
In the past few decades, cordyceps were very difficult to obtain since they were not widely used and were quite expensive as well. With the help of various research and studies, scientists have come up with ways to reproduce cordyceps in the synthetic form and in laboratory settings. By doing so, cordyceps has been made widely available to the public. There are various cordycep supplements available in drug stores or health food stores in an affordable price. They also provide the same benefits as the natural wild varieties of cordyceps. One of the other advantages of growing controlled species of cordyceps is to control the amount of contaminants such as heavy metals and bacteria.
Cordycep supplements are now available in the form of tablets, powder, and capsules. Many people take these supplements for a month. The dosage of these supplements would vary from person-to-person. The recommended dosage would be 5-10 grams of cordyceps to be taken once or twice a day.
Potential Side Effects
Cordyceps are usually considered safe for individuals, but there are also certain side effects, which everyone should be aware of. There can be cases of potential side effects in pregnant women or nursing mothers who have a history of autoimmune-related diseases. Individuals who have lupus, multiple sclerosis, or arthritis should check with the doctor before taking cordyceps.
Doctors usually warn that taking cordyceps may also lead to the worsening of an underlying health condition. Since cordyceps stimulate the immune system, there can be a possibility that this fungus can cause an interference with the medication used for the treatment of certain diseases or lead to an overactive immune cells. Additionally, it is not suitable for those who are suffering from blood clot issues or bleeding disorders since these mushrooms can lead to an interference with the proper clotting of the blood.
- Cordyceps are called as a superfood due to the fact that they efficiently fight the signs of aging and stress. It also helps the body fight against free radicals, inflammation, and illnesses, as well as increases the body's energy levels.
- There are also cordyceps supplements, which are widely used to regulate the functioning of the immune system, following any kind of life-threatening diseases or any kind of infections affecting the body.
- This fungus is also known to control cases of autoimmune diseases, speed up the body’s healing process, and controls any forms of excessive inflammation leading to tissue damage.