Cordyceps is a small medicinal mushroom which typically grows wild in parts of Asia. Although there are over 400 types of cordyceps, it’s the cordyceps sinensis strain which is the most studied and nutrient-dense species of them all. Cordyceps sinensis contains a rare mix of powerful nutrients that are able to nourish and rejuvenate the body.
The use of cordyceps dates back to the Han Dynasty when it become so sought-after that the Imperial Palace requested it was reserved solely for use by Chinese Royalty. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is prescribed for 21 ailments including respiratory issues and liver problems. The mushroom hit headlines when a professor at the University of Hong Kong, Dr, Georges Halpern, ran a series of studies which revealed what the mushroom was capable of. Since then, its popularity has grown and cordyceps is now taken as a superfood supplement by millions of people around the world.
Cordyceps Nutrition Information
Cordyceps is rich in a broad range of health compounds including vitamins E, L, B1, B2, B12 & K, and bio-active minerals such as copper, iron, magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium, silicon, and nickel.
The adaptogenic medicinal mushroom contains over 50 different types of enzymes including coenzyme Q10, all of which play a vital role in enabling the body to absorb nutrients and break down fats and proteins. Omega-3, Omega-6, and Omega-9 class essential fatty acids in the cordyceps help to regulate blood pressure and strengthen the cardiovascular system. It also contains polysaccharides, proteins, peptides, polyamines, sterols, and nucleosides.
A Natural Performance Enhancing Supplement
Cordyceps is nicknamed the athletes ally because it is known for its ability to enhance athletic performance. One of its superstar ingredients is adenosine triphosphate (ATP). ATP is a nucleic acid and high-energy molecule which is used in every single movement that the body makes. Not only does it contain it, but it also encourages the body to naturally produce more ATP, which in turn enables longer and more powerful workout sessions.
Cordyceps also maximizes oxygen utilization: A study by the Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise Journal found that a dose of cordyceps was able to increase that body’s ability to utilize oxygen by up to 50%. It also improves blood flow, which it turn helps to reduce muscle fatigue.
Cordyceps even helped the Chinese Track and Field Team to break no less than three World Records at the 1993 Olympic World Games. Mr, Ma Ju Ren, the team’s coach, said the incredible wins were partly thanks to a cordyceps concoction that team took daily.
Reduces Stress and Supports Adrenal Health
Cordyceps is classified as an adaptogen. Adaptogenic substances work with the body’s current state of health in order to create balance and bring it back to wellness. The adaptogenic qualities of cordyceps help the body to combat inflammation and enable it to better deal with environmental, chemical, mental, and physical stress factors.
This medicinal mushroom has also shown that it has the ability to lower cortisol levels, which can
reduce adrenal fatigue, limit poor hormonal function, and prevent chronic inflammation.
Cordyceps Mushroom Properties
Hormonal Health: Helps to balance moods
Energy Enhancing: Provides a boost of energy
Anti-Inflammatory: Reduces inflammation and eases aches
Brain Health: Neurotrophic growth factors improve memory and cognitive development
Liver Tonic: Promotes liver health
Antitumor: In vitro studies suggest cordyceps inhibits the proliferation of cancer cells
Antioxidant: Fights free radical damage and prevents oxidation
Adaptogen: Enables the body to better deal with a range of stresses
Detoxifying: Helps the liver to eliminate toxins
Libido Enhancer: Improves sexual function
Anti-Ageing: Slows down the aging process
Aids Respiration: Increases lung capacity and prevents respiratory infections
Performance-Helper: Increases endurance, strength, and stamina
Immune-Supporting: Supports the immune system
How to Choose the Best Cordyceps
Not all cordyceps mushrooms are created equal, in fact, their nutritional content will vary wildly depending on where they are grown and how they are prepared and packaged. For these reasons, you need to carefully choose where you buy your cordyceps from. Always buy cordyceps from a reputable brand who source high-quality mushrooms and tonic herbs, and avoid purchasing any products that have chemicals, preservatives or fillers in. The mushroom powder should also be packed and stored in an airtight container and kept in a cool, dry, dark place to help to preserve its shelf-life.
Is Cordyceps Vegan-Friendly?
In the wild, cordyceps can act as a parasitic fungus on a host (a caterpillar), which means that the mycelium feeds of the host's tissues and eventually mummifies it. Thankfully, scientists have discovered ways to grow cordyceps mushrooms in laboratory conditions without the need for a host. Always choose this options as not only is it more environmentally-friendly, but it also makes cordyceps mushroom vegan-friendly too.
Should I Buy a Complex Powder?
There are 240 mushrooms that have medicinal properties with around 20 main species which are commonly known and taken as supplements. So, if you can’t choose between cordyceps or chaga, then you may want to buy a medicinal mushroom complex powder. These mushroom complex powders feature a balanced blend of some of the most nutrient-rich medicinal mushrooms on the planet, so you can sample their goodness in every teaspoon.
How to Prepare Cordyceps
Transforming raw cordyceps mushroom into a palatable and safe product can be a lengthy and painstaking process. You will need to break the raw mushroom into smaller pieces to help the hot water to better extract the nutrients that are present. Place the mushroom pieces into a ceramic pot, pour over distilled water and then bring it to a boil. Turn down the heat and allow the mixture to simmer for around two hours. Boiling helps to remove some of the mycotoxins, although be careful not to overboil the mushroom or you will damage some of the bio-active nutrients that cordyceps is so famous for. Strain the mixture using a chinois and then allow it to cool before using it as a tea or a stock for soup.
While this was the traditional way of preparing cordyceps for many thousands of years, nowadays it’s easy to get hold of cordyceps powders, tinctures, tablets, capsules, and sprays that are pre-prepared and ready to use. For the most potent dose, choose a concentrated extract powder which is made from raw cordyceps but can contain up to ten times the amount of nutrients that the raw mushroom contains.
Cordyceps Dosage and Side Effects
For many people, cordyceps provides a rather noticeable energy boost, so it’s a wise idea to start with a small dose and then listen to your body and increase the dosage if required. If it's your first time trying cordyceps, mix half a teaspoon in warm water to create a tonic tea. The maximum suggested dosage is one heaped teaspoon serving twice a day, although Traditional Chinese Medicine Practitioners may prescribe higher doses for certain ailments.
Cordyceps is non-toxic and classified as safe to use as a health supplement, although you should consult your doctor before taking the medicinal mushrooms if you are pregnant, diabetic, or have any sort of blood-thinning disorder.
How to Use Cordyceps
Cordyceps powder is extremely versatile and it can be added to both sweet and savory dishes including soups, sauces, dips, and desserts. It will dissolve instantly in smoothies, shakes, juices, teas and elixirs, and it can be sprinkled over foods. Cordyceps will make a great travel companion, as a teaspoon of the powder taken in the morning will help to increase energy and rejuvenate a sluggish body after a long flight.
If you are taking cordyceps to help reduce stress and anxiety, then you may wish to combine it with other adaptogenic herbs such as ashwagandha, schizandra, pine pollen, or other medicinal mushrooms such as chaga and reishi.
Creamy Cordyceps Tea
One of the most popular ways to enjoy cordyceps is to use a concentrated extract powder to make a warming tea. A perfect morning pick-me-up without the jitters that are associated with caffeine, this cordyceps tea makes a nutritious alternative to a cup of coffee or caffeinated tea.
Just fill a mug with warm but not boiling water, add your desired dose of cordyceps powder and then stir until it’s dissolved. Pour in some coconut milk, and add a dash of cinnamon powder for a little kick, and then enjoy immediately.
Protein-Packed Tropical Green Smoothie
Athletes, bodybuilders, yogis, and other fitness fanatics swear by the energy-boosting and performance-enhancing power of cordyceps. For this reason, it is commonly taken before a workout or exercise class. This green smoothie not only delivers the goodness of cordyceps, but it also contains fresh fruits, vegetables, and seeds which are high in protein and able to provide a long-lasting release of energy. You will need a blender for this recipe, a Nutribullet, Ninja or Vitamix will work well as they help to break down seeds so that they are more easily digestible by the body.
Pour one cup of nut milk of your choice (almond, cashew, or hazelnut), one frozen banana, a big handful of kale leaves, 1 tablespoon of flaxseed, 1 tablespoon of chia seeds and a large chunk of frozen pineapple along with 1 teaspoon of the concentrated cordyceps powder into your blender. Blend the ingredients until smooth. If the mixture is too thick then you can add water or more nut milk to dilute it a little. You should enjoy your protein smoothie immediately, although you can make big batches and then freeze them in mason jars ready for your next workout.
Raw Cordyceps Chocolate Power Bars
When you’re feeling peckish, but want to keep chocolate bars and cookies away, then these chewy no-bake bars will be sure to satisfy those cravings in a healthy way. Made from a delicious mix of dates and nuts, it’s hard to believe that these bars are healthy, vegan, and gluten-free. You will need a high-speed food processor, along with almonds, chocolate chips, vanilla extract, dates, and cordyceps extract powder.
Place 1 cup of sticky medjool dates, 1 cup of raw almonds, 1/2 a cup of raw chocolate chips, a dash of vanilla extract and 2 tablespoons of cordyceps powder into the food processor. Pulse the mixture until the ingredients are blended together but still have some texture. Line a baking tray with some greaseproof paper. Place the mixture onto the tray and roll or press it out until it forms a rectangular shape that is of equal thickness. Pop the tray into the fridge for 10 minutes to allow the mix to set. Remove the tray from the fridge and cut the mixture into bar shapes, or cut out shapes with cookie cutters. Store the bars in an airtight container in the refrigerator, or your can keep them in the freezer and they will stay fresh for up to a month.
Scientific Name: Cordyceps Sinensis
Common Names:Caterpillar Fungus, Semi Take, Hsia Ts’ao Tung Ch’ung, Yarsha Gumba
Cordyceps References and Sources
There are thousands of scientific studies and books 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