Cordyceps has been used in China for literally centuries and is considered the top herb for restoring energy and quality of life. It first came to the attention of Western athletes when Chinese athletes used it to break nine world records in the World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Germany in 1993. As a result, it became legendary for increasing performance and has become one of the top-selling sports supplements among elite competitive athletes. Now, more and more active people are discovering its powerful potential to promote energy, vitality, and stamina.
Other names for Cordyceps
Cordyceps sinensis, caterpillar fungus, dong chong, xia cao tochukas, deer fungus
Where to find Cordyceps
Cordyceps comes from high mountain locations in China, Nepal, and Tibet. It comes from the carcass of the larvae of various insects and is collected during the summer solstice. Its name, Cordyceps sinensis, literally means "winter bug, summer herb."
Why athletes use Cordyceps
Quite simply—for greater energy, vitality, and endurance. Ever since coach Ma confessed he was feeding the stuff to his world-record breaking runners on China's track teams, athletes have given this mushroom a legendary reputation. And studies support its effects on stamina, vitality, endurance, and energy as well as its added benefits on cardiovascular and immune functioning.
- Increase energy production in our cells' mitochondria (the cell's energy factory)
- Increase oxygen uptake by the lungs
- Boost levels of glucose-processing enzymes in the liver, which makes more glucose available to muscles
Signs of Cordyceps deficiency
No deficiency conditions are known to exist.
Potential uses for Cordyceps
Research indicates that Cordyceps may be useful in the treatment of:
More about Cordyceps
Cordyceps has been used in China for literally centuries and is considered the top herb for restoring energy and quality of life. It first came to the attention of Western athletes when Chinese athletes used it to break nine world records in the World Outdoor Track and Field Championships in Germany in 1993. On top of that, they also broke swimming records. As a result, cordyceps became legendary for increasing performance and became one of the top-selling sports supplements among elite competitive athletes. Now, more and more active people are discovering its powerful potential to promote energy, vitality, and stamina.
How does it work?
Cordyceps is believed to improve performance by increasing levels of ATP (adenosine tri-phosphate), an energy molecule in our cells' mitochondria (the cell's power factory). It also appears to lower levels of blood sugar by conserving glycogen in the liver and increasing oxygen use. Finally, it may boost levels of glucose-processing enzymes in the liver, which makes more glucose available to muscles. The active compounds appear to be cordycepin (deoxyadenosine) and cordycepic acid (mannitol).
Cordyceps may also work by increasing oxygen uptake efficiency and lowering damage caused by low oxygen and high acidity in the body. Laboratory animals using cordyceps were shown to use oxygen up to 50% more efficiently, tolerate low oxygen conditions and acidosis (acid produced in the body during exercise, which leads to soreness and fatigue), and live up to 3 times longer than those that did not receive it.
In studies with elderly patients, cordyceps increased cold tolerance, raised respiratory function, improved memory and cognitive ability, and improved sex drive. All of these effects are linked to increased cardiovascular and respiratory performance. It also increased energy levels due to the ATP effects described above.
A number of research studies have shown that cordyceps may improve vitality by improving the enzyme activity of red blood cells and promoting lung health and function. Plus, it appears to improve our body's resistance to stress and supports our body's most powerful antioxidant, SOD.
Enhanced recovery and heart functioning
Because it contains powerful antioxidants, cordyceps may enhance cardiovascular functioning and aid in delivery of oxygen and nutrients and removal of waste from working muscles during exercise. It has also been shown to stabilize the heart beat, eliminating errors called arrhythmias. Plus, it's been shown to increase circulation and balance blood pressure. Wait... there's more. It may lower levels of bad cholesterol (LDL) and raise good cholesterol (HDL)—one study showed a total reduction of 17%.
Cordyceps also appears to be a powerful immune system supporter because it may boost production of blood cells in bone marrow. Plus, it appears to raise levels of certain chemicals called polysaccharides that are especially helpful for improving immunity. CO-1, for example, is shown to be a strong anti-tumor agent. Cordyceps also appears to increase the activity of macrophages, which gobble up invading microbes and cancer cells.
In China, cordyceps is considered a tonic for the kidneys, which are believed to control sexual function, strength, sweating, and resistance to cold. As a result, it is suggested to improve sex drive and body temperature regulation as well as cold resistance. Studies show it may improve kidney function and boost immunity in kidney transplant patients by returning infection-fighting T cells to normal. It may also be useful for maintaining liver function and fighting hepatitis.
Cordyceps comes with both a long history and a strong foundation of science to back it. Originally embraced in the west by elite athletes, it's now being discovered by active people from all walks of life looking to enhance not only endurance but energy and vitality.
Amount and Timing
Two to four grams per day, consumed in divided amounts in the morning and evening, is the amount used in studies for performance enhancement. Between 5 and 10 grams of raw cordyceps has been used for specific ailments.
Raw cordyceps look like matchsticks and are sold bundled up into blocks. Sun-dried herbs are preferred to avoid damage by high temperatures. Cordyceps has a flavor a little like licorice.
Look for cordyceps supplements that contain one percent adenosine, which is the type used in studies.
Synergists of Cordyceps
Cordyceps may work synergistically with other tonic herbs, such as ginseng, astragalus, ganoderma, and lycium to increase energy levels.
Drugs that interact with Cordyceps
People using MAO inhibitors should be cautious when using cordyceps since it may inhibit them. Cordyceps may increase the effects of anticoagulant medications.
Toxicity of Cordyceps
There are no indications for toxicity in humans, and toxicity levels were only reached at extremely high amounts in animals. Mild side effects were noted in hyperlipidemic patients who experienced dry mouth and nausea while taking an extract of the cultured mycelium at levels of 333 mg 3 times daily for 4 to 8 weeks.
Bans and restrictions
- Bao, T.T., et al., "Pharmacological Actions of Cordyceps sinensis," Zhong Xi Yi Jie He Za Zhi 8.6 (1988) : 352-4, 325-6.
- Bok, J.W., et al., "Antitumor Sterols from the Mycelia of Cordyceps sinensis," Phytochemistry 51.7 (1999) : 891-8.
- Bucci, L.R., "Selected Herbals and Human Exercise Performance," Am J Clin Nutr 72.2S (2000) : 624S-36S.
- Chiou, W.F., et al., "Protein Constituent Contributes to the Hypotensive and Vasorelaxant Activities of Cordyceps sinensis," Life Sci 66.14 (2000) : 1369-76.
- Kuo, Y.C., et al., "Cordyceps sinensis as an Immunomodulatory Agent," Am J Chin Med 24.2 (1996) : 111-25.
- Manabe, N., et al., "Effects of the Mycelial Extract of Cultured Cordyceps sinensis on In Vivo Hepatic Energy Metabolism and Blood Flow in Dietary Hypoferric Anaemic Mice," Br J Nutr 83.2 (2000) :197-204.
- Manabe, N., et al., "Effects of the Mycelial Extract of Cultured Cordyceps sinensis on In Vivo Hepatic Energy Metabolism in the Mouse," Jpn J Pharmacol 70.1 (1996) : 85-8.
- Shao, G., "Treatment of Hyperlipidemia with Cordyceps sinensis-a Double Blind, Randomized Placebo Control Trial," Zhong Xi Jie He Za Zhi 5.11 (1985) : 652-4, 642.
- Yoshida, J., et al. Antitumor Activity of an Extract of Cordyceps sinensis (Berk.) Sacc. Against Murine Tumor Cell Lines," Jpn J of Exp Med 59(4) 1989 : 157-62.
- Zhang, S.S., et al., "A Pharmacological Analysis of the Amino Acid Components of Cordyceps sinensis Sacc," Yao Xue Xue Bao 26.5 (1991) : 326-30.
- Zhu, J.S., et al., "The Scientific Rediscovery of a Precious Ancient Chinese Herbal Regimen: Cordyceps sinensis: Part II," J Altern Complement Med 4.4 (1998) : 429-57.
- Xiao, Y., et al., "Increased Aerobic Capacity in Healthy Elderly Human Adults Given a Fermentation Product of Cordyceps cs-4," Med Sci Sports Exerc 31S (1999) : S174 (abstract).