MEET CORDYCEPS: The Life Extending Fungus Revered By The Ancients
[ Top 7 Healing Benefits + A Cordyceps Rose Latte Recipe ]
If you were an insect, Cordyceps could be the parasite that infects your brain causing you to go mad. The spores of the all-time revered parasitic fungus, Cordyceps, is perhaps the greatest enemy to thousands of insects, and one of humans greatest allies. What is classically known as Cordyceps sinensis, targets insects- eventually killing them and using their discarded corpses to breed its spawn.
Luckily, for us humans, we don’t ever have to worry about this. For you and I, Cordyceps is a superbly powerful medicinal mushroom which equips us with powerful longevity chemistry, boosting the body with energy, vitality, increasing endurance, libido, lung - kidney function, and greatly improving overall health.
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Wait, it grows from an insect's head?
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This fascinating species is actually a genus of parasitic fungi that grows on the larvae of insects. It includes over 400 different species which are found all over the world. Cordyceps typically infect other insects and arthropods. When the Cordyceps spores land on the insect, the spore will germinate. Next, hyphae will begin to grow inside the insect and turn into mycelium which continues to consume the insect from the inside. When the insect is fully consumed and the environmental conditions are correct, cordyceps will be produced from the insect’s head.
This medicinal mushroom has been a staple in holistic medicine for centuries and has long been revered for its potent anti-aging, health-promoting properties. Prized for their natural ability to fight free radicals, infections, and inflammation, Cordyceps are impressive disease-fighting mushrooms that have been used for hundreds of years to reduce symptoms of respiratory disorders, coughs, colds, liver damage and much more. As a true superfood, the cordyceps mushroom can slow the effects of aging and stress, help keep the body free from disease and boost energy levels to keep you going all day long.
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An Ancient Himalayan Staple
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The first people to discover the many benefits of cordyceps initially observed animals eating the wild fungus and growing strong in the process. Farmers and herders began to use the fungus in powder form to make tonics and teas, and even to improve their livestock’s health within harsh environments.
Because of its extraordinary health benefits and rarity, Cordyceps was reserved for the use of the emperor and royal family in ancient China. It has been traditionally used in Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries to treat fatigue, sickness, kidney disease, and low sex drive. Now even in modern Chinese medical hospitals use cultivated forms of Cordyceps sinensis as an effective treatment for cancer and tumors!
In Tibetan medicine, this fungus has been used for 500+ years in recorded history and is known as yartsa gunbu. It is primarily used for people with kidney and heart problems, and to increase endurance and virility. In Japan, it is used for impotence, as well as for general weakness.
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1,000+ Kinds of Cordyceps
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Cordyceps fungus has been primarily gathered from the wild in the alpine grasslands in the foothills of the Himalaya Mountains in Tibet and Bhutan. In the wild, Cordyceps is fairly rare and is being over-harvested due to its medicinal popularity worldwide. Cordyceps is an important part of traditional Tibetan medicine and the Tibetan economy. Harvesting of wild C. sinensis accounts for nearly 40% of the income in rural Tibet and 9% of the region’s GDP.
Its average altitude is astonishing, reaching 4,500 m or 14,800 ft. There are over 1,000 different kinds of Cordyceps, as there are different species of Cordyceps fungus for each type of host (and imagine how many are undiscovered!)
Because of Cordyceps sinensis' particular growing conditions, it is nearly impossible to mass-produce using its natural life cycle. This, coupled with an increasingly high demand, has led to skyrocketing prices. In 2017, high-quality C. sinensis pieces were being sold for more than $63,000/lb ($140,000/kg) in Beijing (more than 3x the price of gold at the time)!
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Cordyceps in the Supplement Industry
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Cordyceps Sinensis + Cordyceps Militaris
While Cordyceps sinensis is the most valued and studied type of Cordyceps, others have also been used for identical health benefits. Among these is the popular Cordyceps militaris and is the second most well-known and researched to date.
Studies have shown that properly cultured Cordyceps mycelium contains identical concentrations of the desired active components as wild Cordyceps, making it an effective and sustainable alternative. Although the wild species, hasnt been tested sufficient by scientists, of course offers in a wider scope of active constituents that are perhaps unknown by the medical community.
So, here's the deal: commercially cultivated Cordyceps sinensis is not testing as sinensis.
This is an entire article in itself, but the bottom line is that the cultivated Cordyceps sinensis species that you might be buying as a supplement, most likely is not true to its species.
In the 1980’s, when the wild Cordyceps sinensis was gaining in popularity and the price tag kept climbing, scientists in China set out to cultivate this fungus. Many tried and many failed. Still, to this day, there is no affordable cultivated version of this mushroom. What the scientists did end up with are Cordyceps anamorphs, mycelium cultures that are unable to produce a mushroom (fruiting body).
The cultivated Cordyceps sinensis mycelium that is grown for supplements is now called Cs-4. When Cs-4 is DNA tested it doesn’t show up as sinensis any longer, instead cordyceps anamorphs show up, and it tests as another species, such as Cordyceps subsessilis.
The issue with Cs-4 is that most of the time, the mycelium is grown in large fermentation tanks creating a mass amount of pure mycelium, which is basically “fermented mushroom grain” that is then pulverized and turned into a dry powder, and the mushroom is never fruited.
The end result is a 100% pure mycelium product that is similar to actual C. sinesis in terms of chemical make-up and similar beneficial compounds. Yet, you might be consuming a product as high as 65% of starch from the excessive amount of grain that might be in the end product. *Ensure your source of Cs-4 is from a reputable supplier, and ensure your mushrooms are true to species, on top of them not being diluted with GMO grains, and other fillers.
This is why we’ve chosen to offer a super clean, properly farmed and undiluted source of Cordyceps militaris. In our powder we offer the actual fruiting body as well as the mycelium, which are steam extracted to break open the cell wall for optimum absorption.
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Top 7 Health Benefits of Cordyceps sinensis & Cordyceps militaris
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Note: This section contains research related to the benefits of both C. sinensis and C. militaris due to the similarity in compounds and effects. Any mention of Cordyceps refers to both species.
Main actions found from just one(!) of the main active ingredients, Cordycepin: Anti-inflammatory, Antioxidant, Antimicrobial, Anti-cancer, Anti-diabetes, Immune system-balancing.
*Essential Polysaccharides found in Cordyceps (and other essential adaptogenic herbs like American Ginseng, Eleuthero, Astragalus, Ashwagandha, etc.) have proven anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-tumor, and cholesterol– and blood sugar-lowering effects. They also help boost the immune system.
1. Protects the Kidneys
Cordyceps may protect the kidneys from damage caused by certain antibiotics, enhance kidney function, and help balance the immune system in people with kidney transplants. Aminoglycosides are a broad class of antibiotics commonly prescribed to children (ex: gentamicin and neomycin). Unfortunately, they can seriously damage the kidneys. In a study, Cordyceps prevented kidney damage in 21 people taking aminoglycoside type antibiotics along with Cordyceps [35, 36, 37]. Another adaptogenic fungi, such as Reishi, is known to protect from harm caused by antibiotics.
2. Increases Immune Function.
Several studies suggest that consuming cordyceps benefits immune function and can help optimize the health of the cardiovascular, respiratory, endocrine and reproductive systems. This is because they contain anti-inflammatory compounds like polysaccharides, modified nucleosides, and cyclosporines.
3. Protects the Liver.
Cordyceps is known to be liver protective by boosting protective antioxidants and preventing the buildup of fats in the liver. It might also help people with hepatitis, although the evidence is limited. In 60 hepatitis B patients, Cordyceps reduced inflammation and scarring in the liver and improved liver function.
4. Boosts Stamina and Athletic Performance.
A study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine demonstrated that supplementation with Cs-4 (cultivated Cordyceps sinensis) improved exercise performance and contributed to overall markers of wellness in older adults. Cordyceps can actually increase “vasodilation” helping to deliver much-needed oxygen to the cells of the body during exercise and increasing stamina. It’s considered an energizing adaptogen like other superfood herbs such as maca or cacao, cordyceps are often used to help fight fatigue, treat muscle aches and prevent weakness.
5. Improves Lung Function.
In several clinical trials, Cordyceps reduced inflammation in the lungs and improved lung function and overall symptoms in 120 people with asthma. It has also notable assisted athletes by strengthening lung capacity.
6. Boosts Libido + Sex Hormones.
In Northern India and Nepal, Cordyceps is known as the “Himalayan viagra.” Apparently, local herders first observed that yaks, goats, and sheep that ate Cordyceps became much stronger, bulkier and even horny! Subsequently, the mushroom became very popular for increasing vitality and as an aphrodisiac. Traditionally, people of both sexes, took it as a tonic to enhance libido, lower performance anxiety, help with impotence, increase fertility and improve reproductive function overall. It was also used to encourage blood flow, which is important for physical health and sexual function.
In animal-based studies, Cordyceps improved sperm count and increased the sex hormones estradiol and testosterone. This hormonal boost likely underlies the fertility-enhancing effects of cordyceps. Plus, testosterone supports muscle-building, adding to the exercise benefits mentioned above. And as an add-on, testosterone boosts libido, especially if your levels are low.
7. Slows Down Cancer Progression
Active compounds such as cordycepin, ergosterol, and polysaccharides from cordyceps trigger programmed cell death, which is needed to remove cells that start behaving cancer-like. These active compounds also increase the activity of cancer-fighting immune cells (macrophages and natural killer cells) and prevent the growth of blood vessels that provide nutrients to cancer.
Many clinical studies show several species of Cordyceps being able to slow cancer growth, reduce tumor size, and increase survival time in mice with skin, immune cell (lymphoma), lung, and liver cancers. Also, Cordyceps helps to prevent cancer from spreading.
For those interested read up on the many cancer studies here:
[6a, 6b, 6c, 6d, 6e, 7a, 7b, 7c, 7d, 7e, 7f, 7g, 7h].
Recommended Dosage: Clinical studies suggest 1-3 g/day as the daily dosage for most cordyceps extract powders.
Side effects are rare, but may include: Dry mouth, Nausea and Diarrhea when done in (very) large amounts.
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This is an exquisite alternative to your morning cup of coffee, or afternoon booster. This will give you the right dose for energy, creativity and even some mojo! For you coffee lovers always asking how to hack the coffee routine, you can also add your Cordyceps to your coffee, and you'll feel it too. It's actually one of the more pelasent tasting and smelling of the mushroom family, and it's easy to sneak into food, and even your kids meals!
- 5–7 green cardamom pods
- 3–4 whole cloves
- 1–2 star anise ( optional )
- 5 peppercorns ( optional)
- 1 cup of water
- 3+ slices ginger (add more if you like it very gingery)
- 1 cinnamon stick (break it into pieces)
- 2 tablespoons black tea, loose leaf ( or 1–2 tea bags)
- 1 tablespoon rose petals
- 1 teaspoon cordyceps powder
- 1/2 tablespoon of coconut cream powder, (or nut butter of choice) - optional
- 1 cup milk of your choice- almond, oat, soy, cashew, hemp, macadamia etc.
- 1-2 teaspoons coconut sugar or maple syrup, or sweetener of choice
- Lightly crush spies together and place in a small pot with 1 cup of water. Add ginger, cinnamon cordyceps, and black tea.
- Bring to a boil. Turn off heat and let seep 10 minutes…. or for several hours. The longer, the more flavor.
- Once the heat is mild, add the rose petals and steep them with the rest.
- Strain and add your milk and coconut cream powder and whisk intensively to froth it up. Or if you're making a big batch, you can add your milk and cream once you're ready to serve. This way you can keep a big jar of the concentrate in your fridge.
- Enjoy the magic!
Here's other products containing cordyceps within our medicines:
Soma Elixir, Adaptogenic Powder and Adaptogenic Tonic, Mushroom Mocha Milk.