What Is Cordyceps Fungus?
A popular fungus used in traditional Eastern medicine, cordyceps is a classification of parasitic fungi that grow from its host into a fully formed mushroom type fungus. You may have heard of cordyceps as the “zombie” fungus due to its ability to control its host’s brain to flourish. It was even featured as the type of outbreak that took over the world in the popular video game “The Last of Us,” displaying the terrifying side of this wonder mushroom.
There are over 400 types of cordyceps fungi, and they are all parasitic in nature. The cordyceps mushroom typically grows from insects or spiders. It takes over the brain of the insect as a spore and forces the bug to move to a low plant or tree where the fungus can continue to grow into its full fruit form.
As the cordyceps grows from within the host, it continues to take over the brain and body, mummifying the insect alive so the fungus can continue to grow. Some types even take over other fungi types and mushrooms.
Though only specific types of cordyceps, like militaris and sinensis, are studied, they all have the same key chemicals, only different levels of potency.
What Can Cordyceps Do?
The cordyceps mushroom is coveted as “Himayalayan Gold” by herbalists and those that follow Traditional Chinese Medicine as it is believed to be a cure to all ailments. In Eastern medicine, cordyceps is used to help most commonly with low sex drive, low energy levels, kidney disease, and common sicknesses.
It may seem odd at first that a fungus could be used as a medicine, but don’t forget that Penicillin, a popular antibacterial medicine, comes from a mold fungus.
It took much experimentation and testing before Penicillin could be isolated as the powerful medicine we use it for today. In the same way, biologists and scientists in Eastern and Western medicine are continuing to study the benefits cordyceps have to offer.
The scientific proof defined by these studies is the first step to bridging cordyceps into medicine.
It May Reduce Fatigue
Regular cordyceps treatment may be able to reduce fatigue. Studies show that mice who were given cordyceps supplements had higher energy levels (based on the measurement of enzymes in their brain) than those that did not while swimming. The study compared already fatigued mice that had been treated with cordyceps supplements versus ones that had not.
They found that the rats that had been treated with cordyceps extract released more chemicals that assisted their energy and increased their ability to absorb oxygen. The treated rats also saw less muscle damage than those that were the control group.
These rats were made not to sleep and fasted to create fatigue before completing their laps around the obstacle courses; this way, they could study how the cordyceps improved fatigue or made doing tasks easier when exhausted. The study found that the cordyceps supplement did, in fact, reduce fatigue by measuring chemical balances and muscle fatigue in the rats.
It May Enhance Your Workout
The ability to workout passed fatigue is one way cordyceps help improve a workout, but there is much more to it. Studies show that cordyceps may increase endurance; in this case, a study found that healthy young adults given cordyceps supplements performed 11% better when exercising versus those who took a placebo.
The young adults that had cordyceps in their system were able to work out harder for longer, based on this study. Those that were given cordyceps supplements were able to push themselves and get the most out of their workout. Not only was their endurance increased, but their muscles were also benefiting more than those that were given a placebo.
The chemical enhancement from the cordyceps increased the ability for oxygen to flow to the muscles. Typically referred to as an antioxidant, the term is extremely broad and not often understood. What the cordyceps does is facilitate blood flow, making it easier for muscles to absorb oxygen and heal to be stronger.
The output of exercise performance was measured by “VO2”, the amount of oxygen flowing, heart rate, and other factors make up this measurement. When compared to the control group, the study found that the participants who had been treated with cordyceps prior were consuming 11% more oxygen than those that weren’t.
It May Help Manage Blood Sugar
In multiple studies done on diabetic rats, cordyceps supplements have shown a similar effect as insulin by lowering blood sugar levels and normalizing cholesterol. The rats are compared to other untreated diabetic rats to see how the cordyceps affect the kidneys and pancreas of the rats.
It was discovered that the cordyceps supplement was able to lower the blood sugar of these rats by improving the function of the kidneys and limiting the secretion of harmful chemicals.
While it is especially important for those with diabetes to manage their blood sugar, everyone can benefit from the regulation of glucose and cholesterol. The cordyceps help regulate certain chemicals in the body and improve the overall health of those who take it.
It May Prevent Cancer Growth
There have been a number of studies that isolate the effects cordyceps extract can have on the growth of tumors and cancer cells. Though these studies have been done mostly in test tube labs or on small mice, their results are still promising for the future of cancer treatment and prevention.
In one study, a group of doctors tested the ability of a specific strain of cordyceps ability to stop the growth of human cancer cells within mice. They saw how, when the cordyceps was introduced to the tumor mass, it stopped the growth of the cancer cells. Over a short period of time, the cordyceps was able to significantly slow the growth of the tumor in the mice. They concluded this was because the cordyceps attacked the cells directly and kept them from multiplying.
The cordyceps holds a key chemical identified as cordycepin, which is attributed to have anti-tumor effects. The studies in mice that isolate cordycepin have seen it have anti-tumor effects on lung cancer, lymphoma, and melanoma. Though these studies are on human cancers introduced to mice, the results are promising for future cancer treatment with cordyceps.
It May Even Be Able to Extend Life
The herbalistic uses for cordyceps is abundant, but life-extending is quite a bold claim. Thanks to the growth of studies, there are actually the beginnings of proof behind it!
Studies done on rats have seen how cordyceps affect their life span and overall health. One of these studies tested the effects cordyceps extract could have on the brain function of mice by testing their ability to learn and recall patterns.
First, they found that the mice that had been given the supplement were able to complete tasks faster and with fewer errors.
Second, the study measured the levels of the enzymes and chemicals that are related to age in the mice as they performed tasks and after. They found that the cordyceps extract was able to increase enzymes associated with healthy brain function and decreased those associated with aging. The cordyceps was able to prevent the release of aging chemicals in the treated mice.
Overall, this one study showed that the cordyceps may help extend life, at least in rats for now. The chemical makeup of the cordyceps extract was able to increase blood flow, healthy chemical release, and brain function.
Compiling all the benefits cordyceps have to offer, as mentioned above, also extend life. Living healthier is the easiest way to naturally live longer,
It is amazing what the cordyceps fungus can do. It may work as a workout enhancement and an energy supplement! The chemical makeup of cordyceps has been proven to have an anti-aging effect on mice. There are other chemicals that are activated within diabetic rats when given cordyceps that mock insulin and help lower blood sugar levels. We’ve seen that cordyceps can help prevent the growth of cancer in tests and have hopes of future analysis on humans.
The cordyceps fungus has been used for centuries as a cure-all in Traditional Eastern Medicine. It is the most important mushroom-like fungus for herbalists. It is about time for the cordyceps to be studied so we can find the true power of the zombie fungi, or “Himalayan Gold.” Though most thorough studies have been done on mice, the use of cordyceps continues to grow as the world continues to recognize its healing power. It’s so powerful that we use it as a key ingredient in our MUD. If you’ve never given it a try, grab your starter kit today!
If we continue our research and analysis of cordyceps, the possibilities of medicine could be endless. As experts continue to prove the benefits cordyceps hold, we can hope for more holistic and natural medicine.