Cordyceps Mushroom: More Than Just "The Athlete's Mushroom"

What if we told you that the Cordyceps mushroom (e.g. Ophiocordyceps sinensis, Cordyceps militaris) is so powerful that a daily post-workout supplementation with Cordyceps mushrooms by the Chinese Olympic team prior to the 1993 Olympics helped them outperform everyone's expectations and eventually be accused of doping?

Or that at one point, 1 dried kilogram of Ophicordyceps sinensis was going for close to $20,000?

Suffice to say, Cordyceps mushrooms are potent, highly prized and elusive. They're also wildly interesting.

A parasitic, entomopathogenic fungus, Cordyceps parasitize and feed on insects for its life blood. In fact, there are some Cordyceps mushrooms — e.g Cordyceps lloydiithat seemingly come from a science fiction movie, attacking living ants and secreting a chemical that compels the ants to climb to the top of a tree, attach themselves to a leaf, then slowly die as the mushroom erupts from the ant's head/body to disperse its spores into the wind.

But what of Cordyceps militaris, the mushroom used in our dual extracts?

For one, it's a bit more tame, preferring the pupa or larva of moths and butterflies and using its mycelium to effectively colonize the living insect and mummify it from within — while keeping it alive — until enough mycelium is generated to produce the club-like, orange mushroom fruit body specific to Cordyceps militaris.

Nowadays, Cordyceps militaris can be cultivated commercially without the need for bugs. Typically, Cordyceps militaris mycelium is grown in a nutrified liquid broth, expanded onto nutrified rice, and then fruited and harvested from this rice substrate.

Commercial cultivation is is important because interest in Cordyceps mushrooms from researchers and consumers is blossoming. Why?

Studies are finding that compounds within Cordyceps mushrooms may possess health benefits including:
  • Anti-viral against Influenza, HIV, Murine Leukemia, and Epstein Barr viruses

  • Induces apoptosis, i.e. cellular death, and reduces tumor formation and cancer risk in the breast, liver, kidney and gallbladder

  • Anti-inflammatory, hypoglycemic, and immune system stimulating and modulating

  • Anti-fatigue by increasing ATP production and reducing lactic acid production

  • Improve sperm count, libido and bone health

  • Promotes nerve growth, suggesting a benefit to cognitive health


The medicinal compound credited for many of Cordyceps’ health benefits is Cordycepin, — 3'-Deoxyadenosine — which has shown the potential to modulate the immune system, inhibit tumor growth, lower blood pressure, and lower blood vessel wall tension.

But one of the most highly touted benefits of consuming Cordyceps is that it increases the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which delivers energy to muscles. It’s believed Cordyceps may help the body utilize oxygen more efficiently, especially during exercise, and may delay exercise-induced fatigue.

It's for this reason that Cordyceps are often referred to as the "athlete's mushroom." Further, it's worth noting that in China Cordyceps are approved for the treatment of arrhythmia, a condition where the heartbeat is too slow, too fast, or irregular. The presence of adenosine in Cordyceps is attributed for this heart-protective effect. Animal research has also found that Cordyceps can decrease “bad” LDL cholesterol and triglyceride levels, a type of fat found in your blood that’s linked to heart disease.

Cordyceps may also possess anti-aging and anti-inflammation effects, help people navigate heart conditions and symptoms of Type 2 Diabetes, and contains a type of sugar that may help people with Diabetes better control their blood sugar levels by mimicking the action of insulin.


Still thirsting for more?

To learn about our current extraction processes, read our article Medicinal Mushroom Extractions: A Primer on Our Process, dive into our methods with our simplified How to Use a Soxhlet Extractor guide, and learn why we use a Soxhlet in our post Soxhlet Extractor: Why We Do What We Do.

Or, to learn more about why we prefer the dual extract methodology for our products, head on over to Medicinal Mushroom Dual Extracts: Why We Make Them and You Take Them.

And to learn more about the mushrooms in our other products, click on the name of the mushrooms below:
As with any dietary supplement, consult with your physician before incorporating Cordyceps mushrooms into your supplement regimen.

Citations:*^
  • Rogers, Robert Dale. The Fungal Pharmacy: The Complete Guide to Medicinal Mushrooms and Lichens of North America. Berkeley, CA: North Atlantic, 2011. Print.

  • Rogers, Robert Dale, Medicinal Mushrooms: The Human Clinical Trials. Prairie Deva Press, 2020. Print.

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3110835/

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5236007/

  • https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2FBF02836405

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4564082/

  • https://faseb.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1096/fasebj.25.1_supplement.599.1

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26141646/

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26115996/

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2775070/

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26263965/

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8874668/

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4371127/

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4371127/

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/12413710/

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21882527/

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15050427/

  • https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/27274781/

  • https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles

*Please note some of the links above will direct you to the abstract of the study. Many of these studies are behind a paywall. By using the website Sci-hub.se, you will be able to circumvent the paywall and read the entire study.

^Please understand that most of these studies have been conducted on mice or in vitro, known as “test tube studies.” Currently, double-blind placebo human clinical trials for medicinal mushrooms are scarce.
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