Learn about the benefits of Cordyceps, the parasitic fungus

You may have heard about Cordyceps, a genus of parasitic fungi that has become known for its unique way of attacking insects and other arthropods. They invade, destroy and stay to live within the host.

There is also evidence that these fungi can change the behavior of the host insect. As is the case of Cordyceps unilateralis, a species that modifies the behavior of infected ants.

However, this is not all. The remains of infected fungi and insects have been used by traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Its applications range from treating fatigue and increasing libido to some kidney diseases. We explain everything you need to know.

What is Cordyceps?

Cordyceps is a genus of fungi with more than 400 known species. Their main characteristic is that they are parasitic, that is, they depend on a host (in this case insects and other arthropods).

In general, when this fungus attacks a host, it destroys its tissues and replaces them with long, thin stems that grow outside its body. Now, most of the species grow in Asia, in countries like China, Japan, Korea and Thailand. The three best known include the Cordyceps sinensis (Chinese caterpillar fungus), the Cordyceps militaris and the Cordyceps unilateralis.

Among all species, only the sinensis and militaris they are edible, for which therapeutic properties are attributed to it, becoming the focus of most of the research regarding these fungi.

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Benefits attributed to Cordyceps

Used for centuries by traditional Chinese medicine To treat various conditions, it is not surprising that research has been done on the health effects of these mushrooms. Let's see in detail how they can help.

1. Improve physical performance

According to research published in International Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, the species of Cordyceps are related to an increase in the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy molecule of the muscles. This improves oxygenation and reduces fatigue during exercise.

Similarly, a study published in Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine showed that those who ingested 3 grams daily of a synthetic strain of Cordyceps, call CS-4, increased their maximum volume by 7%, a measure used to determine fitness level.

A similar study with young adults also found that after ingesting a mushroom mixture that contained Cordyceps for three weeks, they experienced an 11% increase in their maximum volume compared to those who took a placebo. However, current research shows that the species of Cordyceps may not be effective when it comes to improving the performance of top-level athletes.

High-level athletes may not receive benefits from these mushrooms, according to the latest research.

2. Slow down aging

There is scientific evidence that the species of Cordyceps have a significant antioxidant content that give it anti-aging properties. A study in elderly mice showed that these mushrooms could improve memory.

Another study in rodents showed that those who received Cordyceps they lived longer than those who received a placebo substance.

Likewise, an investigation published in International Journal of Molecular Medicine found that fungi of the species Cordyceps can extend the life of fruit flies. However, more human studies are still needed to translate the results.

3. Increase libido

In folk medicine, the species of Cordyceps have been used as a sexual invigorator. A study published in Phytotherapy Research found that this fungus is capable of increasing antioxidant levels in elderly mice, improving libido. However, more research in humans is still required.

4. Anti-tumor properties

Test tube studies demonstrated the antitumor potential of Cordyceps by inhibiting the growth of human cancer cells. These include cells from lung, colon, skin, and liver cancers. Research in mice also certified these effects on lymphoma and myeloma. However, more human testing is needed and it cannot be a first-line treatment in any way.

5. Could control type 2 diabetes

Fungi of the genus Cordyceps are able to help keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range, according to a study in diabetic mice published in Life Sciences.

Additionally, a review of 22 studies showed that the supplements of Cordyceps improve kidney function in patients with chronic kidney disease, which is one of the most common complications of diabetes. However, more conclusive results are still needed.

6. Improve heart health

These mushrooms benefit heart health in different ways. In China they are an approved treatment for arrhythmia. Similarly, a study published in Acta Pharmacologica Sinica showed that the species of Cordyceps can reduce heart damage in rodents with chronic kidney disease. This is due, according to experts, to its high content of adenosine, a natural compound.

Finally, there is research in animals that assures that mushrooms Cordyceps can lower LDL cholesterol, also called cholesterol bad, and triglycerides, known to be factors that increase the risk of heart disease.

7. Reduce inflammation

Although inflammation is a response of the immune system that serves to protect the body from infection and injury, too much can trigger heart disease and cancer.

Fortunately, exposing human cells to fungi has been shown to Cordyceps removes essential proteins that promote inflammation. Additionally, research in mice suggests that could decrease inflammation in the airways, which makes them an alternative in the treatment of asthma and bronchitis. However, they are not as effective as other existing approaches.

However, the species Cordyceps can also be used topically. An investigation published in Journal of Ethnopharmacology suggested that they can reduce skin inflammation in mice, further demonstrating their anti-inflammatory properties.

Other interesting facts about Cordyceps

Thanks to their healing properties and way of growing, these mushrooms have gained a lot of popularity. These are some of the most interesting facts surrounding the species of the genus Cordyceps:

  • He Cordyceps sinensis is known as tibetan treasure. This is due to its medicinal properties and economic benefits for many of its collectors.
  • The first medicinal uses of Cordyceps were focused on improving the strength, vitality and reproduction of cattle.
  • Traditional Tibetan medicine considered and used the Cordyceps sinensis as a tonic that could increase energy, stamina and sexual desire.
  • Depending on the place, the species Cordyceps sinensis may be called different. In China it is known as dong chong xia cao, while in Japan it is called tocheikasa.
  • In 1993 this mushroom gained the attention of the sports world. Chinese athletes who followed a diet based on Cordyceps sinensis they broke the world records of 1,500, 3,000 and 10,000 meters without fatigue.

The mushroom is expensive and difficult to obtain, which is why it is usually consumed in capsule supplements or powder to prepare.

Precautions and contraindications

Since it has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, edible species of Cordyceps are not considered toxic. However, there are not enough studies to support its safety or possible side effects, so its consumption should be avoided in pregnant women, in lactation period and in children.

This case also applies to people on medication, especially those who have prescribed antipsychotic, bronchodilator or anticoagulant treatments. In general, the recommendation is to consult a doctor before starting a supplementation or any type of consumption or contact with these mushrooms.

How to take Cordyceps?

Due to the limited research in humans there is no exact dose. However, the most recommended and used during the studies is 1000 to 3000 milligrams a day, a range that is believed to be free of contraindications and capable of providing benefits.

As for the ways of ingesting these mushrooms, the most traditional include infusions, in which the water in which it was cooked is drunk and the chopped mushroom is consumed along with chicken, pork or duck. Now, since this fungus can be very expensive, the most common way is to take it as a supplement.

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What to remember about Cordyceps?

With more than 400 known species, Cordyceps it is a family of parasitic fungi. These are characterized by growing in insects and other arthropods that serve as hosts and which they slowly destroy until they live within them and control them.

In addition to this, the Cordyceps it is highly valued in traditional Chinese medicine. Among its benefits are improving physical performance, heart health and libido. It would also be able to delay aging and reduce inflammation.

Regarding its adverse effects, there is not enough evidence, so you should consult a doctor and restrict its consumption in children, pregnant women, infants and people who follow certain drug treatments.