Cordyceps Benefits

What Are Cordyceps?

Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that includes over 400 different species which are found all over the world in countries like China, Japan, India, USA, Australia, Peru, Bolivia and many more.

They typically infect other insects and arthropods with each species of Cordyceps infecting a very specific bug.

The lifecycle begins with Cordyceps spores landing on the insect and then the spore will germinate and small thread-like filaments called hyphae will begin to grow inside the insect and turn into mycelium. The mycelium will continue to consume the insect from the inside and when the insect is fully consumed and the environmental conditions are correct, a blade-like mushroom (fruiting body) will be produced from the insect’s head. The mushroom will then release spores and the lifecycle will start over.

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Cordyceps Militaris Mushroom Powder & Capsules

Cordyceps Militaris extract supports immune system function, may improve athletic performance, and studies in the animal model (which may not be representative of the effects in humans) suggest that it may boost testosterone, combat fatigue, and promote anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant activity.

Cordyceps Militaris Benefits

Pure Nootropics provides high quality mushroom extract, using only 100% organic whole fruiting bodies which are rigorously tested and guaranteed pure.

  • May boost immunity 
  • Supports increased athletic performances 

Cordyceps Militaris is emerging as a subject of interest in the medical community, but thus far, there has not been a large amount of research or trials conducted with humans, except for those studies referenced above.*

 The following are examples of dynamics associated with Cordyceps Militaris through the animal model and may not be representative of the effects in the human body:

  • May promote anti-inflammatory activity 
  • May combat fatigue and sustain energy levels 
  • May boost testosterone 
  • May promote anti-oxidant activity 

Cordyceps Militaris Mushroom Mode of Action

Known as “Winter Worm Summer Grass” and as “Dong Chung Ha Cao” in Korea and “Dong Chong Xia-Cao” in China, Cordyceps undergoes a unique life cycle that begins as a fungus that colonizes caterpillars (1). It is referred to as entomopathogenic fungus (2).  Supplements are commercially made with artificial propagation and fermentation (3).

Cordyceps Militaris Mushroom contains many amino acids and unsaturated fatty acids, which are found in much higher amounts in the fruiting body rather than the entirety of the mycelia body.  Lysine, glutamic acid, threonine, and proline are the most abundant amino acids found in the fruiting body (1).

Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps Militaris both contain Cordyceps polysaccharides, and two bioactive constituents:  cordycepin and cordycepic acid.  Due to their similar composition, they both share pharmacological properties (4).  Cordyceps has only recently been studied and isolated within the last century in the scientific community; the number of human studies and trials are limited, but it has been well studied in animals.

In a human study of healthy adult males, Cordyceps Militaris extract capsules enhanced cell-mediated immunity (5).

In a human study, which included Cordyceps Militaris extract in a mushroom blend, an improved tolerance to high-intensity exercise was discovered.  Through increasing oxygen delivery, which enhances blood flow and oxygen within the body, it may raise the anaerobic performance level and maintain energy (6).

The studies in animal models may not be representative of Cordyceps Militaris’ effects in the human body but have shown promise in the area of possibly boosting testosterone (7), possibly promoting anti-oxidant activity (8), possibly promoting anti-inflammatory activity (9), and possibly combating fatigue (10). Further research is needed in these areas.

Cordyceps Militaris Mushroom Extract Capsules & Powder Dosage

Pure Nootropics’ Cordyceps Militaris Mushroom Extract Capsules provide 500 mg per 1 capsule.  Suggested use for adults is 2 capsules by mouth once daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.

Pure Nootropics’ Cordyceps Militaris Mushroom Extract Powder provides 1000 mg per (2) level 1 cc scoops (provided with purchase).  Suggested use for adults is 1000 mg by mouth once daily, or as directed by your healthcare practitioner. (Due to variations in powder density, scoop measurements may fluctuate.  We suggest purchasing a scale for measuring accurately. A scale allows users to better track progress and response to each dose. Scales are available for purchase through Pure Nootropics).

Cordyceps Militaris Mushroom Extract Capsules & Powder Side Effects and Toxicity

Cordyceps Militaris is generally considered a non-toxic medicinal mushroom (11).

It is generally well tolerated when taken orally and appropriately and mild side effects may include diarrhea, constipation, and abdominal discomfort.  Taking with food helps reduce the chance of gastrointestinal side effects (3).

A lethal dose of a specific form of Cordyceps (CordyMax Cs-4) was not achieved in animal research at a dose of 80 grams/kg.  Unprocessed cordyceps achieved a lethal dose in mice at a dose of 30-50 grams/kg intraperitoneally (3).

Please consult your healthcare practitioner before beginning supplementation of Cordyceps.

For further information, please see our References Tab above.

Welding-Lens-Construction

Mushroom Power Pack

Our Mushroom Power Pack would make Mario himself jealous, and contains the following:

Turkey Tail Mushroom Powder

Pure Nootropics provides high quality mushroom extract, using only 100% organic whole fruiting bodies which are rigorously tested and guaranteed pure.

  • Classified as an immunostimulant, it may boost the immune system 
  • Promotes antioxidant activity 
  • Supports healthy gut bacteria 

Chaga Mushroom Powder

Chaga Mushroom (Inonotus obliquus) is found mostly on birch trees in cold climates (1).

 The following are examples of dynamics associated with Chaga Mushroom through the animal model and may not be representative of the effects in the human body:

  • Supports energy levels (in mice
  • May enhance memory (in mi
  • Promotes immune response (in mice)

Reishi Mushroom Powder

Reishi Mushroom (Ganoderma Lucidum, or Lingzhi) contains bioactive polysaccharides, peptides (1), and beta-glucans.

Pure Nootropics provides high quality medicinal mushroom extract, using only 100% organic whole fruiting bodies which are rigorously tested and guaranteed pure.  Reishi mushroom is not grown on grain and does not contain any starch like other grain-grown Reishi mushroom, and contains higher levels of beta-glucan.

  • May boost energy and subjective well-
  • Promotes antioxidant activity 
  • Supports urinary health in men 
 

Lion’s Mane Mushroom Powder & Capsules

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus, also known as Yamabushitake) is a mushroom that supports mood, general well-being, and overall cognition.

Pure Nootropics provides high quality mushroom extracts, using only 100% organic whole fruiting bodies which are rigorously tested and guaranteed pure.

  • May provide mood support 
  • Supports overall cognitive health 

Lion’s Mane is emerging as a subject of interest in the medical community, but thus far, there has not been a large amount of research or trials conducted with humans, except for those studies referenced above.*

 The following are examples of dynamics associated with Lion’s Mane through the animal model and may not be representative of the effects in the human body:

  • May enhance nerve-growth factor 
  • May promote healthy blood sugar 
  • May promote increased energy levels 

Only 2 left in stock

Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus, also known as Yamabushitake) is a mushroom that supports mood, general well-being, and overall cognition.

Pure Nootropics provides high quality mushroom extracts, using only 100% organic whole fruiting bodies which are rigorously tested and guaranteed pure.

  • May provide mood support 
  • Supports overall cognitive health 

Lion’s Mane is emerging as a subject of interest in the medical community, but thus far, there has not been a large amount of research or trials conducted with humans, except for those studies referenced above.*

 The following are examples of dynamics associated with Lion’s Mane through the animal model and may not be representative of the effects in the human body:

  • May enhance nerve-growth factor 
  • May promote healthy blood sugar 
  • May promote increased energy levels 
  • In stock

Wild Cordyceps Sinensis (Ophiocordyceps sinensis) – The Caterpillar fungus

Wild Cordyceps sinensis. The caterpillar is below ground while the mushroom is above ground. ©Nammex

The most well known species of Cordyceps is Cordyceps sinensis (now known officially as Ophiocordyceps sinensis) which infects the caterpillar of the Hepialus moth. It is mainly found at high elevations in Tibet and the Chinese provinces of Sichuan, Yunnan, Qinghai and Gansu. It can also be found but is less abundant in India, Nepal, and Bhutan. In Tibet it is known as Yarsagumba or yartsa gunbu and in China it is known as Dōnɡ Chónɡ Xià Cǎo (冬虫夏草) which translate to summer grass, winter worm.

This is an entire article in itself, but Cordyceps sinensis was made famous back in 1993 at the Chinese national games in Beijing where multiple Chinese runners shattered track and field records.

Most notable was Wang Jungxia, who beat the 10,000m world record by 42 seconds. This record lasted 23 years.

3 days later, she came second to teammate Yunxia Qu in the 1500m. They both beat the current world record and Yunxia’s record stood for 22 years.

Then 2 days after that, Wang posted a world record in the 3000m. This record still stands today and 4 of the top 5 times in the 3000m come from Chinese athletes in these 1993 games.

Their coach, Ma Junren claimed their success due to a tonic of Cordyceps sinensis and turtle blood.

This olympic runners story is touted all around the internet to promote Cordyceps products, but what is typically left out is that many of Ma’s athletes later failed drug tests. Junren Ma was eventually dropped as part of Chinese olympic team due to his athletes failing drug tests.

This era of sports in the 80s to mid 90s was rife with doping scandals and it begs the question, was their success really due to Cordyceps?

Commonly shown in marketing materials yet these are not in your supplements.

Why Cordyceps Sinensis Are NOT In Your Cordyceps Supplement

True, wild Cordyceps sinensis (shown above) is not in 99.9% of Cordyceps supplements because of its exceptionally high price tag. In fact, wild Cordyceps sinensis costs over $20,000 per kilogram, making it the most expensive mushroom in the world.

They are almost exclusively sold in Asia and rarely make it into the North American market.

The high price is due to the fact that for many years, the Chinese have been unable to cultivate this mushroom. This has fueled increased demand on a set supply of wild Cordyceps sinensis. Only recently have the Chinese figured out how to cultivate this mushroom but it is not at a production scale yet to make an impact on the wild Cordyceps sinensis prices.

Even though the majority of Cordyceps supplements do not contain the caterpillar fungus, this has not stopped many companies from using photos of this mushroom in their marketing materials and label information causing customers to believe they are consuming this mushroom. Sadly, they are not.

But if the Caterpillar fungus isn’t in your supplements, what is?

Forms of Cordyceps Supplements: CS-4, Myceliated Grain and Mushroom Extracts (Militaris)

Liquid fermentation mycelium factory in China. ©Real Mushrooms

Cordyceps Cs-4

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).

These anamorphs were grown in liquid fermentation to create mass amounts of pure mycelium.

This process is known as liquid culture mycelium or liquid fermentation and involves growing the mycelium in a liquid solution of nutrients which can then be removed, leaving you with pure mycelium.

These anamorphs were studied extensively and found to produce similar results to the wild Cordyceps sinensis.

This ended up turning into what is now known as Cordyceps Cs-4. After undergoing clinical trials in China, the Chinese government approved its use in TCM hospitals and it is now recognized as a safe natural product drug in China.

If a Cordyceps supplement is claiming to be Cordyceps sinensis and it is made in China, it is almost certainly Cordyceps Cs-4.

Other Cs-4 products may also be labeled as Paecilomyces hepiali which is an anamorph form of Cordyceps sinensis.

Do not confuse Cordyceps Cs-4 with Cordyceps myceliated grain (below) as these are very different products.

Cordyceps Myceliated Grain

Mycelium growing on a sterilized grain substrate. ©Nammex

Due to the fact that it is not economical to grow mushrooms in North America for supplement use, if a Cordyceps product is grown in North America, it is almost certainly Cordyceps myceliated grain, recently referred to as MOG.

Myceliated grain can also go by mycelium on grain, mycelium biomass or grain spawn.

Myceliated grain products will typically be labeled as Cordyceps sinensis or Cordyceps militaris.

Instead of growing the mycelium in liquid like what is used for Cordyceps Cs-4, the mycelium is instead grown in a plastic bag containing sterilized grain. This can also be referred to as solid state fermentation.

The issue here is that unlike being in liquid, the mycelium cannot be separated from the grain so the grain ends up in the final product.

It has been shown with MOG products that the mycelium does not fully consume the grain so much of the final product is actually the grain the mycelium grows on. This is most apparent with Cordyceps as it is a slow growing fungus.

From the table below you see that the high amount of alpha-glucans, which represent starch from the grain. Starch is an alpha-glucan. This confirms that the grain medium the Cordyceps mycelium grows on is not being fully consumed.

The high amount of grain translates into a low amount of mycelium and this is confirmed in the low beta-glucan numbers. This is why it is important to measure beta-glucans and not polysaccharides for medicinal mushroom products. These samples can tout high polysaccharide numbers (beta + alpha) but the majority of it comes from non-beneficial starches which are alpha-glucans.

Beta-glucan and Alpha-glucan results of Cordyceps mycelium grown on grain.(3,4)

 Beta-glucansAlpha-glucans
Sample#11.5%64%
Sample#23%65%
Sample#31%45%

Nutritional analysis of Cordyceps mycelium grown on grains showing that these products closely mirror the grain itself and not the true Cordyceps mushroom. ©Nammex

The nutritional analysis above also confirms how well Cordyceps myceliated grain tracks the grain it is grown on. This further demonstrates how closely myceliated grain is to the grain itself which leads you to wonder how much is actually mycelium.

Myceliated grain is often justified by referencing research on pure mycelium made through liquid fermentation. As pointed out above with Cs-4, Cordyceps myceliated grain is very different from Cordyceps Cs-4 so using Cordyceps Cs-4 research to justify the use of Cordyceps myceliated grain is not valid and is misleading to the consumer.

Cordyceps Mushroom Extracts (militaris)

Cordyceps militaris mushrooms (fruiting bodies) ©Nammex

There is currently one type of Cordyceps species that can be commercially cultivated at scale to produce a mushroom (fruiting body) and it is becoming quite popular. This is Cordyceps militaris. By using Cordyceps militaris, for the first time, true Cordyceps mushroom extracts can be made.

By being made from the mushroom, we see much higher levels of the important beta-glucans. Our Cordyceps-M product which is extracted exclusively from Cordyceps militaris mushrooms has greater than 25% beta-glucans. Compare that to Cs-4 which typically has less than 10% beta-glucans and Cordyceps mycelium on grain which typically has 1-3% beta-glucans.

One of the unique things about Cordyceps militaris is that it produces the compound cordycepin (3′-deoxyadenosine) in much higher amounts when compared to Cordyceps sinensis.

Yuan, J. P., Zhao, S. Y., Wang, J. H., Kuang, H. C., Liu, X., Uan, J. I. A. N. I. N. G. Y., … Iu, X. I. N. L. (2008). Distribution of nucleosides and nucleobases in edible fungi. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 56(3), 809–815.

As seen from the table above Cordyceps militaris has up to 90 times more cordycepin (column “Co”) when compared with the wild Cordyceps sinensis. Cs-4 would likely have even less cordycepin than the wild Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps mycelium on grain would have almost no cordycepin due to the low amount of mycelium present.

This is very important as products touting the benefits of cordycepin and labelled as Cordyceps sinensis would likely have undetectable amounts. Either that or the product is improperly labelled as Cordyceps sinensis when it is actually Cordyceps militaris.

Note that Cordyceps militaris products grown in North America would still be myceliated grain and not a true mushroom extract. Pure mushroom extract powders almost solely come from Asia, with China accounting for over 85% of the world’s mushroom production.

More and more research is coming out showing that Cordyceps militaris has similar benefits to the traditional wild Cordyceps sinensis and has traditionally been used as an alternative to Cordyceps sinensis in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Cordycepic Acid & Other Nucleosides

This is not to be confused with cordycepin which is a unique compound in Cordyceps but many Cordyceps products talk about Cordycepic acid (sometimes spelled Cordyceptic) as a beneficial compound in Cordyceps. But this was debunked back in the 60s as not being a compound unique to Cordyceps, but a compound that is found in all medicinal mushrooms, which is D-Mannitol or Mannitol (1).

Other nucleosides like adenine, adenosine and uridine which are commonly touted in Cordyceps are also found in other fungi as well (see table above).

Health Benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms

Now that we’ve dispelled a lot of the misinformation around Cordyceps, let’s look at some of the benefits of using Cordyceps. Traditionally in China, wild Cordyceps sinensis has been used for lack of energy, treating asthma, sexual function plus lung, liver and kidney support.

More recently, Cordyceps Cs-4 showed an increase in exercise performance in healthy older adults according a study from the Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine in 2009. This study took twenty healthy elderly individuals ages 50-75. One group was the controlled and the other group took 333 mg of Cs-4 or 3 capsules per day. The subjects performed the stationary cycle ergometer using breath-by-breath examination at baseline and the end of the study. The results were quite good! Following 12 weeks of Cs-4 supplementation, the healthy elderly individuals lactate threshold increased by 10.5% and their ventilatory threshold increased by 8.5%. On the other hand, the control group saw no changes in VO2 max (5).

A study from the Evidence Based Complimentary Alternative Medicine journal in 2015 looked at the anti-fatigue effects of Cordyceps militaris (CM) supplementation on rodents and the results are quite exciting! The study found that the rodents that received two weeks of Cordyceps militaris supplementation displayed greater levels of delayed fatigue compared to the rodents not given Cordyceps militaris. Not only that, but the CM rodent group had higher levels of ATP, anti-oxidant enzyme levels and best part of all, lower levels of lactic acid (a key component regarding fatigue and time to exhaustion). In other words, these rodents were able to push longer and harder without tiring out (8).

As Cordyceps militaris mushrooms have high levels of beta-glucans, they can also act as potent immunomodulators to help balance out your immune system. In addition to helping your immune system, Cordyceps militaris mushroom extracts may also stimulate neurite outgrowth which could be beneficial for brain and cognitive health (9).

Final Thoughts

It is very important when selecting a Cordyceps product to know exactly where it is from and how it is made. Scrutinize the label and supplements panel very carefully.

Here are 3 primary takeaways to remember about Cordyceps supplements:

  1. Cordyceps sinensis is not in any supplements due to its price tag
  2. Cordyceps militaris is the only species able to be used to create a mushroom extract and mushroom extract powders almost solely come from Asia.
  3. North American grown products are myceliated grain and that grain ends up being a large portion of the final product.

We always recommend selecting products that are extracted from the mushroom (fruiting body), ideally certified organic, with measured levels of beta-glucans and starch like our very own Cordyceps-M. For more information about buying mushroom supplements and what to look out for, visit our article on the difference between mycelium and fruiting body.

If you have any questions? Please comment below!

Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. Products mentioned are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

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