Cordyceps mushrooms in a white linen bag poured over a wooden table

There’s nothing sporing about these guys.

The Cordyceps mushroom (Ophiocordyceps unilateralis) grows out of the brains of insects and spiders. The fungus overpowers the brains of its victims, forcing its body to relocate to an ideal temperature where the fungus can thrive. But that’s not the only reason why we find them so wildly fascinating. Having been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine, the Cordyceps mushroom benefits are nothing short of remarkable. They’re celebrated to be pro-sexual, anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, anti-aging… the list goes on. 

 Cordyceps mushroom on a wooden spoon with a white background

Once you get past the parasitic nature of Cordyceps mushrooms, you’ll find that these really are the good guys. Found mainly in North America, Europe and Asia, there are around 400 different species of this tropically grown mushroom. Its long history as a rare and exotic medicinal mushroom has earned the fungus the nickname, ‘Himalayan Gold’ or ‘Himalayan Viagra’ (but, more on that later). The fungus requires a very specific set of conditions for its growth, which makes large-scale collection of this mushroom a difficult task. Luckily we’ve done the work for you, and you can just visit our shop instead!

But wait, tell me more about how Cordyceps grow!

We knew we wouldn’t be able to just skim past the whole ‘zombifying insects’ thing. Well, the fungus infects a foraging ant by propagating spores that attach and then go on to infiltrate the exoskeleton. Sounds simple enough… but here’s where it gets interesting.

Experts have suggested that through bioactive compounds, the fungus is able to interfere with the ant’s nervous system and control it’s movements. This leaves the mushroom entirely in control of its host’s mind and body, forcing the ant to move from its nest to a climate that is perfect for fungus’ growth. Once the ant has died, the fungus uses the head to sprout long, slender stems outwards. Then, it continues to get rid of its spores and infect new ants. Sounds like something out of a horror video game? Well, you’re right!

Cordyceps mushroom growing out of an ants head

Cordyceps have actually been featured as a main enemy in the popular video game The Last of Us, where a mutant Cordyceps strain was able to infect humans and create the feared “Cordyceps zombie.” Full disclaimer: Cordyceps cannot infect humans, but they CAN do a world of good!

 Okay, tell me more about the benefits of Cordyceps!

Of the hundreds of species of Cordyceps discovered, two have become the main focus of health research: Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. Highly regarded within the mushroom community, Cordyceps are packed with a wide range of nutritionally important components including various types of amino acids, vitamins (like B1, B2, B12 and K), carbohydrates, and various medicinally essential polysaccharides, proteins, sterols and nucleosides. The benefits of Cordyceps are plentiful, so let’s get a little more into the specifics…

  1. Anti-inflammatory properties

One of the key benefits of Cordyceps is its anti-inflammatory properties thanks to the mushroom’s beta-glucan levels. While some inflammation within the body is good, excess can lead to a bunch of bad stuff like heart disease, diabetes, cancer and auto-immune diseases like arthritis. The heroes of our story, Beta-glucans, are naturally occurring polysaccharides that can help to activate your body’s immune defence. Research has shown that exposure to Cordyceps can help to suppress the proteins within the body that cause inflammation, something that could see the mushroom being used as a therapeutic response to many autoimmune diseases (which is a WIN to us!).

  1. It may boost athletic performance

If the name sounds familiar, it’s probably because you’ve seen it in on the back of every adaptogen and pre-workout supplement. The fungus is thought to increase the body’s production of ATP (the molecule, adenosine triphosphate), which is an essential agent for delivering energy to the muscles. An increased production of ATP has the blood carry more oxygen and ATP to the heart, brain, liver, muscles, as well as every single cell within the body. This makes you feel significantly more energetic and less fatigued, without all of the side effects you’d get from other stimulants like coffee and guarana. A 2010 study has even found that Cordyceps showed improved exercise performance in healthy older patients and helped to improved respiratory and metabolic functioning after a 12-week trial period!

 Fit woman wearing athletic gear jumping with a white background

  1. Speaking of increased energy…

Remember how Cordyceps is also known as the “Himilayan Viagra” (see, I told you we’d circle back to this). Well, this funky ‘shroom was actually traditionally used to support libido and all things related to sexual functioning. Most studies suggest that Cordyceps libido-enhancing effects stem from its testosterone regulatory actions. Research is still slightly limited in this area, but we can’t help but be optimistic about the strength of these claims. I mean, how else does one get the nickname, ‘Himilayan Viagra?’

  1. Plenty of antioxidants

Now we’ve all heard of antioxidants, but how much do we actually know about them other than that they’re good? We’ve briefly spoken about this before when discussing the benefits of the Chaga mushroom (take a look here for the full spiel). But basically, antioxidants are molecules that help to fight cell damage by neutralising free radicals. Now that we know what they are, what do they actually do?

Well for starters, antioxidants can help to prevent disease and illness. They also have some pretty powerful anti-aging properties that can help to combat fatigue, boost strength and prevent the appearance of wrinkles. According to literature traditional Chinese medicine saw the application of Cordyceps attributed to vigour and vitality- a secret tonic known to build strength and energy for the body and mind.

And that’s just the root of it. There are so many other benefits of Cordyceps that we haven’t even mentioned, such as its ability to treat respiratory and pulmonary diseases, anti-tumour effects and cardio protective compounds.

Okay, but what about the side effects of Cordyceps mushroom? 

Cordyceps are known as a generally well-tolerated supplement with limited side effects. Some users can experience mild diarrhoea or abdominal discomfort, which may be decreased by taking Cordyceps after a meal. Our Cordyceps Mushroom Powder can be added easily to a smoothie or any food of your choice, which may help to minimise any discomfort that may otherwise occur.

How to take Cordyceps

The easiest way to receive the Cordyceps mushroom benefits is through powder or liquid extracts. At Natura Mushrooms, we offer Cordyceps Mushroom Powder and Cordyceps Mushroom Dual Liquid Extract- both of which can be easily added to tea, coffee, smoothies or other food. We recommend taking:

  • ½ a teaspoon of Cordyceps powder daily, or
  • 2 ml of Cordyceps liquid extract per day

As always, please consult your doctor before incorporating Cordyceps into your diet.