Mushroom Guide Part 2: Cordyceps

2nd August 2018 / Health

Mushroom Guide Part 2: Cordyceps

Emily Hedgman

Cordyceps Sinensis is a type of medicinal mushroom with a host of health benefits and a slightly unpleasant origin. Sometimes referred to as the ‘zombie mushroom’, cordyceps spores find a place to grow by infecting the larvae of the ghost moth. Found predominantly in China, at high elevations, and harvested only by local communities, these highly prized mushrooms are in increasingly high demand as the western world learns of them.

 

At the forefront of cordyceps reputation is its status as an energiser and anti-oxidant. Like most medicinal mushrooms, cordyceps benefits are varied, and new benefits still coming to light, but for these two reasons, it is commonly taken by those seeking an energy boost, or an edge to their fitness performance.


Cordyceps for energy and performance


The main scientific evidence for cordyceps ability to stimulate and raise energy levels is a 2010 study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine which found that supplementing with Cordyceps Sinensis led to improved exercise performance in adults. The suggested reason for this improved performance is through boosting ATP levels in the body. ATP is one of the primary sources of energy during exercise, and higher production of ATP enables athletes to exert themselves for longer and at a higher intensity than they would otherwise.

 

Cordyceps ability to boost athletic ability has been demonstrated at an Olympic level. In 1993, the Chinese women’s Olympic runners broke several world records and promptly came under scrutiny for suspected use of banned substances.  Once these claims were refuted, their coach revealed the true secret behind their phenomenal performance; cordyceps.

 

This doesn’t mean that cordyceps benefits are restricted to elite athletes. Improved metabolism, stamina, and lung capacity are beneficial to everyone engaging in athletic activity, and even just in fighting fatigue on a day to day basis.


Cordyceps the antioxidant


Cordyceps has been shown to have anti-aging, anti-cancer, anti-inflammatory, anti-atherosclerosis and immunomodulatory effects. Whilst quite a mouthful to pronounce, basically this means that cordyceps works through multiple mechanisms to keep you feeling healthy and well.  Scientists suspect that all these benefits come from one key factor, and that is the presence of antioxidants in cordyceps. Antioxidants serve many functions in the body, one of which is to reduce the action of free radicals in producing an ageing effect.

 

Cordyceps has been shown to reduce these ageing factors by increasing the amount of superoxide dismutase (SOD) and glutathione peroxidase in the body. SOD is a class of enzymes that repair cells and counteracts the effect of a common free radical in the body; superoxide.

 

Cordyceps the adaptogen

Like many mushrooms, cordyceps functions as an adaptogen. The word adaptogen refers to a unique group of herbal ingredients that are known for their ability to adapt their function according to the body's specific needs. They primarily assist in the bodies response to stress; helping manage the hormonal response in a natural and controlled manner.

 

As well as protecting against stress, adaptogens also typically have anti-toxic, anti-oxidative, and anti-inflammatory components. Cordyceps’ has been shown to help the body produce and balance cortisol and other stress hormones. If stress hormones are too high, cordyceps can help lower them. If they are too low, cordyceps will help raise them in a stable way.

 

Despite efforts by western researchers to take the natural benefits of cordyceps and develop them into a pharmaceutical drug, the result proved less effective than cordyceps taken in its natural form.

 

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