5 Benefits of Cordyceps

What You Need to Know

Chinese cordyceps fungus
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Cordyceps is a type of medicinal mushroom said to offer antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits. Long used in traditional Chinese medicine, cordyceps is now widely available as a dietary supplement.


In alternative medicine, cordyceps is often touted as a natural energy booster. Proponents also claim that cordyceps can protect against the following health problems:

In addition, cordyceps is purported to improve athletic performance, stimulate the immune system, boost libido, slow the aging process, and promote detox. Some proponents also suggest that cordyceps can protect against cancer.


To date, few clinical trials have tested the health effects of cordyceps. However, preliminary research suggests that cordyceps may offer certain health benefits. Here's look at some key study findings:

1) Exercise Performance

So far, research on the performance-enhancing effects of cordyceps has yielded mixed results. In a pilot study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine in 2010, for instance, daily intake of cordyceps supplements appeared to improve exercise performance in a small group of older adults. (The study involved 20 healthy individuals, ages 50 to 75.) On the other hand, a 2004 study of 22 male cyclists (published in the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism) found that five weeks of supplementation with cordyceps had no effect on participants' aerobic capacity or endurance.

2) Aging

In a 2009 study published in Phytotherapy Research, scientists discovered that treatment with cordyceps helped improve brain function and increase antioxidant activity in aging mice.

3) Diabetes

Published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine), a 2002 study on rats showed that cordyceps may help fight insulin resistance (a condition linked to increased diabetes risk).

4) Cancer

Preliminary studies suggest that cordyceps holds promise for protection against some forms of cancer. In tests on human cells, for example, the authors of a 2008 study from the Journal of Microbiology and Biotechnology found that cordyceps may help increase immune defense against breast cancer.

Additionally, a 2007 study on human cells (published in the Journal of Chinese Medicinal Materials) determined that cordyceps may inhibit the spread of colon cancer.

5) Strep Infections

Cordyceps may help protect against group A streptococcal infections (such as strep throat), according to a 2005 study from the Journal of Medical Microbiology. In tests on mice, researchers found that cordyceps helped decrease the growth and spread of streptococcus bacteria.


Little is known about the safety of taking cordyceps in the long term. However, there's some concern that cordyceps may lower blood sugar levels.

Supplements haven't been tested for safety and due to the fact that dietary supplements are largely unregulated, the content of some products may differ from what is specified on the product label. Also keep in mind that the safety of supplements in pregnant women, nursing mothers, children, and those with medical conditions or who are taking medications has not been established. 

Where to Find It

Widely available for purchase online, cordyceps can also be found in many natural-foods stores (as well as stores specializing in dietary supplements).

Using Cordyceps for Health 

Due to a lack of supporting research, it's too soon to recommend cordyceps for treatment or prevention of any health problem. If you're considering using it, talk to your doctor to weigh the potential risks and benefits. Keep in mind that alternative medicine should not be used as a substitute for standard care. Self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences.

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