11 November, 2021

Cordyceps: A Stamina Boosting Mushroom. Part 1

Cordyceps mushroom is a pretty exciting fungus and one that has been used for thousands of years in Chinese traditional medicine. It can be found growing on the larvae of ghost moths which live in places at high altitudes.

The fungus grows inside of its host until it is ready to emerge from the caterpillar's head, where it then takes control of its behaviour by releasing chemicals into its brain. This causes the insect to climb to an elevated location before biting down onto a leaf or tree branch with all its might, thus providing an anchor point for the cordyceps' fruiting body (mushroom). Soon after this process begins, both organisms die. However, the cordyceps continue to grow, and within a few weeks, the mushroom's fruiting body emerges from the host's head.

Cordyceps mushrooms are becoming more popular among athletes because of their ability to improve performance. It contains a chemical compound called cordycepic acid, which aims to increase stamina in humans by stimulating the immune system. This is where it is commonly called “stamina boosting mushroom. So, if you're looking for a natural way to boost your stamina, look no further than these mushrooms.

As aforementioned, these mushrooms have been used to enhance traditional Chinese medicine for centuries now and are still used today for this purpose. The health benefits from these fantastic fungi include increased energy levels, improved moods, better sleep patterns and even boost immune system function, but that will be discussed later in subsequent blogs in this cordyceps series.

In this article, you will learn about types of cordyceps, foraging, and the pricing. Other aspects like the health benefits will also be covered in subsequent blogs. Let's get started;

Types of Cordyceps

There are many types of cordyceps mushrooms. Some are highly prized, and others are considered disharmonious in taste. The real treasure, however, is the C. sinensis, popularly known as caterpillar fungus. This particular cordyceps mushroom has been used for several centuries in traditional medicine. It has always been considered a priceless commodity because of its health benefits. Since its discovery, it has also become increasingly important in the world of sports medicine.

C. sinensis is the most expensive type of Cordyceps mushroom. Its price is covered later in this article. This wild product is collected as a whole caterpillar fungus body and from larvae that develop inside the caterpillar 6-10 days after infection. The larva is collected when the fungus matures and begins to release spores.

Although there are many types of Cordyceps mushroom, below are the main types that you need to know.

Cordyceps sinensis

This type of cordyceps mushroom is famous for containing the natural compound called cordycepin, which some claim to be more powerful than chemotherapy at killing cancer cells. It's common for companies to contain some amount of this mushroom in their supplements, but it's also costly. Note that other species of Cordyceps don't have this compound or anything similar.

Additionally, this type of cordyceps only starts to grow once the weather gets cold. During springtime, most companies harvest their mushrooms before producing spores because spores are not commercially viable at this point.

This is the only variety that has achieved almost legendary status in recent years. The other is C. militaris, also known as hottu, which we have also covered in this blog. To some extent, the legendary status has contributed to what we see in its pricing.

Another reason why It is highly priced as a medicinal mushroom and considered one of the most valuable natural sources is because of ergoline alkaloids such as ergonovine and arginine. Ergoline alkaloids have a particular affinity for adrenergic receptors. Because of this, they are widely used as a basis for therapeutic activity in the treatment of several disorders. Consequently, Ergoline alkaloids have been known to be active agents in treating asthma, schizophrenia and ulcers.

Cordyceps militaris

This is just another species of cordyceps mushroom, which belongs to the same family as C. sinensis but doesn't contain many beneficial compounds in its fruit body. This mushroom is commonly found growing on the heads of caterpillars that are native to North America.

C. militaris has been used as both medicine and food for centuries but is currently only sold in powder, pill, or tea form for medicinal use. This mushroom is commonly used to treat asthma, coughs, other respiratory ailments, and headaches.

Cordyceps CS-4

This is a particular type of cordyceps mushroom, which contains a mixture of C. sinensis and paramilitary. Unfortunately, many companies have been claiming their products contain C. militaris but contain this mushroom instead because it costs less. I guess companies figure they can take advantage of the false marketing and charge you more money.

The research on Cordyceps CS-4 is still young, and more are expected soon. Also, note another C. sinensis called CS-2, which is commonly confused with the CS-4. The two share a lot in common except that CS-4 is more straightforward to grow in large quantities than CS-2.

Foraging for Cordyceps

Cordyceps mushroom identification is not complex, but it is essential to be sure of the identification. Several thousand species of mushrooms could look like Cordyceps, so being 100% sure is not always possible.

The fungus starts as a "club", growing from an underground tuber-like other Cordyceps species do. The club has a rough exterior texture that is similar to felt. This texture is the easiest way to tell if you are looking at a Cordyceps fungus.

The surface of the club changes colour as it matures, usually becoming dark brown with pinkish tone stripes along its length. It is important to note that not all species change colour during development, so this characteristic can not be used to identify the fungus positively.

As the fungi grow, they will produce a very long fruiting body, either straight or coiled. If growing in moss, they are often hard to see as many species of moss look similar. However, if it is on soil, the fruiting body will stand out against its surroundings. Frequently, this mushroom will produce several fruiting bodies of varying sizes from the same site for several weeks to a month or more.

Cordyceps mushrooms fruit in cooler weather and can be found year-round, with peak times being fall through early spring. It is also common practice for Cordyceps farmers to place inoculated blocks of corn stalks in the ground after the ears have matured. As the stalk rots, Cordyceps spores are released into the air to infect other insects.

This is important to know when hunting for these rare mushrooms because you may find them several miles or more from their original location. Now that you are aware of the visual characteristics of Cordyceps, it is time to find them. So, where to find Cordyceps mushrooms?

Cordyceps mostly grow on grasslands. But they can also be found in mountainous climates, which provide the proper environment for the fungus to live and develop. On mountain sides, there is a mixture of rocks and soil, which is preferred by the fungus.

The best time to go looking for these mushrooms is in autumn through early spring. The Cordyceps fungus naturally tends to grow during this time as it does not like heat and prefers cooler temperatures. This is also when they produce spores and release them into the environment. Sometimes, you can find Cordyceps growing on the sides of trees, which is an excellent place if no other areas are nearby.

Since finding them in their natural habitat can be very difficult, many people cultivate these mushrooms at home to meet the increased demand from consumers. Once cultivated, it is possible to grow them year-round, which has helped decrease the Cordyceps shortage problem that has plagued this mushroom for many years. This issue would not exist today if people were taking the time to look for them in their native habitat, but sadly this is rarely done.

Cordyceps Mycelium

This is a unique type of cordyceps mushroom that you can also find in supplement stores. Although the most commonly used form of cordyceps is the mushroom itself, other forms can be much more cost-effective.

Cordyceps mycelium was initially discovered growing on Chinese caterpillar fungus, which has been found to have great medicinal value. Later, it was found that this type could be grown in a lab, so it is now more readily available. Cordyceps mycelium can also be used as an overall immune system booster or as an energy enhancer because this mushroom has beta-glucan, which stimulates cell reproduction and boosts immunity.

The majority of businesses that sell cordyceps also sell mycelium. This is essentially a higher concentration form of cordyceps, which represents one part of the life cycle of the fungus. The mycelium is the second stage of the fungus's life cycle. It is simply a network of cordyceps fungus that has grown into plant roots.

The main difference between these two forms of cordyceps is price, where you can expect to pay about ten times less for your cordyceps mycelium than you would the actual cordyceps mushroom.

Just like any other dietary supplement, there are no reported side effects associated with cordyceps mycelium. However, as with everything else you take without consulting your doctor first, there is always a chance that unknown interactions may occur. If you are diagnosed with any condition that requires you to take medication, there is a chance that they may not mix well with cordyceps. It is always best to use caution when taking new supplements or medications.

Cordyceps Mushroom Price

Cordyceps are somewhat more expensive than other types of mushrooms. Their wholesale price starts at around US$50, while different mushroom types are only a fraction of the cost.

The current Cordyceps market price varies from US$50-US$540 per kilogram. In determining the prices for this product, several factors that influence the current Cordyceps market price are considered. These factors are the current demand, which consists of both retail and wholesale, and agriculture output levels in China, Korea and South America.

Cordyceps mushrooms are relatively expensive. However, you can find cordyceps powder at a relatively low price. For example, you can get cordyceps powder from us.

Cordyceps sinensis Mushroom Price

There are C. sinensis supplements available in the market at low prices. The problem with these cheap products is that you can never be sure whether they contain actual cordyceps or just some worthless weeds. C. sinensis supplement can never be that cheap in the true sense.

Currently, the price for C. sinensis is approximately US$17.00-US$60 per kilogram, depending on the seller. However, you can find cordyceps powder at a relatively lower price than fresh ones.

Cordyceps militaris Mushroom Price

You can find C. militaris as expensive as C. sinensis since it's just another variety of the same fungus growing in high altitudes. It has slightly different medicinal properties, but they are still similar enough to be effective against cancer and other chronic diseases. The price for Chinese herbal medicine is typically quoted in weight, and I have seen the price range from US$20-US$60 per Kilogram.

You can buy it from the same company where you order C. sinensis because it's made from the same source and type of mushrooms. You might be able to find other companies selling militaris supplements for a lower price, but you will never know whether their products are effective enough.

Final Thoughts

The cordyceps mushroom is a beneficial fungus that has been around for millennia. Many different strains of fungus can be found in many parts of the world. However, it is more common to see this fungus on top of high altitude mountains. Like any supplement or herb you take, make sure to consult your doctor before incorporating these mushrooms into your diet.

These mushrooms grow all year long, and they need very little water because their vine-like roots absorb moisture from the air, making them an ideal food source on rough terrain during harsh weather conditions when plants cannot thrive near glaciers or snowy areas.

References

  1. Balon, T. W., Jasman, A. P., and Zhu, J. S. A fermentation product of Cordyceps Sinensis increases whole-body insulin sensitivity in rats. J Altern Complement Med 2002;8(3):315-323.
  2. Chen, S., Li, Z., Krochmal, R., Abrazado, M., Kim, W., and Cooper, C. B. Effect of Cs-4 (Cordyceps Sinensis) on exercise performance in healthy older subjects: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. J Altern. Complement Med 2010;16(5):585-590.
  3. Ding, C. G., Tian, P. X., and Jin, Z. K. [Clinical application and exploration on the mechanism of action of Cordyceps Sinensis mycelia preparation for renal transplantation recipients]. Zhongguo Zhong.Xi.Yi.Jie.He.Za Zhi. 2009;29(11):975-978.
  4. Earnest, C. P., Morss, G. M., Wyatt, F., Jordan, A. N., Colson, S., Church, T. S., Fitzgerald, Y., Autrey, L., Jurca, R., and Lucia, A. Effects of a commercial herbal-based formula on exercise performance in cyclists. Med Sci Sports Exerc. 2004;36(3):504-509.
  5. Ikumoto, T., Sasaki, S., Namba, H., Toyama, R., Moritoki, H., and Mouri, T. [Physiologically active compounds in the extracts from tochukaso cultured mycelia of Cordyceps and Isaria]. Yakugaku Zasshi 1991;111(9):504-509.
  6. Kreipke PhD VC, Moffatt PhD RJ, Tanner Ma CJ, Ormsbee PhD MJ. Effects of Concurrent Training and a Multi-Ingredient Performance Supplement Containing Rhodiola Rosea and Cordyceps Sinensis on Body Composition, Performance, and Health in Active Men. J Diet Suppl. 2020:1-17.
  7. Wan F, Guo Y, and Deng X. [Sex hormone-like effects of JinShuiBao [Cs-4] capsule: pharmacological and clinical studies]. Chinese Traditional Patented Med 1988;9:29-31.
  8. Yang W, Deng X, and Hu W. Clinical study of fermentation product of Cordyceps Sinensis on the treatment of hyposexuality. J Administration Traditional Chinese Med 1995;5(suppl):23-24.
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As lovers of mushrooms, we began as a small grower of oyster mushrooms in the Canberra and have now grown to producing a whole range of different mushroom products. 
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