22 November, 2021

Cordyceps: A Stamina Boosting Mushroom. Part 2

Cordyceps, also known as stamina boosting mushrooms, among many other names, is a traditional Chinese medicine used for centuries. In addition to its use in herbal medicines, it has been recently introduced as a health supplement due to its reported benefits involving sexual enhancement and athletic performance.

Because it is important to know how you can find the best cordyceps supplement, we have covered that in this article, among other things. You will also learn about nutritional qualities, properties, and general medicinal uses.

This is a second part of the cordyceps mushroom series. In the first part, we covered types of cordyceps, where we discussed C. sinensis, C. militaris, and CS-4. We also covered foraging for cordyceps, cordyceps mycelium, and pricing. The series will run up to part five, so keep in touch to learn more about this unique type of mushroom. Let's get started;

Nutritional Qualities of Cordyceps

Cordyceps nutrition is an important part of its healing power, making it a powerful ally in our war on cancer and other diseases. The cordyceps nutrition profile is far-ranging and provides us with many health benefits. However, by far, the most active constituents of the cordyceps mushroom include:

  • Adenosine - Adenosine has been shown to lower cholesterol, improve heart function and reduce inflammation. Like N-acetylgalactosamine, it also boosts the immune system by increasing lymphocyte production. Besides helping us prevent illness, it is a powerful energy molecule our cells need for many different functions. Cordyceps contain 25% more than regular mushrooms.
  • Cordycepin - Cordycepin is a nucleoside that is naturally found in the cordyceps mushroom. It is another compound that contributes to cordyceps' anti-inflammatory effects. Some studies have suggested that it may have anti-tumour activity and potential antiviral and immunomodulatory properties. It reduces inflammation by inhibiting the nuclear factor kappa B, a protein that regulates the immune system.
  • Protease - An enzyme with anti-tumour effects, this compound helps fight cancerous cells in the body. It prevents tumours from growing and multiplying by slowing down their growth rate.
  • Ergosterol (Vitamin D2) - A steroid alcohol produced mainly by fungi and plants during exposure to sunlight. Some studies have shown it can act as a powerful anti-tumour agent.
  • Superoxide dismutase (SOD) - Cordyceps contain 14-17% of Superoxide dismutase, an antioxidant enzyme that provides cellular protection and prevents the oxidation of cells and tissues. SOD is used as a treatment for some forms of cancer.
  • L-Ergothioneine - One of the rarest natural compounds globally, L-Ergothioneine is a powerful antioxidant that protects cells from oxidative damage and reduces oxidative stress. It has also shown tremendous potential in combating cancer, Alzheimer's disease, cardiovascular diseases and inflammation.
  • Phosphatidylcholine - Cordyceps contains 22% more choline than regular mushrooms and has been shown to reduce cholesterol by increasing bile acid production and promoting healthy liver function. Besides being shown to be effective at reducing cholesterol, it also contributes to a healthier pregnancy.
  • Ganoderic Acid - This is a triterpene with strong antioxidant properties used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat cancer, inflammation, cardiovascular disease and other conditions. Its powerful health benefits make it a potent ally in the fight against the disease. Cordyceps contains up to 15 times more of this compound than regular mushrooms.
  • Cordysinin A and B - These are two proteins with anti-inflammatory properties in cordyceps, contributing to its health benefits. They inhibit both COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes used in making inflammatory compounds.
  • Arabinogalactan - Cordyceps contains up to 8 times more of this compound than regular mushrooms, making this mushroom a great choice for those who suffer from respiratory diseases like asthma.

Cordyceps Properties: The Beneficial Compounds

Cordyceps mushrooms have many other beneficial compounds that promote general well-being. Since the list is so long, we will focus on the main compounds that have proven beneficial. Here we go;

  • Polysaccharides - Cordyceps polysaccharides have been found to play a key role in the mushroom's ability to increase the body's natural immune function. They also promote antioxidant activity and reduce lipid peroxidation, an underlying factor in many chronic diseases.
  • Terpenoids - Cordyceps have a high concentration of these compounds that contribute to its natural numbing effect on the tongue. Terpenoids are also anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory agents that contribute to their health effects.
  • Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP) - The ATP molecule is the energy source used by cells to perform their various functions. The body gets its supply of ATP directly from the foods you eat. The cordyceps mushroom has approximately 30% more available ATP than regular mushrooms to fuel your cells.
  • L-Malic Acid - A dicarboxylic acid that is naturally produced by the human body and plant life. It may be useful for balancing pH levels, treating liver disorders and building muscle mass.
  • Ergosterol Esters - Ergosterol esters are a type of sterol that can suppress tumour growth and is found to be up to 30 times more concentrated in cordyceps than regular mushrooms. These compounds contribute to the anti-cancer, antioxidant, immune-boosting and disease prevention effects associated with the mushroom.
  • L-theanine - This is an amino acid most well-known for its ability to promote relaxation and boost your immune system by increasing the production of T-cells. Besides promoting relaxation, it increases focus and memory retention while protecting our brains from harmful free radicals leading to Alzheimer's disease.
  • Cordycepic Acid - This is a monocarboxylic acid that is produced by fermenting yeast. It has been associated with many of the therapeutic benefits of cordyceps mushroom, including immunomodulation, antiviral activity and anti-fatigue effects. Fortunately, it is also found in cordyceps mushrooms.
  • N-acetylgalactosamine - In recent years, N-acetylgalactosamine has been a critical nutrient in fighting cancer through multiple pathways. In fact, without it, our immune systems don't have the necessary weapons to defeat cancer cells. Cordyceps contains up to 20 times more of this compound than regular mushrooms.
  • Linoleic Acid - This is a type of essential fatty acid that helps in weight loss. It is found in up to five times more cordyceps than regular mushrooms.
  • Nitric oxide (NO) - Cordyceps contains up to 13 times more of this compound then regular mushrooms, making it an even healthier choice for cardiovascular diseases like atherosclerosis and hypertension. It is also associated with improved lung function and overall cardiovascular health.
  • Uridine - This is a nucleoside found in cordyceps which contributes to its anti-cancer effects by promoting apoptosis or programmed cell death of cancerous cells. It has also been found to help combat insomnia and liver damage.

Together, these compounds make cordyceps an important mushroom with powerful health benefits, especially when eaten fresh or dried instead of in supplement form.

General Medicinal Uses

Cordyceps contains enzymes and vitamins that contribute to its healing effects. As discussed above, cordyceps mushrooms are rich in beta-glucans, polysaccharides, proteins, vitamins, and other active compounds.

Since ancient times, people worldwide have been using cordyceps mushrooms as medicine to strengthen the immune system, promote respiratory health by clearing congestion, support heart function and sexual function. It also contains antioxidants that help protect against various cancers such as bladder cancer, leukemia, and prostate cancer. These benefits, or medicinal uses, of cordyceps will be expanded in later blogs under this series, so keep in touch.

Cordyceps naturally contain individual polysaccharides termed cordycepic acid and adenosine, discussed earlier in this article, which is believed to be responsible for their immuno-stimulatory effects. Additionally, cordycepin (3'-deoxyadenosine), a nucleoside similar in structure to adenosine, has been isolated from cordyceps and shown to possess anti-inflammatory properties and inhibitory effects on the growth of tumours.

When taking Cordyceps mushroom, it is important to ensure that you are not allergic to any of its ingredients. If you suffer from stomach aches or nausea, this might be the case as those symptoms can indicate an allergy. In such cases, stop using it immediately and talk to a doctor as soon as possible.

Cordyceps mushroom is not recommended for pregnant or nursing women because there is little evidence about its safety. In addition, cordyceps should be avoided by people with diabetes because it has blood sugar lowering properties. If you have a history of edema, cordyceps should also not be used without a doctor's prescription.

There are no known side effects or precautions when taking Cordyceps as a medicine. However, it is very important to ensure that you do not exceed the recommended dosage of 3 - 9 grams per day as this might cause headaches and nausea.

How to Get Cordyceps

Cordyceps are available in many forms depending on your preferences. You can find them fresh, like extracts, elixirs, capsules, or derivatives like tea. Mostly, cordyceps are dried and powdered, typically how you buy them as a supplement for many people. However, the original way to consume cordyceps was by smoking it; the fungus itself was dried and then smoked by people.

This way of consumption may have resulted from a lack of proper technology to make it into a tea or pill, although since cordyceps can grow on caterpillars, this practice may be far older than we know. Below are some forms in which you can find cordyceps mushroom today.

Fresh Cordyceps

As the name suggests, fresh cordyceps mushrooms are those mushrooms that have been harvested directly from their growing area and not dried yet. Finding fresh cordyceps is relatively difficult in some parts like Australia. But that does not mean that you cannot enjoy cordyceps' health benefits because you can access them in powdered form from trusted stores.

Fresh mushrooms have up to 90% water content in their fruiting bodies. The best way to consume fresh cordyceps is to cook them in soup or boil them to make cordyceps tea. However, it is relatively difficult to determine the exact dose of cordyceps that your body requires.

Cordyceps Powder

Cordyceps powder is more popular now than before because of its advantages. Cordyceps, like mushrooms, have many nutritional advantages but taking them in powder form comes with other benefits. Typically, mushrooms contain a lot of water in their bodies. This makes it difficult to calculate the dose that your body might need. As aforementioned, cordyceps mushrooms contain around 90% water content.

Scientific literature recommends powdered cordyceps mushroom if you want to determine your dose. Although it is not possible to determine an exact dose, powdered mushroom makes your approximations most precise.

Cordyceps Capsules

Cordyceps capsules are another form in which you can find mushroom powder. The mushrooms' fruiting bodies are dried, ground into powder form then placed in capsules. The main advantage of capsules is that you can take cordyceps without feeling their taste.

In terms of effectiveness and dosing, capsules come on top of other forms. How many capsules you need to take will depend on several factors like the size of the capsule, body tolerance, intended purpose, and more.

Cordyceps Extracts

Cordyceps hot-water extract is common among people taking this mushroom as a workout supplement. Making hot water extracts is relatively cheap, and less time is required for absorption to take place. To prepare a hot water extract with cordyceps, simmer the mushroom to get all water-soluble components out of the mushroom.

The resulting liquid is heated at a low flame until all the water evaporates, leaving behind a thick paste. If you intend to store the paste for some time, then it is necessary to freeze it. Cordyceps hot water extract blends with almost any food you eat, giving it a direct advantage over other forms.

Cordyceps Elixirs

Elixirs are described as special forms of extracts. They are available in many forms depending on the supplement store that you have visited. Here, specific compounds are extracted from cordyceps mushrooms to be sold.

These compounds are extracted about a given medical condition that it targets. It is usually a difficult process that needs special machines. You can find them in supplementary stores, mostly in the form of sachets.

Cordyceps Derivative Products

Cordyceps tea has been around for centuries, but only in the last 50 years or so has it become a household name. The tea helps to extract essential components from the fruiting bodies of the mushroom. However, note a significant difference in the number of minutes each of the main species of Cordyceps takes before the main ingredients are extracted. For example, C. militaris needs only 15 minutes while C. sinensis takes up to 45 minutes.

One of the greatest advantages of cordyceps tea is that you can store it for later use without worrying about losing essential compounds. Another advantage is that the effects from the mushroom are achieved faster because of higher bio-availability.

Final Thoughts

Cordyceps is an amazing supplement with many health benefits that you should consider adding to your diet. It is time for a change, and cordyceps might be the thing. More on cordyceps' medicinal uses and other essential aspects of the mushroom will be covered in subsequent blogs.

Further Reading

  1. Chatterjee R, Srinivasan KS, Maiti PC. Cordyceps sinensis (Berkeley) saccardo: structure of cordycepic acid. J Am Pharm Assoc. 1957;46:114–122.
  2. Chen LS, Stellrecht CM, Gandhi V. RNA-directed agent, cordycepin, induces cell death in multiple myeloma cells. Brit J Haematol. 2008;140:391–682.
  3. Cunningham KG, Manson W, Spring FS, Hutchinson SA. Cordycepin, a metabolic product isolated from cultures of Cordyceps militaris (Linn.) Link. Nature 1950;166:949.
  4. Das SK, Masuda M, Sakurai A, Sakakibara M. Medicinal uses of the mushroom Cordyceps militaris: current state and prospects. Fitoterapia. 2010;81:961–968.
  5. Gong Z, Su Y, Huang L, Lin J, Tang K, Zhou X. Cloning and analysis of glyceraldehyde-3-phosphate dehydrogenase gene from Cordyceps militaris. Afr J Agr Res. 2009;4:402–408.
  6. Hattori M, Isomura S, Yokoyama E, Ujita M, Hara A. Extracellular trypsin-like proteases produced by Cordyceps militaris. J Biosci Bioeng 2005;100:631–636.
  7. Hyun H. Chemical ingredient of Cordyceps militaris. Mycobiology. 2008;36:233–235.
  8. Jo WS, Choi YJ, Kim HJ, Lee JY, Nam BH, Lee JD, Lee SW, Seo SY, Jeong MH. The anti-inflammatory effects of water extract from Cordyceps militaris in murine macrophage. Mycobiology. 2010;38:46–51.
  9. Kim JS, Sapkota K, Park SE, Choi BS, Kim S, Nguyen TH, Kim CS, Choi HS, Kim MK, Chun HS, Park Y, Kim SJ. A fibrinolytic enzyme from the medicinal mushroom Cordyceps militaris. J Microbiol 2006;44:622–631.
  10. Yu R, Song L, Zhao Y, Bin W, Wang L, Zhang H, Wu Y, Ye W, Yao X. Isolation and biological properties of polysaccharide CPS-1 from cultured Cordyceps militaris. Fitoterapia 2004;75:465–472.
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