Every few months, whether you're hitting the gym, overhearing people talking behind you on the elliptical or when checking out health videos on YouTube, you probably come across random trending words and topics you've never heard previously. The latest may just be "cordyceps."
What in the world is cordyceps, what does it do, and why exactly should you care?
We've got the total low down on everything and anything there is to know about cordyceps health benefits.
What Exactly Are Cordyceps & What Are Cordyceps Health Benefits?
The scientific term for cordyceps is "ascomycet fungi." In English, it's sac fungi. In even simpler English, it is a mushroom, similar to the button tops and shiitake mushrooms you pick up at the store. Yet, cordyceps are at the same time, very very different. This particular kind of fungi is parasitic. As in it grows on moving living creatures. Some variations of it grow on insects, while others grow on caterpillars.
Okay, so it is a bit more in-depth than just something that hitches a ride on the back of a worm. The cordycep sports do land on a caterpillar (at least in the case of this specific species). The spores then enter the caterpillar's body, infecting in. In a defensive mechanism, the caterpillars will bury themselves prior to dying. This is where it really gets a bit...odd.
As the weather warms, the new fungi begins to grow out of the dead caterpillar's head in the shape of a long, orange strand. The fungi uses the head and brain of the caterpillar as a sustainable food source.
Eventually, by the time the fungi has reached maturity, it has consumed and coated nearly 100 percent of the entire insect's body. You've heard of brain eating funguses before. And there probably have been a number of science fiction movies about something along the same lines.
However, don't worry. The cordyceps is not going to begin eating away at your brain and mummifying you as it uses you as a food source
There are about 400 or so species of cordyceps, each more or less growing on a different kind of insect or arthropod. Most of the 400 species are found throughout Asia, especially in China, Nepal, Japan, Vietnam and other neighboring countries. This is because the fungi grows well in humid, tropical forest areas.
Don't Worry, Yours Probably Isn't Off a Bug
As you might imagine, attempting to collect fungi off of tropical insects would prove incredibly time consuming and cost you far more than what you'd like to pay for a supplement. Don't worry though. Unlike other fungi where researchers have no idea how to reproduce the fungus, cordyceps is different.
This is something that can be easily grown in a lab once a live sample is brought in. So the supplement you'd be taking does not come from an actual insect, nor did it ever come in contact with an actual insect. Like most other supplements researchers grew it in a lab.
More likely than not you will end up purchasing the product in a pill form. The mushrooms, which grow much larger in a laboratory than on the back of an insect, is ground up and processed into a pill. You may find it in powder form as well, but generally speaking the most common. Do keep in mind though that since the fungi comes from a small insect on the other side of the planet and must be duplicated and processed in a facility, you will find it costs more than most of your other supplements.
However, it has a number of health benefits, which is why it has been in used in ancient Chinese medicine for thousands of years.
Strengthen the Heart (and Other Organs)
From slight heart palpitations to an irregular heart beat, cordyceps helps with it all. Beyond ancient Chinese medicine, the supplement has been approved for medical treatment within China for arrhythmias, which covers irregularities in the heart's rhythm.
Consumption of the supplement does more for additional organs as well. In test rats with poor functioning kidneys (or even rats with chronic kidney disease), continued consumption of the supplement helped reduce metabolic damage both the heart and the livers might experience.
You likely do not fall into the category of needing a heart transplant. But if you (or someone you know) do(es), taking the supplement reduces the rejection rate of the transplant and helps improve post transplant therapy. Now, it is important to go over this with a doctor prior to starting the regimen as they may have very specific dietary requirements. However, in general, cordyceps can help.
Control Your Blood Sugar
Do you suffer from high blood sugar levels?
If so, taking cordyceps may be right for you. Several students have demonstrated the power of cordyceops in lowering high blood sugar levels. During the studies, an increase in insulin sensitivity took place following the consumption of a cordycep extract. This took place in both diabetic and non-diabetic test subjects.
Along the same lines, continued consumption of cordyceps has shown not only an improvement in blood sugar levels but it helps improve glucose tolerance, both of which help improve the functionality of the kidney. These initial tests were conducted on lab mice and rats, so no direct human test has taken place, but it demonstrates beneficial results that likely transfer over to humans when the supplement is taken regularly.
Immune System Health
Everyone can use a stronger immune system, regardless of your current health. Fighting off colds and preventing the flu from creeping into your body are just some of the ways an improved immune system helps protect your body. Lymphocytes is a major culprit when it comes to a barrage of injuries and infections.
With continued consumption of cordyceps, test subjects were found to increase macrophage function and lymphocyte activity. The improved production of this helps track down and destroy the pathogens that damage the body and cause sickness. The supplements also help improve the functionality of antioxidants in the body while boosting the total number of antioxidants the body can produce and use at the same time. All of this goes a long way in improving your overall quality of health.
What is or isn't approved by the FDA often changes when entering a different country. China has been experimenting and testing the usage of cordyceps for decades. Long before any other country turned to the fungi. Due to this, the cordycep supplement has been approved for treatments in a variety of medical conditions. This includes in the treatment of kidney disease.
Individuals suffering from chronic pyelonephritis, nephritis nephritic syndrome, chronic renal dysfunction and chronic renal failure are all prescribed the supplement as a means to help prevent and treat the conditions.
Similar to a heart transplant, taking the supplement helps improve the post state of the body following a kidney transplant. It improves acceptance rates while improves the flow of red blood cell production, which helps with the kidney not only being accepted by healing the scar tissue within the body following the surgery.
Have you been looking for ways to improve your sex life?
Perhaps your libido has been struggling to keep up in recent years, and yet seeing a doctor for a continued prescription just doesn't sound all that appealing. After all, the medication is expensive and you need to take it when you think something might happen. Sometimes sexual encounters just kind of happen and you can't plan for it.
Well, if any of this sounds like something you're dealing with, you might want to consider adding the cordyceps supplement to your daily regimen as it can help improve your libido.
Using cordyceps for a lowering libido is nothing new. It has been consumed in China, India and other Eastern nations for hundreds, if not thousands of years (in some cases). In research conducted on lab animals, the animals become more sexually active while improving the animal's reproductive function (if there had been a problem previously).
In similar tests conducted on humans, human recipients of the supplement saw a boost in their own sexual activity. This included an improvement in testosterone release within the body.
While the increased release of testosterone will help with sexual activity, it should be considered for men who struggle with their testosterone levels throughout the day, which can cause men to feel sleepy, tired and non-motivated.
Beyond boosting your sex life, it might also help with any kind of lowering testosterone levels as well.
In the fight against cancer, there's no such thing as too many allies. Studies conducted on natural materials have received more and more attention in recent years. Due to not only the limitations of current medical treatments but also the toxic side of chemotherapy, the desire to bring in more natural, less intrusive with fewer side effect options is high.
In several studies, individuals who regularly consumed cordyceps saw a reduction in tumor size thanks to the antitumor benefits of the supplement. Test subjects with a barrage of cancers, ranging from melanoma, prostate, liver, breast and lymphoma all saw improvements when battling cancer.
One of the major benefits in taking the supplement (often along with chemo therapy) was that the cancer cells found the cordyceps to be toxic, which is what helped kill off the cancer cells. However, healthy cells were not affected by the supplement at all .
Boosting Exercise Capability While Preventing Fatigue
As mentioned above, the boost in low testosterone levels can help with boosting an assortment of other issues, including feeling fatigued. This comes in handy when working out. If you find yourself winded early on or struggle to make it through your workout, it might not be because your muscles are unable to handle it or because you didn't take in enough carbs and protein throughout the day for energy. It might be based on testosterone that is not at optimal levels.
During a recent study, healthy, elderly men and women were given the supplement for 12 weeks. For those who took the supplement, they saw an improvement with an increased level of stamina. This not only came from the improvement in testosterone but cordyceps helps with the production of ATP, which is an energy source used by cells in the body. By giving cells more energy to utilize during exercise your body will perform better.
So even if you do not suffer from any of the other health conditions, this alone makes it a valuable addition to your daily regimen (of course, it also helps safeguard many of your other organs while boosting general health, so there are plenty of reasons as to why you should be taking this supplement).
Where to Purchase
You can find cordycep supplements at a wide range of different locations. Now, you might not stumble upon it at your local grocery store. It is a bit more specialized than that.
However, there likely are a handful of stores you can locate it. If you have any Oriental shopping markets that carry supplements there is a good chance you'll find it here. You can find it at specialty health food stores and you can order it online.
You'll find it comes in the pill, powder or sometimes a tea-like form (although not as common). One thing to look for when purchasing such a product is the strength per dosage as you might get more bang for your buck with a higher milligram level.
You may actually have been taking cordyceps previously and just never knew it. Well, now you know and now you know all the possible health benefits behind the fungus. Perhaps you never envisioned yourself wanting to go out and purchase fungus that lives on the backs of caterpillars, but hey, there are far stranger things.
And if it helps fight colds and keep you healthy, all the better. So stop by your health food store or wherever you purchase your supplements and pick some up. It may just become one of your favorite health additions.