More than 300 years ago, perched high in the Himalayas, ancient Tibetan healers were prescribing a tonic that claimed to heal everything from coughs and diarrhea to boosting energy and improving sleep.
The secret ingredient of this tonic?
A strange parasitic fungus that grows on the corpses of insects. Unbelievably, the Tibetans were actually onto something. Known as Cordyceps, this genus of fungus is attracting considerable attention with an increase in consumption worldwide. Scientists too, are becoming increasingly fascinated by its health claims and are delving deeper into the mechanisms behind the effects Cordyceps can have on the human body.
Today – the number of discovered Cordyceps species has reached upward of 400. However, only two of these seem to have been extensively studied for their medicinal properties. These are Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. Let’s take a closer look at the exciting health benefits of Cordyceps mushrooms and potentials these two species have shown to provide.
Cordyceps Can Boost Energy Levels and Enhance Athletic Performance
In the summer of 1993, the Chinese Olympic women’s running team broke an incredible three world records. Their claimed secret superpower? Frequent consumption of Cordyceps sinensis, a particularly powerful species of the Cordyceps Genus.
But to experience the energy benefits of this magical mushroom, you don’t have to be a world-record breaking athlete.
You can experience the energetic buzz that Cordyceps provides by simply switching out your morning coffee for a hot cup of mushroomy goodness. Cordyceps does this by binding to the same chemical receptors as caffeine and blocking adenosine from binding which would cause sleepiness.
For those of you who are in-fact athletes, Cordyceps may just be the key ingredient you’ve been searching for to maximizing your gains. Research has shown that this particular mushroom can enhance performance by improving oxygen utilization and increasing stamina.
A study in 2017 involved participants consuming 4 grams per day of a mushroom blend that included Cordyceps militaris. After three weeks of supplementation the subjects saw a significant improvement in their time to exhaustion as well as an almost eleven percent improvement in their V02 max. Previous studies have shown similar results and it seems that the higher the dose of Cordyceps (within a reasonable limit), the better the performance results.
Cordyceps Mushrooms Improve Sexual Health
Historical records show that shepherds of Ancient China and Tibet would feed their cattle a powdered form of Cordyceps in order to improve the reproductive capacity and milk production of their herds with great success.
Humans have labelled this potent mushroom ‘Himalayan Viagra’ due to its ability to aid sexual dysfunction by improving blood flow throughout the entire body.
It can also increase libido and cure impotency by boosting testosterone levels. As men age, their testosterone levels naturally fluctuate. One study on rats published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine saw that supplementation with Cordyceps militaris resulted in increased testosterone levels and therefore sperm count. Meaning it may also help with male fertility issues.
Cordyceps Can Regulate and Balance the Immune System
What other magical benefits could this mushroom possibly provide?
Well, research has shown that regular Cordyceps consumption may help bring balance to, and restore, one of the most important systems in the human body. The immune system.
The immune system is our bodies natural defense system that ultimately works by recognizing foreign invaders, such as harmful microbes and chemicals, and setting out to destroy them. It does this by creating beneficial proteins known as antibodies.
However, in autoimmune diseases, the body gets confused as to which particles belong to itself and which ones are intruders, leading to a production of what are called autoantibodies. These confused autoantibodies trigger a severe attack on the body’s own tissues. A study conducted in 2016 by Chinese scientists, showed the incredible healing properties Cordyceps could have on those suffering from autoimmune diseases. Sufferers of two autoimmune thyroid disorders (Hashimotos and Graves disease) were given Cordyceps which was taken alongside their general thyroid medications. Patients experienced an increased re-establishment of balance as the body normalized its autoantibody levels, reducing the severity of attacks occurring on their thyroids.
Cordyceps sinensis has also shown to enhance the activity of natural killer cells (NK) within the body. Natural killer cells are a form of white blood cell that can help fight off everything from the common cold to cancer. For this reason, Cordyceps has been linked to boosted immunity and those who routinely consume it, generally report feeling stronger and healthier.
Cordyceps Can Stabilize Blood Sugar Levels
If you have a sweet tooth and consume a lot of sugary foods, you may want to think about adding some Cordyceps fungi to your diet as it has shown to help stabilize glucose levels.
Chronic high blood sugar levels can lead to a multitude of problems including heart diseases, kidney failure and nerve damage.
It is estimated that a whopping 415 million people worldwide suffer from Diabetes mellitus which causes problems with blood sugar regulation. Once again, the mighty warrior Cordyceps may just come to the rescue with a number of studies showing promising results, linking the fungus to improved blood sugar balance. One study sought to investigate the effects that Cordyceps militaris could have on diabetic mice. An incredible 47% reduction in blood glucose levels was observed after these mice were administered a dose of cordycepin.
Another study has shown this natural herb to be more effective than traditional hypoglycemic drugs at improving insulin resistance, a major contributor to overall health.
The Health Benefits of Cordycep Mushrooms
When looking to improve health, humans are tending to revert back towards selecting traditional healing practices over Western medicine. A global consciousness shift seems to be taking place as we retrace our human roots and rediscover the powerful medicinal potential of ancient superfoods and herbs. Medicinal mushrooms, in particular, have gained a place in the spotlight thanks to their nourishing properties and versatility.
Cordyceps is one such mushroom that is gaining more and more attention as new research emerges, allowing us a deeper insight into it’s incredible healing properties.
The next time you feel you need a health boost, follow the path of the Ancient Tibetans and pour yourself a hot brew of Cordyceps tea.
You can learn more about growing Cordyceps in out step-by-step guide for growing Cordyceps at home.