Unless you’ve been religiously watching nature documentaries or studied advanced biology, you might be unfamiliar with what cordyceps are. Cordyceps are a type of ascomycete fungi, or sac fungi, of which there are 400 known species. However, two in particular that are prized for their wellness benefits: Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris.
Found in the high mountain regions of Sikkim, a state in northeast India, Cordyceps have been used in eastern medicine for thousands of years as a healing aid. Mentions of their medicinal uses and properties have been found in ancient Chinese medicine tomes. And while this natural and strange remedy has yet to gain significant traction in Western medicine, the overall uniqueness of this treatment has people intrigued.
One of the traditional Chinese uses for Cordyceps was as an anti-aging treatment. They were taken by the elderly to boost energy, strength, sexual drive and memory, all of which tend to fade as we grow old. Researchers believe that this is related to the high amounts of antioxidants found in Cordyceps, as antioxidants help to neutralize free radicals in your cells, preventing disease and mutations. However, before any claims are made, much more research on this topic is required.
Another use for Cordyceps in eastern medicine is for heart health, specifically conditions like arrhythmia, where the heart beats either too fast or too slow. In fact, Chinese health officials have approved Cordyceps as a regular treatment for arrhythmia. This is thought to be because of the compound adenosine, which is known for its ability to keep your cells functioning optimally. Our bodies use adenosine triphosphate (ATP) to provide our muscles with the energy they need to move our bodies, and Cordyceps are thought to help with this. If Cordyceps do contain adenosine, then this is how they’d help, although the extent to which they actually boost performance is largely unknown.
Another traditional use for Cordyceps was in the management of cancer-related symptoms, such as leukopenia, a condition in which the number of white blood cells decreases significantly. Researchers have found that Cordyceps slow the growth of tumors in mice, but have yet to test it in humans trials. It is important to note that this data was collected via animal testing and has not yet seen success with human trials.
Humans have long been experimenting with the anti-inflammatory properties of nature, and Cordyceps are no exception. Traditional eastern healers believe that Cordyceps suppress a protein that causes inflammation within the body, but again this hasn’t been widely tested or verified. Researchers have also recently been looking into how they can help people with diabetes. By mimicking the functions and actions of insulin, Cordyceps can keep your blood sugar at a normal level.
Cordyceps have long been used in traditional Chinese and eastern medicine to treat a wide range of conditions. Nowadays, Cordyceps are most commonly available in their capsule form, but can also be found in teas and powders. However, their actual scientific benefit remains largely unexplored, although that seems to be changing as people become more aware of various natural health remedies like Cordyceps.