5 Health Benefits of the Adaptogen
Cordyceps is a highly valued mushroom used in traditional Chinese medicine. According to the certified nutritionist dr. Kelly Bay DC, CNS, CDN, is traditionally used to treat inflammation and blemishes, as well as enhance athletic performance and the immune system. More recently, the adaptogenic fungus has prevailed in the wellness and fitness community. Read on to find out how it can be used for everyday wellbeing and its health benefits.
What is Cordyceps?
There are more than 400 species of Cordyceps, but it is reputed for its medicinal properties. Scientifically known as Ophiocordyceps sinensis, this species of Cordyceps has been colloquially called "caterpillar fungus" because it is a parasitic fungus that is typically derived from larval caterpillars.
With its long finger-like body and its orange color, the wild mushroom looks like something you would see when diving. And while it can be harvested and turned into an extra powder or pill, most of the Cordyceps that we see in the drugstore do not spring up – they come from the lab.
Amy Shapiro, dietician for Daily Harvest, RD, CDN, explains: "True Cordyceps are hard to harvest and cost over $ 9,000 a pound." Synthetically grown Cordyceps have made supplementation more accessible and much cheaper. "
What are the health benefits of Cordyceps?
While further research is needed to conclusively prove the benefits of Cordyceps, Preliminary Investigations on the Mushroom are, in Dr. Bay promising. Here are five of the best known health benefits.
It can improve the athletic performance
Cordyceps are best known for their ability to increase the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which our body uses for energy. This, according to Shapiro, "gives our muscles more energy to use during exercise and can therefore improve performance during exercise."
A small study published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine suggests that this is true. Researchers divided participants into two groups: those who received 3 grams of Cordyceps per day and those who received placebo. After 60 days, when those taking the placebo saw no change, those taking Cordyceps had increased their VO2 maximum – a measure of athletic endurance – by 7 percent.
And good news if you want to train hard during HIIT or CrossFit: A second study, published in the Journal of Dietary Supplement, also found that Cordyceps can increase performance during intense exercises.
It can reduce signs of aging
Mushrooms may not be a super-trendy addition to a skin care or beauty routine, but they're effective because of their high antioxidant content. Antioxidants protect our body against harmful compounds called free radicals that accelerate the aging process. The use of Cordyceps increases the intake of antioxidants, which has been associated with anti-aging and improving the health of hair, skin and nails.
It can help to treat diabetes
It sounds strange, but Cordyceps can help in the treatment of diabetes. Shapiro explains, "Cordyceps is supposed to mimic insulin – the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels, so it can keep blood sugar levels in a healthy range."
By balancing blood sugar levels, Cordyceps supplements can also reduce the craving for sugar and thus support a healthy diet and weight loss.
It may have anti-inflammatory properties
Inflammation is the reaction of the immune system to anything that interprets it as irritating or harmful to the body. While some inflammations are good, too much over long periods of time can lead to inflammatory diseases such as heart disease, Alzheimer's and diabetes.
Cordyceps, however, is said to relieve inflammation. "It has been shown to inhibit an inflammatory protein in the body," explains Dr. Bay. The result? Less systemic inflammation and thus a lower risk of chronic inflammatory diseases.
It can be good for your heart
In China, Cordyceps is an approved treatment for cardiac arrhythmia, a condition characterized by an irregular pattern of heartbeats. "It is believed that its anti-inflammatory properties are beneficial for people with heart disease, as heart disease is essentially a chronic inflammatory infection," explains Dr. Bay.
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Are there any side effects when taking Cordyceps?
Due to his long tradition in traditional Chinese medicine, Drs. Bay assume that Cordyceps is generally well tolerated by humans – if it comes from a high-quality source.
However, as it may interact with certain prescription medications, you should consult your doctor before adding Cordyceps to your daily routine. Shapiro adds: "This preparation is not recommended for pregnant women or people with autoimmune problems."
The most common side effect is indigestion, she says. If you suffer from bloating, diarrhea or abdominal cramps, stop taking it.
How do I buy and take Cordyceps?
From tinctures and capsules to powders and teas, there are Cordyceps in various forms. Since most Cordyceps products are not approved by the FDA, Shapiro says, "It's important to look at the label and make sure it has been tested by third parties."
Shapiro is a fan of powdered supplements because they can be mixed into smoothies, coffee, cookies and more. Generally, the recommended amount per serving is 1,000 to 3,000 milligrams daily. Shapiro recommends taking it regularly for several weeks before determining if it works or not, as adaptogens must be built into the system before you notice an effect.
If you would like to start with cordyceps, you should try Four Sigmatic's Mushroom Coffee, which contains Cordyceps, Four Sigmatic's Cordyceps Elixir, or Daily Harvest's Cordyceps Chickpeas and Za & atar Harvest Bowl.