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Cordyceps is a type of fungus that grows at different latitudes. The most popular is the species growing in Asia – Cordyceps Sinensis. It was first described in 1843, noting then that the animals fed on it had more strength and were in better health; it used to be used in traditional eastern medicine until now. Currently, the low popularity of Cordyceps may come as a surprise because its use brings many benefits, both in terms of medical, health, and sports.

For athletes: improving endurance and strength – ATP production

Strength and condition are one of the most important things in almost all sports, starting with marathons, through martial arts, ending with weightlifting. The body uses energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) for each activity, it is obtained in a number of aerobic and anaerobic changes, such as glycolysis or the Krebs cycle. One of the greatest advantages of Cordyceps in this context is the increase in ATP, which results in a possible increase in the body’s exercise capacity. In clinical and preclinical studies after 2000, many factors potentially influenced by Cordyceps were investigated, including the effect on the amount of ATP in the body and exercise capacity. The effects that were obtained in selected studies:

  • increase in swimming efficiency by as much as 200%
  • increase in lung ventilation capacity, blood oxygen capacity in the elderly
  • decrease in fatigue and subjectively better well-being (also in the elderly)
  • with Rhodiola Rosea, an increase in anaerobic parameters during exercise

was noted – vasodilation and an increase in energy markers were observed (simplified: greater energy production and increased transport)

  • increased blood flow through the liver (generating a higher level of ATP)

The above studies suggest that Cordyceps may contribute to the increase in endurance and strength in exercise, as well as increase the production and transport of ATP.

Another fact worth noting is the elevation of the lactic acid threshold. This acid is produced as a by-product of energy production in anaerobic processes. Its higher concentration causes a drop in pH, muscle pain, and a temporary reduction in “general fitness” – these symptoms are described as popular soreness. Cordyceps can increase the threshold of this acid, which results in greater endurance during exercise.

Supporting immunity and bactericidal, antiviral effect

Cordyceps contains substances that may affect the immune system:

  • increase in the production of macrophages (these are cells involved in phagocytosis; they absorb pathogens and then digest them)
  • bactericidal activity (Opiocordin)
  • antioxidant (Hypoxanthin)
  • anti-inflammatory effect (Ergosterol)
  • action antiviral, premature inhibition of the process of virus synthesis (Cordycepin)

Regulation of blood glucose levels

In studies, Cordyceps has been found to regulate blood glucose levels, and animal studies show that it causes an increase in insulin sensitivity. In the following years, the results were as follows: “in a randomised study, 95% of patients treated with C. Sinensis at a dose of 3 g / day showed blood sugar regulation compared to those treated with other treatments.” This means that Cordyceps may be useful in supporting the treatment of diabetes and insulin resistance, it is advisable to consult your doctor.

Anti-cancer effect

In 2010, the journal Cancer Immunology Immunotherapy published the results of studies showing that Cordyceps inhibited metastasis in breast cancer patients, which increased survival. It was found that low cordycepin levels arrest the cancer cell cycle, while high levels lead to apoptosis, i.e. death of these cells (based on research on melanoma and leukemia). Cordyceps might be blocking cancer cell receptors, while it has been found safe for other cells.

Regulation of the production of steroid hormones, influence on potency

Cordycepin contained in Cordyceps regulates the production of steroid hormones. This means that the use of preparations containing Cordyceps has a positive effect on, among others, the production of testosterone. With too low, its concentration in the blood, there is a risk of cardiovascular diseases and obesity, muscle strength weakens, sexual functions are disturbed, fatigue appears. Cordycepin can be helpful in normalising testosterone levels, which prevents the above-mentioned symptoms.

Research on the effect on potency and the treatment of erectile dysfunction are also developing. It is suspected that Cordyceps may have a hypotensive and vasorelaxant effect, as well as the currently used drugs containing sildenafil (Viagra).

Antidepressant effect, improvement of concentration and brain function

ATP, the level of which is increased by Cordyceps, in addition to energy functions, is also a neurotransmitter. In animal and human studies, a reduction in mental fatigue, an increase in libido were found, and in the subjective assessments of the subjects, “crystal clarity in distinguishing stimuli” and “clarity of mind” were found. A study in mice showed a decrease in fatigue, which is believed to be closely related to depression.

Fungi is a separate kingdom of organisms, next to animals, plants and bacteria, among others. Their strength lies in the ingredients marked as “micro”, ie in a small amount – but they have a high potency (which can be seen on the example of poisonous mushrooms). Although not unanimous, research largely indicates that Cordyceps can cause numerous positive effects when using doses above 1g per day, which should be seen in how you feel. It can be especially useful for athletes because of its possible influence on strength and endurance. Ongoing research predicts that Cordyceps – based drugs will be important in the treatment of certain diseases in the future.


Author, Damian Samólnik


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