Scientific research and anecdotal evidence regarding Cordyceps militaris praise the fungus for its numerous benefits.
But, are there any dangers to taking cordyceps?
While cordyceps is generally safe for most people, there are some things to take into account when taking this adaptogenic mushroom.
Read on for the potential dangers of taking cordyceps mushrooms.
What are Cordyceps Mushrooms?
Cordyceps is a medicinal mushroom most commonly found in Asian tropical rainforests. It’s been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and is still one of the most praised medicinal mushrooms.
Cordyceps species with the most widely-researched benefits are Cordyceps militaris and Cordyceps sinensis, although this medicinal mushroom genus counts over 600 species. Due to its parasitic lifestyle (cordyceps feeds off caterpillar larvae) many refer to cordyceps as the caterpillar fungus.
Cordyceps Health Benefits
Cordyceps seems to benefit virtually every organ in the human body. It boosts energy and exercise performance in healthy adults, and research suggests that it can even prevent certain forms of cancer, lower cholesterol levels, fight inflammation, and provide anti-aging benefits.
Here are some of the most pronounced cordyceps benefits:
- antitumor activity through apoptosis of cancer cells (cordyceps is one of the best adaptogenic mushrooms for bladder cancer)
- hypolipidemic activity
- antioxidative properties
- reproductive functions benefits
- hypoglycemic activity (it appears to lower blood sugar level in diabetic patients)
- energy-boosting properties and increased athletic performance
- digestive health benefits
- anti-inflammatory properties
- reduction of symptoms of various autoimmune diseases
Bioactive Compounds of Cordyceps Mushrooms
Cordyceps mushrooms contain these active compounds:
- cordycepin (3'-deoxyadenosine)
- ergosterol peroxide
- fibrinolytic enzyme
- six nucleobases — cytosine, uracil, thymine, adenine, guanine, and hypoxanthine
- peptides, including cordymin
While scientists are just starting to look into many of these compounds, some of them show incredible potential. For example, cordycepin, found in Cordyceps militaris fruit bodies, is known for its anti-inflammatory, anticancer, and antioxidant properties.
Cordyceps mushrooms have been used for centuries and are still widely regarded as safe and beneficial to consume. However, the effects of these mushrooms can interact with certain medications and illnesses, and there's a lack of clinical studies that examine these side effects.
Some of the common side effects of cordyceps include:
- slow blood clotting
- increased risk of bleeding during and after surgery
- increased symptoms of autoimmune diseases that slow blood clotting (such as hemophilia)
- allergic reactions
Is Cordyceps Harmful to Humans?
Cordyceps mushrooms are generally safe for healthy individuals. However, this mushroom can have antiplatelet effects, as it acts as a blood thinner and could prevent blood clots with frequent use. If you are on blood-thinning medication, cordyceps could increase the risk of bleeding or bruising.
Cordyceps mushrooms also have inhibitory effects on blood sugar levels. Since a water extract of this mushroom was shown to have hypoglycemic effects, you should be cautious when taking it if you are on antihyperglycemic medication (which is commonly used to treat diabetes).
If you are on blood thinners or diabetes medications, talk to a healthcare professional before taking a cordyceps supplement. Additionally, due to the antiplatelet effect of cordyceps, you should avoid this mushroom if you are having surgery soon.
Who Should Not Take Cordyceps?
You should avoid cordyceps in the weeks leading up to any surgeries and while you recover from the procedure. If you are prone to allergies—especially to other fungi, yeast, or mold—be cautious when you first start taking cordyceps. Stop taking the fungus immediately if you notice any sign of an allergic reaction and contact your doctor.
What is the Best Time to Take Cordyceps?
It's best to take cordyceps mushrooms in the morning or early afternoon. That way you'll be able to reap their memory-boosting benefits throughout the day. Taking cordyceps in the evening could make you feel restless and cause sleep disorders.
What Happens If You Take Too Much Cordyceps?
There are no serious side effects to taking a high dose of cordyceps. You may experience mild digestive issues such as constipation, diarrhea, or stomach discomfort, but these side effects should subside within a day or two.
Can You Take Cordyceps Long-Term?
Yes, you can take cordyceps as long as you want. By taking cordyceps long-term, you can reap the beneficial effects this mushroom provides for the kidneys (Cordyceps sinensis can be quite useful for kidney transplant patients) and reap its antitumor activities.
Is Cordyceps Safe for Pets?
Although cordyceps fungi are safe for humans, there is little information on this research topic when it comes to pets. Therefore, keep your cordyceps mushroom products in a safe place that's hard for your dog or cat to reach.
Are You Interested in Taking Cordyceps Mushrooms?
If you’re interested in taking cordyceps as an herbal alternative to traditional medication, it's important to choose a high-quality supplement.
Forij Superfood Granola is an easy way to get your daily dose of cordyceps, in addition to lion’s mane and chaga mushrooms.
The granola is vegan, gluten-free, certified organic, and contains a hyperconcentrated extract of these mushrooms, meaning you’ll get their full benefits without your morning bowl of granola tasting like mushrooms.
Cordyceps Dangers FAQ
What does cordyceps do for the brain?
Cordyceps mushrooms have energizing effects on the brain. These mushrooms increase oxygen uptake in the brain and increase blood flow to brain cells, which helps you fight mental fatigue.
You'll likely feel more alert and focused after taking a cordyceps supplement, as they can have stimulating effects similar to coffee. However, unlike coffee, cordyceps mushrooms won't make you jittery or anxious.
What is the best cordyceps supplement?
Depending on your preferences, you can choose to consume cordyceps powders, supplements, mushroom tea, or via fortified foods. If you don't like the taste of mushrooms, fortified foods (such as our granola) may be your best bet, as they tend to mask the fungus flavor.
Will cordyceps keep you awake?
Yes, cordyceps mushrooms may keep you awake. The aqueous extract of this adaptogenic mushroom is a natural energizer and appears to enhance ATP production, according to a Chinese study.
ATP, often referred to as an ‘energy molecule’, powers cellular processes by releasing energy via a process called phosphorylation. Thus, cordyceps may give you an energy boost, which will, in turn, make you feel more awake and alert.
Does cordyceps increase testosterone?
Cordyceps appears to promote testosterone production, at least in animals. A 2015 animal study examined the effects of cordycepin on testosterone production in mice.
The Leydig cells are responsible for testosterone production. Cordycepin—one of the primary active components of cordyceps—stimulates MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cells, which leads to an increase in steroidogenesis and the production of testosterone.
The fact that the cordyceps mushroom has this effect on mouse Leydig cells is promising for further research on cordyceps and testosterone production.
Is cordyceps good for the kidneys?
Studies suggest that the answer is yes. A double-blind, placebo-controlled trial looked at the effects of Jinshuibao capsule treatment on chronic kidney disease in people 18-70 years old.
The capsules are a fermentation product made of Cordyceps sinensis powder. Results show that the cordyceps extract contributed to renal function improvement, and it could be beneficial to take after renal transplantation.
How long does it take for cordyceps to kick in?
You can notice the short-term effects of cordyceps in as little as one week. You’ll likely feel more energized and focused as soon as you start taking this mushroom. However, for long-term effects, you’ll need to take a cordyceps supplement every day for at least a few months.
Do cordyceps mushrooms cause anxiety?
Cordyceps mushrooms generally don’t cause anxiety, and may even have an anxiolytic effect, according to a 2020 study. However, some people confuse its stimulatory effects with anxiety. If you notice feeling more anxious after taking a cordyceps supplement, try lowering the dosage.
Is cordyceps good for the lungs?
Cordyceps is one of the most common ancient Chinese herbal medicines used to treat asthma, as it appears to open up the airways. This medicinal mushroom is still used as herbal medicine for pulmonary fibrosis and lung cancer prevention and treatment.
In a 2015 study, Cordyceps militaris was shown to exhibit an antitumor effect on non-small cell lung cancer. The methanolic extract of cordyceps seems to have reduced lung carcinoma growth by increasing the levels of several tumor-suppressing proteins.
Which mushrooms are best for fighting cancer?
There is currently no evidence that any mushroom type can prevent, treat, or cure cancer on its own. However, some adaptogenic mushrooms, such as the reishi mushroom and the cordyceps mushroom, appear to have anti-cancer potential.
For example, cordyceps appears to aid in the treatment of B16 melanoma, according to a cell line study. Still, more human research is needed before the clinical application of these mushrooms in cancer treatment is a viable option.
Should I get a Covid-19 vaccine if I am taking a cordyceps supplement?
Covid-19 vaccination is a personal choice. However, there is no research to suggest a cordyceps supplement may have a negative effect on Covid-19 vaccines and vice versa. Still, let your healthcare provider know that you are taking cordyceps supplements if you want to err on the side of caution.
This article was written strictly for informational purposes and is not intended to inform about medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment of any kind. The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by healthcare professionals or the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).