Can Cordyceps Mushrooms Cure Cancer? A Look at the Evidence

According to a plethora of research, cordyceps mushrooms seem to provide a slew of benefits to people battling cancer.

We reviewed the latest clinical studies on cordyceps and cancer so you don't have to, and here's what we found.

Article Jumplinks

Can cordyceps help with cancer?

Cordyceps and breast cancer

Cordyceps and ovarian cancer

Cordyceps and uterine cervix cancer

Cordyceps and prostate cancer

Cordyceps and testicular cancer

Cordyceps and colon cancer

Cordyceps and gastric cancer

Cordyceps and lung cancer

Cordyceps and melanoma

Cordyceps and liver cancer

Cordyceps and leukemia

Cordyceps and bladder cancer

Cordyceps and chemotherapy

Who should not take cordyceps?

How can I take lion's mane for cancer?

What is Cordyceps?

Cordyceps is a genus of mushrooms that counts over 600 species. These adaptogenic mushrooms are prominently featured in ancient Chinese herbal medicine. Although they've been used in eastern integrative medicine for centuries, the western world is just now starting to appreciate these medicinal mushrooms. 

The most popular and well-researched cordyceps varieties are Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. Although human research is still scarce, these parasitic mushrooms show great promise as a research topic in various animal and human cell studies.

Bioactive Components of Cordyceps Mushrooms

Cordyceps is packed with nutrients and bioactive compounds, some of which are only beginning to be understood by science: 

  • cordycepin (3'-deoxyadenosine)
  • ergosterol peroxide
  • adenosine
  • fibrinolytic enzyme
  • xanthophylls
  • polysaccharides
  • nucleosides
  • cytosine
  • uracil
  • thymine
  • adenine
  • guanine
  • hypoxanthine
  • sterols
  • peptides, including cordymin
  • tryptophan

Can Cordyceps Help With Cancer?

Cordyceps mushrooms are some of the healthiest mushrooms one can add to their diet. They have well-documented health benefits, including anti-inflammatory activities, immunity-boosting effects, and anti-cancer properties. While you should not use it on its own as a cure for cancer, adding cordyceps to your diet can help you face cancer head-on

Cordycepin, a naturally-occurring nucleoside found in the cordyceps fungus has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine to treat cancer, as well as chronic and inflammatory diseases.

The recent scientific rediscovery of natural medicines has led to a boom in cordyceps cancer research. Even the University of Oxford teamed up with a biopharmaceutical company in hopes of creating a cordyceps-based chemotherapy drug using ProTide technology.

According to clinical studies, cordyceps may have anti-cancer and anti-metastatic properties. The mushroom can also help your body recover from the stress of chemotherapy and cancer medication. Here's an evidence-based breakdown of how cordyceps mushrooms may combat 12 types of cancer.

cordyceps and breast cancer

1. Cordyceps and Breast Cancer

Cordyceps sinensis may inhibit breast cancer growth. A study investigated the role of cordyceps extracts in antitumor activity. Results show that the mushroom could slow down the growth of breast cell tumors by decreasing the inhibition of NF-kB pathways.

Another cordyceps species, C. militaris, also has incredible antitumor potential. A 2019 study examined the efficacy of the bioactive compounds found in cordyceps fruiting bodies. Results suggest that the fungus has great potential in breast cancer prevention.

Researchers came to a similar conclusion in a 2013 study on the effects of cordyceps on breast cancer growth. The results suggest that cordycepin, an active component found in the mushroom, induces tumor growth delay in mice with breast cancer.

2. Cordyceps and Ovarian Cancer

Cordyceps militaris also shows promise when it comes to ovarian cancer treatment. A 2020 study looked at the effects of this medicinal fungus on SKOV-3 ovarian cancer cells.

Results suggest that cordyceps mushrooms induce apoptosis. Therefore, taking Cordyceps militaris may increase ovarian cancer cell death.

Another study examined the potential anti-tumor effects of cordyceps on Carboplatin-resistant ovarian cancer. Carboplatin is a chemotherapy medication used to treat various types of cancer. 

Unfortunately, ovarian cancer cells can become resistant to this drug quite fast. Once that happens, the drug can no longer induce apoptosis and prevent cancer from spreading further.

The results of this study suggest that Cordyceps militaris exerts anti-tumor effects similar to those of Carboplatin via ATF3/TP53 pathway activation.

3. Cordyceps and Uterine Cervix Cancer

Cordyceps sinensis mushroom research suggests this fungus could have a clinical application in uterine cervix cancer treatment. A 2014 study investigated the effects of the fermented cordyceps fungus on uterine cervical cancer in mice.

Results suggest that taking Cordyceps sinensis may improve the efficacy of uterine cervical cancer therapy, especially if you combine it with selenium.

4. Cordyceps and Prostate Cancer

A study examined the roles of cordycepin, a bioactive compound found in Cordyceps militaris, on prostate carcinoma cells. The findings suggest that cordycepin could be a potent inducer of prostate tumoral cell apoptosis.

The compound also shows great promise when it comes to slowing down metastasis of human prostate carcinoma cells. A study looked at the antimetastatic effects of cordycepin on cell motility and invasion ability. 

Essentially, a cancer cell needs to be able to migrate and attack other cells for cancer to spread to different parts of the body. It seems that cordycepin inhibits both of these actions, making it a great addition to traditional cancer treatment.

5. Cordyceps and Testicular Cancer

Cordyceps shows great potential in testosterone production. But, can it help in the treatment of testicular cancer? Research seems to suggest so.

Cordycepin, an active ingredient found in Cordyceps militaris, has properties that could aid in the treatment of testicular cancer. A 2015 study examined the effects of cordycepin on MA-10 mouse Leydig tumor cells. 

The use of cordycepin induced apoptosis of the mouse Leydig cells. Although more research is needed, these results suggest that this compound could be helpful when used in addition to cancer medicine.

6. Cordyceps and Colon Cancer

Cordyceps sinensis could have incredible benefits when it comes to colon cancer. Polysaccharides, in particular, show great promise. 

A 2020 study investigated the anti-cancer effects of polysaccharides found in cordyceps mushrooms on human colon cancer cell lines. Results indicate that polysaccharides obtained via water extraction increased the autophagy of these cells while inhibiting their growth.

Cordyceps militaris also shows promise as an aid in the treatment of colorectal carcinoma. A study looked at the potential inhibitory effect of cordyceps on a human colorectal cancer-derived cell line. 

Results show that the cordyceps ethanol extract induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis of human colorectal carcinoma cells.

7. Cordyceps and Gastric Cancer

Cordyceps cicadae may have some anti-tumor activity as well. A study looked at the effects of this cordyceps mushroom on human gastric cancer cells. Researchers treated cancer cells with an ethanolic extract of C. cicadae for 48 hours. 

The extract seems to have induced apoptosis and cell cycle arrest of the cancer cells. These results look promising and warrant further research on the influence of cordyceps on gastric cancer.

8. Cordyceps and Lung Cancer

Using cordyceps for lung health has been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. But did you know cordyceps research shows great potential when it comes to using these mushrooms for lung cancer treatment?

For example, a 2015 study examined the effects of Cordyceps militaris on non-small cell lung cancer. The methanolic extract of cordyceps fruiting bodies seems to have reduced lung cancer growth by increasing the levels of several tumor-suppressing proteins.

Polysaccharides found in Cordyceps sinensis also seem to be of great help in lung cancer treatment. A study looked at the effects of these compounds on lung cancer cells in vitro. Results show that polysaccharides inhibit tumor growth and enhance the cytotoxicity of lung cancer cells.

cordyceps cancer research

9. Cordyceps and Melanoma

A study examined the effects of the Cordyceps sinensis cultural mycelium on B16 melanoma. A cordyceps alcoholic extract showed significant inhibitory effects on the growth of four cancer cells, including B16 melanoma cells. 

Cordyceps also shows potential when it comes to melanoma treatment. According to a 2014 studyCordyceps militaris seems to suppress the growth of human malignant melanoma cells. It does so by inhibiting angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels in the tumor, as well as encouraging apoptosis.

10. Cordyceps and Liver Cancer

Cordyceps militaris may have an anti-tumor effect on liver cancer. A 2015 study looked at the effects of this Chinese medicinal fungus on HCV-infected human hepatocarcinoma cells. Results show that cells treated with C. militaris were much more cytotoxic, meaning that they were dying more quickly than untreated cells.

Another study examined the effects of Cordyceps sinensis on the ability of various cancers to spread to the liver. Mice treated with this functional mushroom were much less likely to have liver metastasis than those that weren't taking the supplement.

11. Cordyceps and Leukemia

Cordyceps militaris seems to induce apoptosis of leukemia cells. A study looked at the effects of a cordyceps aqueous extract on these cancer cells. Results suggest that the fungus had an anti-proliferative effect on leukemia cells, showing promising potential in the treatment of this disease.

A cordyceps ethanol extract seems to have the same effect. A study examined the anticancer activities of a Cordyceps militaris ethanolic extract. The results show that the apoptosis of leukemia cells increased significantly after the cells were treated with cordyceps.

12. Cordyceps and Bladder Cancer

Many medicinal mushrooms exhibit incredible anti-tumor potential when it comes to bladder cancerCordyceps,in particular, shows potential when it comes to the treatment of renal transplantation and chronic kidney disease patients, and it also seems to aid in bladder cancer treatment.

A study investigated the effects of cordycepin found in Cordyceps militaris on human bladder cancer cells. Results show that the mushroom induced apoptosis of these cells by activating A3 adenosine receptors.

Cordyceps and Cancer Treatment

In addition to them having great potential as a part of a cancer treatment regimen, you can use cordyceps mushrooms for chemotherapy symptom relief.

According to a 2009 study, cordyceps supplementation can enhance recovery from chemotherapy medication in mice. Cordyceps sinensis appears to protect the bone marrow stem cells from the cytotoxic effects of the anticancer drugs.

What is the Best Time to Take Cordyceps?

Due to its energizing abilities, it's best to take cordyceps in the morning. Taking cordyceps before you work out may boost your exercise performance and may improve your overall focus during the day. The anti-inflammatory effects of these mushrooms may also decrease muscle soreness and levels of tiredness you experience during the day.

Can Cancer Patients Take Cordyceps?

Taking cordyceps is not dangerous for cancer patients. On the contrary, this mushroom can be quite beneficial in your fight against cancer, as it can have an anti-tumor effect. Cordyceps can also give you an overall immunity boost, so you'll be able to recover from chemotherapy medication faster.

Cordyceps Side Effects: Who Should Not Take Cordyceps?

Although cordyceps is safe for consumption, there are a few things you should keep in mind if you're interested in trying the fungus. If you are allergic to mold, yeast, or fungi, it's better to be cautious when trying cordyceps, as you may have an allergy to the mushroom.

Don't take a cordyceps supplement in the weeks leading up to any surgeries. The fungus can have an anti-clotting effect, which may increase your risk of bleeding or bruising. And, if you're pregnant or planning on having a baby soon, consult with a healthcare professional before taking any supplements, including cordyceps.

Interested in Trying Cordyceps for Cancer

While more research is needed, cordyceps mushrooms show substantial promise in the realm of cancer treatment. Still, make sure to consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you're having surgery soon. 

If you're looking for an easy way to incorporate cordyceps into your life, Forij Superfood Granola may be a perfect choice for you. In one delicious bowl of granola, you get a daily dose of cordyceps, along with chaga and lion's mane mushrooms, that also have incredible anti-cancer potential. 

Forij superfood granola

The granola is gluten-free, vegan, and full of nutrients. It contains hyperconcentrated extracts of the three medicinal mushrooms, so you'll get their full benefits without even being able to taste them.

Cordyceps and Cancer FAQ

Can reishi help with cancer?

Yes, reishi mushrooms do appear to help fight cancer. In particular, they show great potential when it comes to ovarian cancer. To fight cancer, it's best to include reishi in your diet in addition with other adaptogenic mushrooms and traditional cancer treatment.

How much does cordyceps cost?

The cost of cordyceps mushrooms varies from species to species. Cordyceps sinensis is notoriously difficult to harvest. Due to its scarcity, C. sinensis can cost over $9000 per pound. Cordyceps militaris is more affordable, and you can find many supplements that contain the helpful fungus. 

What is the difference betweenCordyceps sinensis andCordyceps militaris?

The main difference between these two cordyceps species is the amount of adenosine and cordycepin. Cordyceps sinensis has much more adenosine than C. militaris. However, C. sinensis has low amounts of cordycepin, while Cordyceps militaris has plenty of it.

Can I take cordyceps at night?

Cordyceps mushrooms don't contain any caffeine. However, they can give you a boost of energy and focus. Because of that, it's better to take cordyceps in the morning, as taking them at night may make you feel restless and unable to fall asleep.

Can cordyceps be taken long-term?

It's completely safe to consume cordyceps mushrooms every day. However, you should not exceed the recommended daily dose, especially in the beginning. Taking too much cordyceps may make you nauseous, so it's better to start with a low dosage and increase it slowly over time.

Is cordyceps a mushroom?

Cordyceps are prevalent in Tibetan medicine. While researching the benefits of cordyceps, you may even find that Tibetans refer to it as “the worm.” However, cordyceps is not actually a worm, but a parasitic fungus that feeds off insects and caterpillar larvae. 

A mushroom, by definition, is considered to be the spore-producing, fruiting body of a fungus. So, the cordyceps fruiting body could be considered a mushroom.

Forij Disclaimer

The information provided in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease or illness. The statements contained herein have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).

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