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Cordyceps is a fungus that lives on some caterpillars in the highest mountainous regions of China. It has been used for centuries as a Chinese natural remedy and, in recent years, is becoming popular in the West as an effective supplement. Being a particular product it is natural to wonder how much the collection of these caterpillars can affect the availability of this product. In reality there are no cases of wild collection that affect the natural ecosystem of these caterpillars as cordyceps can safely be reproduced in the laboratory. But let’s see what the actual usefulness of this fantastic mushroom is.
Cordyceps is used to treat coughs, chronic bronchitis, breathing disorders, kidney disorders, nocturnal urination, male sexual problems, anemia, irregular heartbeat, high cholesterol, liver disorders, dizziness, weakness, ringing in the ears, unwanted weight loss and opiate addiction.
It is also used to strengthen the immune system, improve athletic performance, reduce the effects of aging, promote longer life, and improve liver function in people with hepatitis B.
Some people use cordyceps as a stimulant, tonic, and “adaptogen,” which is used to increase energy, improve endurance, and reduce fatigue.
Some considerations on the use of Cordyceps
Cordyceps may improve immunity by stimulating cells and some specific chemicals in the immune system. Obviously, what has been said above must be taken with a grain of salt as there are no specific studies that demonstrate its effectiveness in all these areas.
In fact, cordyceps have not been tested to improve athletic performance. Several studies have shown that taking cordyceps (CordyMax Cs-4) or a combination of cordyceps and rose root (Optygen) does not improve endurance in trained male cyclists. It is therefore not to be considered either a specific supplement for sports performance or, much less, a doping agent.
There is also insufficient evidence to evaluate efficacy for kidney damage caused by the drug amikracin. Early research shows that the use of cordyceps with the drug amikracin could reduce kidney damage caused by this specific drug in older people but this is still being evaluated.
Same thing for the treatment of asthma. Early research suggests that taking cordyceps alone can reduce asthma symptoms in adults. However, other early research suggests that taking cordyceps alongside other herbs for 6 months does not reduce the need for medication or improve asthma symptoms in children. This means that it can only work in this case for what it is: a supplement and not a substitute.
On the other hand, it can be useful during chemotherapy. Early evidence shows that taking oral cordyceps during or after chemotherapy could improve quality of life and improve treatment tolerance in several individuals.
And last but not least, sexual desire. Early research suggests that taking a specific cordyceps product (CordyMax Cs-4) every day for 40 days may improve sex drive in people with low sex drive.
Cordyceps and some myths
Here are some conditions that some self-styled “specialists” state can be fully reached or healed through the sole use of cordyceps.
- Decreased fatigue
- Respiratory disorders.
- Male sexual dysfunction.
- Cardiac arrhythmias.
- High cholesterol.
- Liver disorders.
- Ringing in the ears
More evidence is needed to rate the effectiveness of cordyceps for these uses.
The Comprehensive Natural Medicines Database evaluates efficacy based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Evidence Effective, Probably Effective, Possibly Effective, Probably Ineffective, Probably Ineffective and Insufficient to Evaluate. We are still in an initial phase of experimentation, so be wary of those who promote it as a drug and not as a supplement.
Possible side effects of cordyceps
Cordyceps is practically safe for most people when taken appropriately by mouth, in the short term. Obviously there are specific precautions during pregnancy and breastfeeding: in fact there is not enough reliable information on the safety of taking cordyceps in this case. When it comes to rheumatoid arthritis (RA) or other conditions, Cordyceps could cause the immune system to become more active. This could increase the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. If you have any of these conditions, it is best to avoid using cordyceps.
Clotting disorders should also be considered: Cordyceps may slow blood clotting and its intake may increase the risk of bleeding in people with bleeding disorders.