Cordyceps is a strain of sac fungi or ascomycetes grown on some caterpillars, which are found in the high altitude regions of China. The use of cordyceps as a medicinal fungus is documented in traditional Tibetan medicine and traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). In fact, its use in therapeutic intervention can be dated back to 2,000 years in China. With reference to the demand of cordyceps in the internal market, it won't be wrong to say that it is one of the most valuable medicinal fungi known to us.
What is Cordyceps Extract?
A small fungus, it parasitizes the caterpillar or larval stage of ghost moth, kills the host organism, and then grows out of it. Of all the cordyceps species, one of the commonly used strains in medicinal application is the caterpillar fungus, represented by the scientific name Cordyceps sinensis. The regional names of this fungus are dong chong xia cao in China and yatsa gunbu in Tibet. While in the western countries, this particular fungus is known as medicinal mushroom.
It is possible to cultivate medicinal mushroom in the laboratory under controlled conditions. Thus, mass scale production of cordyceps extract powder and capsules is possible for therapeutic applications. Grown in grains and/or liquid media, this cultivated fungus is a pure version of the wild fungus. Scientists are of the opinion that artificial cordyceps contains higher amount of active ingredients as compared to the wild fungus. This extract is derived from mycelia and fruiting bodies of the fungus. While preparing the same, mannitol and adenosine are used in specific amounts.
Cordyceps Extract Benefits and Side Effects
The medicinal properties of cordyceps extract are attributed to cyclosporine-like metabolites, nucleosides and polysaccharides. According to research studies, cordyceps possesses vitalizing, aphrodisiac, anti-tumor, immune stimulating, antioxidant, anti-aging and cholesterol lowering properties. Nevertheless, side effects of cordyceps do occur, particularly amongst those who have taken higher doses of the same. The following info highlights about the benefits of taking cordyceps and side effects associated with it.
Benefits of Cordyceps Extract
- Cordyceps supplements, including the extract, are taken as a body tonic by Chinese people. It is stated that having them is useful to overcome fatigue and tiredness. In short, cordyceps enhances the stamina level in athletes and elderly people.
- Using this extract aids in improving body metabolism. Considering this, many people use this medicinal preparation as a weight loss aid. With improved stamina and metabolism, one can exercise more to burn accumulated fat.
- Having aphrodisiac properties, its benefits include treatment of sexual dysfunction in men. Upon studies in laboratory mice, it improves blood circulation to the body parts and promotes release of testosterone hormone.
- It is also used for restoring normal heartbeat, cholesterol levels, hemoglobin level, liver function and kidney function. Taking the extract also benefits people, who have been diagnosed with chronic cough, asthma and bronchitis.
- The use of cordyceps for addressing cancer has been known for many centuries. When introduced to the body, it fights against growth of cancerous cells by inducing apoptosis of cells and altering the immune responses.
- According to studies conducted in laboratory animals, cordyceps extract is beneficial to increase sensitivity to insulin and correct faulty glucose metabolism. Further studies are required for use of this extract in treating patients with insulin resistance.
- At present, various studies are ongoing to test the potency of cordyceps against radiation effects, liver protection and depression condition.
Side Effects of Cordyceps Extract
- Coming to adverse effects of medicinal mushroom, much of the reported cases are related to allergic conditions and contamination. According to some clinical reports, the fruiting bodies used in making the extract contain immunosuppressive agents.
- Cordyceps doesn't react with therapeutic drugs directly. However, the adenosine used in cordyceps extraction is a blood thinner. Thus, patients who are currently taking blood thinning drugs, or similar medications, should consult a doctor before ingesting it.
- Till date, no reliable study has been done with regards to safety of cordyceps for expecting mothers and lactating mothers. Thus, women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should take cordyceps only under medical supervision. The same consideration is applicable for people with underlying diseases.
In addition to true medicinal preparations, cordyceps extract powder is used in cosmetic and food products. As with most cases of home remedies, there is no sufficient scientific data that proves the therapeutic benefits of cordyceps. So, while taking cordyceps extract, recommended dosage should be monitored stringently. The suggested concentration is individualized, and patients with kidney failure may be required to take about 3 g cordyceps on a daily basis.