Fungi are commonly viewed as organisms that can cause an array of problems for humans. However, certain fungi are also found to be beneficial. These include those edible mushrooms that are cultivated and sold across the globe. Some others are used for biological control of pests in agriculture. Fungi have long been used by humans for medicinal purposes too. Cordyceps militaris, Cordyceps sinensis, etc., are among those fungi that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine, for a very long time. You might have heard about the health benefits of Cordyceps fungi, especially, Cordyceps sinensis.
What is Cordyceps Militaris
This fungi belongs to the genus Cordyceps which consists of around 400 species. Most of these fungal species are endoparasitoids. This means that these fungi get attached to the hosts and establish themselves in the body of the latter, which get killed ultimately. Cordyceps militaris is no exception, as it enters the body of the host and grows its vegetative part called mycelium, inside the latter's body.
As the mycelium grows, the host gets killed and the fruiting bodies of the fungus emerge out. The shape, color and size of these fruiting bodies may vary with the type of fungus. One of the most popular fungi in this genus is Cordyceps sinensis, which thrives on the larva of the ghost moth. Another commonly known member of this genus is Cordyceps unilateralis, which uses ants as hosts.
Cordyceps militaris is also among the much sought-after fungi for its therapeutic properties. This fungi attacks the larvae (or pupae) of butterflies and moths. The fungus lives inside the larva and grows the mycelium and keeps the host alive, till the former produces the fruit-bearing bodies or stroma. In case of Cordyceps militaris, the stroma is club-shaped. These elongated fruiting bodies grow to a length of around 2 to 8 cm and have a width of about 0.5 cm.
While the top part is orange with grainy surfaces, the lower portions are paler and get narrow at the base. The host larvae from which the fruiting bodies of these fungi develop, are often found to be buried in the ground with a pale orange flesh that is watery in nature.
Cordyceps Militaris Benefits
Though, Cordyceps sinensis is much more popular than Cordyceps militaris, the latter too is fast gaining momentum, for its so-called health benefits. As mentioned above, Cordyceps militaris has been used in the traditional Chinese medicine for a long time. According to recent researches, this fungi contain certain polysaccharide components and cordycepin, which are said to be beneficial for treating cancer. It has also been suggested that as in case of Cordyceps sinensis, Cordyceps militaris too has antibacterial and anti-inflammatory properties. So, the latter is also used as a substitute for the former.
As per some studies, Cordyceps militaris has higher amounts of polysaccharides and cordycepin, as compared to Cordyceps sinensis. Cordyceps militaris is also claimed to have anti-aging properties and is said to be suitable for everyone. It is also believed to be useful for boosting the immune system and promoting the health of kidneys and lungs. In some regions, this fungus is used for treating lung and kidney diseases, hyperglycemia and high blood cholesterol levels. It is also claimed to be good for those with insulin resistance. Owing to the growing popularity of this fungi, nowadays Cordyceps militaris cultivation is also done. The fungus is cultured and processed to be sold in the form of dried fungi, powder, extract, etc.
Though, this fungus has been used for medicinal purposes for a very long time, there is no conclusive proof for Cordyceps militaris health benefits. So, if you want to use it for medicinal purposes, contact a qualified herbalist and follow his/her instructions strictly. You may also seek the opinion of your doctor, beforehand.
Disclaimer: This article is only for informational purposes and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice. Visiting your physician is the safest way to diagnose and treat any health condition.