cordyceps sinensis mushrooms

Cordyceps Mushrooms: A Complete Guide

Cordyceps, in Chinese also known as Dong Chong Xia Cao(冬虫夏草), is a diverse group of fungi belonging to the ascomycete family, with more than 400 species identified. The two most extensively researched species are Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps Militaris. These fungi have a unique life cycle that involves infecting and parasitizing insects, particularly caterpillars, using their body as a substrate for growth and reproduction. These mushrooms have long been used in traditional Chinese medicine for their reputed health benefits, including their potential to boost the immune system, possess anti-inflammatory properties, and exhibit anti-tumor activity. Recently, researchers have focused on elucidating the bioactive compounds present in these mushrooms, and their potential therapeutic applications.

Identify Cordyceps Mushrooms

Finding Cordyceps mushrooms can be an exciting and rewarding experience, so how do you identify them? Here are some tips:

  1. Look for the characteristic shape: These mushrooms have a long, thin stalk that tapers at the top and ends in a bulbous head in a range of colors from white or yellow to brown or black.
  2. Check the growing location: They often grow in high-altitude regions, such as in Asia, on the ground, or on the sides of cliffs.
  3. Observe the habitat: They are typically found growing in association with insects, such as caterpillars or ants. The fungus grows inside the host insect’s body, eventually killing it and producing the characteristic fruiting body of the mushroom.
  4. Look for other identifying features: Some cordyceps mushrooms have additional identifying features, such as hairs or spines on the stalk, or distinctive patterns on the head.

If you’re unsure about whether you’ve found a cordyceps mushroom, it’s always a good idea to seek the advice of an expert mycologist or mushroom enthusiast. They can help you identify the mushroom and provide additional information about its properties and potential uses.


a hand hold cordyceps militaris

Cordyceps mushrooms were believed to be able to “strengthen the body and nourish the soul”, and were often used to treat a variety of ailments, including fatigue, respiratory problems, and sexual dysfunction. Traditional Chinese and Tibetan Buddhist medicine both believe that they can help improve energy and stamina, as well as boost immunity and reduce inflammation.

Additionally, they are thought to be beneficial in treating conditions such as asthma, bronchitis, and diabetes, while in Tibetan Buddhist medicine they are also used as a tonic for the body and mind, believed to promote physical and mental vitality and enhance spiritual awareness.

“Cordyceps are a type of mushroom that helps your body manage stress and increase overall vitality[1].”

– Mycologist Paul Stamets

Health Benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms

Cordyceps sinensis mushrooms on a plate

1. Against Cancer

Studies have shown that Cordyceps mushrooms have anti-cancer properties, inhibiting the growth of cancer cells both in vitro and in vivo. For example, a study on the anti-cancer effects of C.sinensis extract on human colon cancer cells found that the extract significantly inhibited cancer cell proliferation and induced cell death[2].

2. Reduce Inflammation

A study on the therapeutic effects of C.militaris extract on asthma found that the extract could alleviate airway inflammation and reduce mucus production in mice with induced asthma[3].

3. Boost Immune

Recent scientific research has suggested that they have been found to boost immunity, alleviate inflammation, and enhance energy levels. For example, a study on the immunomodulatory effects of C.militaris extract in mice found that the extract increased white blood cell counts and enhanced immune function[4].

4. Anti-Aging

Moreover, they fight the signs of aging by promoting cellular rejuvenation, boosting collagen production, and enhancing overall skin health. They may have anti-aging effects and offer protection against certain types of cancer. Another study on the anti-cancer effects of C.sinensis extract found that the extract could suppress the growth of liver cancer cells in vitro[5][6].

5. Enhance Cognitive

Other therapeutic effects include reducing fatigue, enhancing cognitive function, and reducing the risk of specific cardiovascular diseases. For instance, a study on the fatigue-reducing effects of C.sinensis extract in mice found that the extract could alleviate physical fatigue and improve exercise endurance[7].

Medical Compounds and Benefits

Compound NameDescriptionPotential Benefits
CordycepinNucleoside derivativeAntiviral, anti-inflammatory, anticancer properties
AdenosinePurine nucleosideAnti-inflammatory, heart health, sleep aid
PolysaccharidesComplex carbohydratesImmune system support, antioxidant
ErgosterolSterol compoundPotential cholesterol-lowering effects
CordyminPeptideAntioxidant, anti-inflammatory
Beta-GlucansPolysaccharidesImmune system modulation, blood sugar regulation
MannitolSugar alcoholDiuretic, potential blood sugar regulation
SOD (Superoxide Dismutase)EnzymeAntioxidant, anti-aging
Cordycepic AcidOrganic acidPotential anti-inflammatory effects
TriterpenoidsOrganic compoundsPotential liver protection, anti-inflammatory

How to Use Cordyceps

cordyceps powder with a spoon in a bowl

Here are some ways to consume Cordyceps:

  1. Eat them Raw: You can munch on Cordyceps fruit bodies just as they are. Try to have about three to six grams each day.
  2. Make a cup of Cordyceps Tea: Take 4-6 Cordyceps fruit bodies and a cup of water. Put them in a pot and bring it to a boil. After boiling for about a minute, lower the heat to a simmer for 15 minutes. It’s great if you can have two cups daily. And don’t forget, after making the tea, you can dice up the boiled fruit bodies and toss them into soups or sauces for an extra boost.
  3. Using grounded powder: Sprinkle about 1 teaspoon of ground Cordyceps powder into your morning coffee or any drink you like – whether it’s hot water, smoothies, or even when you’re whipping up some sweet treats in your baking adventures.
  4. Take them as a supplement: If you prefer a more straightforward approach, you can find Cordyceps supplement capsules at supplement stores and online. They’re a convenient way to get your Cordyceps fix.


Studies involving animals and humans have tested cordyceps at various dosages and found it to be safe, even at levels significantly higher than the clinical dose. Most experts recommend a moderate daily dose of 2 grams (2000mg). Some suggest taking cordyceps in doses ranging from 1 to 3 grams orally each day for up to a year. This dosage range hasn’t been associated with side effects and has shown certain health benefits. It’s worth noting that cordyceps supplements are synthesized in a lab. To determine the most suitable dose for a particular condition, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare provider.


It is important to note that the optimal dosage of cordyceps mushroom may vary based on an individual’s age, health status, and other factors. Consultation with a healthcare professional is crucial, particularly if you are taking any medications or have underlying health conditions.

Safety and Side Effects

Cordyceps mushrooms are generally considered safe, but like any supplement or medication, they may cause side effects in some people. Here are some potential side effects.

  • Digestive issues: Some people may experience mild digestive issues, such as upset stomach, diarrhea, or nausea when taking cordyceps mushrooms. To minimize these symptoms, it’s recommended to take the supplement with food or reduce the dosage.
  • Allergic reactions: Although rare, some individuals may have an allergic reaction to cordyceps mushrooms. If you experience symptoms such as hives, rash, itching, or difficulty breathing, stop taking the supplement immediately and seek medical attention.
  • Interaction with medications: Cordyceps mushrooms may interact with certain medications, especially blood thinners or immunosuppressants. If you are taking any medications, it’s important to consult with a healthcare professional before taking cordyceps mushrooms.

There is limited research on the long-term effects of cordyceps mushrooms. Therefore, it’s always advisable to be cautious when taking supplements or medications. If you experience any concerning side effects when taking cordyceps mushrooms, stop taking them immediately and seek medical attention.

How To Choose Cordyceps Supplements

You can find fresh cordyceps mushrooms online or at specialty grocery stores, although they aren’t very common and might be a bit challenging to locate. In the United States, cordyceps is mostly available in supplement form.

Cordyceps supplements come in various forms like capsules, tablets, tinctures, or powder. Dried whole cordyceps are often used to make tinctures and extracts, while powdered cordyceps can be easily added to your smoothies or protein shakes. The best form for you depends on your lifestyle.

Keep in mind that dietary supplements aren’t as regulated as medications in the United States. They don’t undergo the same rigorous testing. However, you can ensure better quality and safety by choosing supplements that have been tested and certified by a third party.

To make the best choice, it’s a good idea to discuss your options with your healthcare provider. They can provide you with additional tips on finding the right supplements for your needs.

Cordyceps Mushrooms Cultivation

Cordyceps militaris mushrooms grow in jars
Cordyceps militaris mushrooms grow in jars

Cultivating Cordyceps mushrooms can be a challenging yet fulfilling experience. Although these mushrooms have a complex life cycle that involves infecting and consuming insect larvae, advancements in cultivation techniques have made it possible to grow them on substrates such as rice, soybean, and wheat. The Cordyceps militaris species, in particular, can be cultivated without the need for insect larvae, making it a more cost-effective and accessible option.

When growing these mushrooms, there are some essential tips to keep in mind. Firstly, selecting the right substrate for the species is crucial, as different types may require specific substrates. Secondly, maintaining proper humidity is critical for indoor cultivation, and using a humidifier may be necessary. For outdoor cultivation, a cool, shaded environment with ample moisture is preferred. However, weather conditions and pests can pose challenges, so precautions must be taken.

Cultivating these mushrooms may demand attention to detail and patience. Nevertheless, it can be a gratifying experience that yields high-quality mushrooms with numerous health benefits.


As we wrap up, it’s clear that cordyceps is a fascinating medicinal mushroom with a plethora of potential health benefits. Whether you’re looking to boost your immune system, improve endurance, or simply enhance your overall well-being, cordyceps might just be the answer you’ve been searching for. So why not give cordyceps a try and see how it can positively impact your life?

The Ultimate Resource on Cordyceps Mushrooms

Delve into the remarkable benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms with our in-depth guides. Our accessible and thorough resources provide a complete understanding of the potent properties of cordyceps powder and its potential to enhance your overall health and wellness.

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1. Stamets, P. (2016). The power of mushrooms. TED Talk.

2. HPLC determination of massoia lactone in fermented Cordyceps sinensis mycelium Cs-4 and its anticancer activity in vitro. Retrieved from

3. Cordyceps polysaccharide ameliorates airway inflammation in an ovalbumin-induced mouse model of asthma via TGF-β1/Smad signaling pathway. Retrieved from

4. Effects of the Immunomodulatory Agent Cordyceps militaris on Airway Inflammation in a Mouse Asthma Model. Retrieved from

5. Cordyceps sinensis Cs-4 restores aging-associated changes in gene expression and extends lifespan in normal aged mice. Retrieved from

6. Optimal conditions for cordycepin production in surface liquid-cultured Cordyceps militaris treated with porcine liver extracts for suppression of oral cancer. Retrieved from

7. Cordyceps sinensis promotes exercise endurance capacity of rats by activating skeletal muscle metabolic regulators. Retrieved from