Cordyceps In Arthritis Treatment: Uncovering The Research 

Last Updated on April 7, 2023

Lifestyle changes, anti-inflammatory medications, and physical therapy may all help with arthritis. These treatments can decrease pain, discomfort, and inflammation while also increasing a person’s physical flexibility.

However, new research suggests that a parasitic fungus that infects insects and caterpillars may hold the key to better treating rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The mushroom can inhibit joint inflammation and the expression of enzymes involved in the development of arthritis. 

Let’s explore the anti-arthritic benefits of Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris, a caterpillar fungus popular in traditional Chinese medicine. We will also look at the associated anti-inflammatory effects of this fungus that infects caterpillars. 

cordyceps sinensis

What is Cordyceps?

Cordyceps are a fungus with potent biochemical properties and a fascinating ecology. They have been used traditionally for centuries, with high esteem for improving well-being and longevity. They also considered energizing, able to improve athletic performance, respiration, and libido from just a single dose. 

The ecology of cordyceps mushrooms are particularly intriguing and unique. They parasitize insects, feeding on their live tissues, and even altering their behaviors! While there are hundreds of cordyceps species that occur in the wild there are two main types of Cordyceps that are conventionally used in medicine. These are Ophiocordyceps sinensis aka “Chinese Caterpillar Fungus” and Cordyceps militaris aka “Scarlet Caterpillar Club”. 

Cordyceps May Help Slow Progression Of Osteoarthritis 

Researchers from the University of Nottingham in the UK have concentrated particularly on the potential advantages of cordycepin, a substance isolated from cordyceps that, according to their findings, has a distinctive anti-inflammatory effect that makes it a key candidate for the treatment of osteoarthritis.

Cordyceps relieves pain

In this study from 2019, cordycepin has been shown to decrease pain and slow the progression of osteoarthritis in rats and mice with the disease (1). Surprisingly, the substance employs a different mechanism than any other anti-inflammatory painkiller currently used to achieve this. This means that medicines derived from cordycepin may help patients for whom other treatments have failed.

The synovial membrane, which lines some joints, including knee joints, becomes inflamed in osteoarthritis, which results in pain and discomfort. Moreover, inflammation of the synovial membrane develops due to the loss of cartilage protecting the bones that meet in the joint, making those bones more vulnerable to injury. In the current study, the research team, including Dr. Cornelia De Moor,  discovered that individuals with osteoarthritis have higher levels of polyadenylation factor CPSF4, a protein associated with synovial inflammation.
CPSF4 and other proteins activate macrophages, an immune cell type that promotes inflammation. When the researchers gave cordycepin orally to rodents with osteoarthritis, they observed that the drug suppressed inflammation by blocking the mechanism that was triggered by excessive CPSF4 levels. Moreover, cordycepin also appeared to reduce pain and prevent further damage related to the progression of osteoarthritis.

Cordypes minimizes adverse effects of painkiller

Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medicines (NSAIDs) or opioids are frequently prescribed to osteoarthritis patients to treat pain, however, these medications have limited efficacy and undesirable side effects. As a result, joint replacement surgery is frequently the outcome.
This new study has great potential for people with osteoarthritis and offered a more beneficial and toxic-free treatment, minimizing adverse effects. The current findings may be the game-changer according to Dr. Stephen Simpson, a researcher with expertise in immunology and inflammation who works for Versus Arthritis, a registered charity with headquarters in the UK that provided funding for the study.
For patients with arthritis, persistent pain can completely alter their lives. This is unacceptable, so we are happy to fund the study that produced these remarkable results, says Simpson.
Chronic pain in arthritis sufferers might alter their quality of life. Even though it is still in its early stages, this study shows the importance and influence of recently discovered research in understanding and treating disease. It also has a huge potential to benefit patients with musculoskeletal diseases.

The study’s authors concur, expressing optimism that the substance under study may ultimately offer superior treatments with fewer adverse effects and may potentially be a new type of painkiller.

Anti-inflammatory Effects Of Cordyceps May Help Rheumatoid Arthritis 

The breakdown of the extracellular matrix is primarily facilitated by MMPs (matrix metalloproteinases). In chronic inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis, an autoimmune condition characterized by hyperplasia of the synovium (joint lining) and gradual joint degeneration, activation of MMPs is a key factor. Connective tissue cells (fibroblasts) in the synovium produce MMP-1 and MMP-3.
Interleukin-1 beta (IL-1β) and tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) are two examples of inflammatory cytokines that cause damage to joints in rheumatoid arthritis by boosting the activity and local synthesis of MMPs and chemokines. 
 Researchers found that cordycepin, a key component of Cordyceps sinensis, substantially and dose-dependently inhibited the formation of MMP-1, MMP3, and chemokines (2). This was particularly seen after IL-1 stimulated their production in an in vitro investigation using synovial fibroblasts from rheumatoid arthritis patients.
The natural compound cordycepin inhibits inflammatory activity in synovial fibroblasts by reducing IL-1-induced chemokine production, which may help prevent connective tissue damage in rheumatoid arthritis and related auto-immune diseases.

Cordyceps May Stimulate The Immune System

Fungus Cordyceps sinensis has significant immunomodulatory effects, according to several studies. One such research examined how Cordyceps militaris extract induces proinflammatory cytokines and the expression of other molecules that are also implicated in the progression of arthritis (3). 
Researchers found that Cordyceps militaris extract increased the production of proinflammatory cytokines such as   IL-6, IL-1β,  PGE2, and TNF-α in a dose and concentration-dependent manner. In light of these findings, the mushroom extract was found to enhance proinflammatory cytokines via activating specific pathways, further indicating that it may be effective as an immune-stimulating therapy in the treatment of immunological illnesses, such as arthritis. 

Cordyceps Polysaccharides Have Antioxidant Actions

Compounds found in Cordyceps mushrooms, such as fungal polysaccharides, have medicinal value, including their action on inflammatory response and oxidative stress. This effect may benefit people with arthritis, specifically rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Oxygen-derived free radicals have been implicated as mediators of tissue damage in autoimmune diseases like RA.

A 2022 study evaluated the pharmacological potential and the anti-oxidant potential of cultured Cordyceps militaris (4).  the polysaccharides extracted from cordyceps showed antioxidant activity and suppressed cell injury related to the overproduction of free radicals. Although more research is needed, cordycepin treatment can work as a complementary therapy in oxidant and inflammatory processes. 

FAQs About Cordyceps Arthritis 

How Can You Take Cordcypes For Joint Irritation And Inflammation?

Cordyceps was famously used in traditional practices in China for the treatment of joint inflammation and pain. The best way to enjoy this mushroom is to drink cordyceps tea. Several studies have found that Cordycepin inhibited pain, relieving joint disease. High quality Cordyceps supplements in the form of powders, capsules and tincutres are also available for purchase throughout the United States, Canada, and Australia.

Does Cordyceps Increase Uric Acid?

No, it does not. In fact, research has shown the uric acid-lowering effect of cordycepin (5). The mushroom increases the clearance of the compound from the kidney, lowering its levels in the body. 

Key Takeaways 

The pain of musculoskeletal conditions like osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis can be agonizing. But medicinal fungi like cordyceps may be a new therapeutic alternative for joint diseases. 

Although the research still has a long way to go, current findings show that the extract of cordyceps modulates the immune response, suppresses inflammatory cells, and combats oxidative stress in animal models of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. Speak to your healthcare provider if you want to try the mushroom for your joints. 








  • Dr. Sony Sherpa has a Bachelor of Medicine, Bachelor of Surgery (MBBS) from the Guangzhou Medical University and has been studying medicinal mushrooms for more than 7 years. Her knowledge of medicinal mushrooms is backed by a master's degree in Holistic Medicine and contributes to many health articles around the health benefits of medicinal mushrooms.

World Mushroom Society is a collective of fungi enthusiasts and health advocates, sharing information, research, studies, and identifying top producers of high quality medicinal mushroom supplements.


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