Cordyceps For Energy: Mushroom For Improved Energy Levels

Last Updated on January 12, 2024

Fatigue and low energy are two of the most common symptoms today. Research indicates that 10% of the global population experiences chronic fatigue.

When this happens, many people turn to energy drinks, a protein bar, or a quick fix—a temporary boost from caffeine or sugar. However, the ensuing energy boost is fleeting.  A more sustainable method of boosting energy reserves is required.

Cordyceps is an ancient Chinese herbal remedy made from the fungus Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris. The herb gained widespread attention when unidentified female Chinese runners won all of the long-distance races at the 1993 World Championships and went on to shatter multiple world records.

Chinese women swimmers fared similarly well at the world championships the following year. Chinese coaches refuted claims that their athletes were using illegal substances in the face of numerous allegations, attributing the athletes’ gains to hard training and a unique diet that contained Cordyceps.

Subsequently, Cordyceps was highly regarded for its energy-supporting profile. According to studies, Cordyceps may support cellular energy reserves instead of offering a quick energy boost. The post examines what the research reveals.

cordyceps for energy

Exploring the Scientific Research On Cordyceps For Energy

Energy in the body, which is scientifically known as adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, is actually a molecule produced by tiny cellular structures called mitochondria. The function of ATP is to store energy and then transfer it to other cells in the body. But as you age, your body produces fewer mitochondria. If you don’t feel like you have enough energy, it could be because your body isn’t making enough ATP to fuel your cells sufficiently.

Extracts from Cordyceps contain diverse compounds such as sugars, proteins, sterols, nucleosides, unusual cyclic dipeptides, vitamins, fatty acids, and minerals. Adenosine and its derivatives are present in comparatively high concentrations. Adenosine is an essential component of DNA, RNA, and ATP.

Numerous bioactive components of the mushroom have been studied in vivo, in vitro, and in animals by scientists. These studies’ findings imply that Cordyceps provides energy through the following mechanisms:

Cordyceps promotes cellular energy production

Adenosine triphosphate (ATP) is a molecule that supplies the energy needed for numerous biological processes in living cells, including chemical synthesis, nerve impulse transmission, and muscular contraction. In a 2020 study, the beneficial effects of Cordyceps militaris on exercise performance through the promotion of cellular energy production were assessed

Researchers looked into the positive impact of Cordyceps militaris on exercise performance in this study. Grip strength tests were carried out every week following administration, and an ethyl acetate extract of Cordyceps militaris was prepared to assess exercise performance. After the experiment, blood samples were also taken for biochemical analysis.

The administration of Cordyceps extract led to a marginal improvement in grip strength.  The biochemical analysis revealed that the mushroom extract affected the biomarkers associated with the ATP generation pathway.  As a result, Cordyceps militaris may enhance exercise performance, a benefit that may be linked to an increase in ATP production.

According to a 2020 study, Cordyceps militaris mycelia increases ATP levels in rat brains. The study examined how a bioactive extract from the mycelia of Cordyceps militaris affected the energy status, brain acetylcholinesterase activity, and oxidative stress in rats given chemotherapy with doxorubicin. They measured the brain’s ATP levels.

The animals in the chemotherapy-only group did exhibit a significant decrease in ATP levels, whereas the mushroom-treated group did not.  According to the experimental findings, Cordyceps militaris mycelia had a remarkable ability to increase ATP levels.

Cordyceps reduces physical fatigue

A 2016 study investigated the effect of Cordyceps militaris polysaccharide on physical fatigue in animals caused by a forced swimming test. The mice were split into four groups and given either the mushroom or no treatment for 28 days. The mice underwent the forced swimming test after 28 days; the length of the rigorous swimming session was recorded, and biochemical markers associated with fatigue were examined. These markers included blood lactic acid, creatine kinase, urea nitrogen, aspartate aminotransferase, alanine aminotransferase, glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, malondialdehyde, liver and muscle glycogen, and catalase.

The findings demonstrated that the polysaccharide derived from Cordyceps militaris could considerably increase the exhaustive swimming time of mice and reduce blood levels of creatine kinase, urea nitrogen, malondialdehyde, lactic acid, and aspartate aminotransferase. Anti-oxidants like glutathione peroxidase, superoxide dismutase, and catalase concentrations were increased along with the amounts of glycogen in the liver and muscles. According to the results, Cordyceps militaris polysaccharide may have an antifatigue effect and could be developed into a new functional food or medication to help people resist fatigue.

In 2020, another study conducted in the People’s Republic of China aimed to clarify the possible mechanism behind cordycepin’s protective effects against physical fatigue. Before doing a weight-loaded swimming test, mice were given two different dosages of cordycepin for a total of 28 days.

The findings showed that cordycepin considerably increased the mice’s swimming time when carrying a weight. Cordycepin, on the other hand, increased the amounts of nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate, glutathione, superoxide dismutase, liver and muscle glycogen, and ATP while decreasing the levels of blood uric nitrogen, lactic acid, and malondialdehyde.

According to metabolomics data, cordycepin may reduce fatigue by controlling the pentose phosphate pathway and energy metabolism. Additionally, when swimming mice were loaded with weight, the researchers discovered that cordycepin markedly increased the amounts of protein in their calf muscles.

When considered as a whole, the current investigation showed that cordycepin had antifatigue properties. According to the study, cordycepin might be a helpful treatment option for fatigue.

 Benefits Of Cordyceps Mushroom

Cordyceps mushrooms have various health-boosting benefits to the body. The most common benefits of the mushroom include:

Traditional treatments for healthy cholesterol levels:

Supplements containing cordyceps help in maintaining a healthy weight and cholesterol levels.

Support for maintaining heart health:

In addition to its antioxidant properties, the main ingredient in cordyceps mushrooms, cordycepin, helps relax blood vessels. This could support the maintenance of normal blood pressure and circulation.

Enhanced immune system response:

According to research, Cordyceps may enhance the body’s immune defenses by stimulating specific immune cells, such as peripheral blood mononuclear cells, which are blood cells with a single round nucleus and include immune cells like T and B cells. According to some research, Cordyceps’ adaptogenic properties may both boost and weaken the immune system, which may be helpful for people with autoimmune diseases or following organ transplants.

Improved respiratory system

According to some research, Cordyceps may help with respiratory issues like asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and may also support respiratory function.

 Decreased Inflammation

Certain inflammatory conditions, like inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or arthritis, may benefit from the anti-inflammatory qualities of Cordyceps.

Not all mushroom extracts made from Cordyceps are made equally. Selecting the best Cordyceps mushroom supplement product can be challenging due to the abundance of options.

Several factors influence the quality of a medicinal mushroom extract. This includes the cultivation, testing, and extraction procedure, among other things. These are the main things to consider when selecting extracts from Cordyceps mushrooms.

1. Choose products made from fruiting bodies rather than mycelium

The concentration of active compounds that give functional mushrooms their beneficial qualities is highest in the fruiting body. This portion of the mushroom has historically been utilized for functional uses.

The remaining portion of the mushroom is called “mycelium,” and some people call it the “roots” of the plant. It’s a stringy, white substance that grows continuously in search of nutrients.

Huge quantities of mycelium can be grown on oats, wheat, rye, brown rice, sorghum, or other grains. Grain starch offers the ideal nourishment for quick mycelial growth.

This explains why, when looking up mushroom supplements, you may occasionally come across the phrase “mycelium on grain.” It indicates that no actual mushrooms were fruited; instead, the product was made from mycelium grown on grain.

This is a much cheaper production method, so it can be produced feasibly.  Almost invariably, these mushrooms are mycelium on grain. Grain starch makes up a significant portion of the finished product; very few actual beneficial compounds are present.

2. Look for hot water extraction

The beneficial substances in mushrooms, like beta-glucans, are complex for our bodies to absorb. This is because they are “locked” in the fruit body of the mushroom, and our bodies are not designed to process such a tough substance properly. Mushrooms must undergo an extraction process to work as effectively as possible. Usually, hot water extraction or alcohol extraction is used for this. Sometimes, these steps are taken in that order, resulting in a dual-extracted product.

The extraction process is crucial because it identifies the most bioavailable compounds. Hot water extraction is the conventional technique for processing Cordyceps mushrooms. This is due to the water solubility of beta-glucan, one of the most extensively researched and significant compounds found in these mushrooms.

 3. Read the labels carefully

Checking the product label to see if the beta-glucan content is mentioned is one of the best ways to assess the quality of a Cordyceps mushroom supplement. Even though beta-glucans are polysaccharides, it’s crucial to understand the difference between the two when reading labels.

The source of the polysaccharide content may be grains or other plant-based materials. The amount of polysaccharides in your product must be no greater than 5% of the total beta-glucan content. The highest-quality Cordyceps products have more beta-glucans and very few starches, such as alpha-glucans. A low-quality product may be indicated by the inclusion of grains or other plant-based fillers on the ingredient label.

 4. Pick organic products

Select supplements made from certified organic Cordyceps mushrooms. This guarantees that your products are free of pesticides, fungicides, herbicides, and other harmful chemicals that gradually weaken the body when consumed over time. Look for widely recognized indicators of quality, credibility, and organic certification issued by your county’s regulatory agency. Common ones include OF&G, ACO, USDA organic certification, and ACPO.

Cordyceps mushroom products in the form of capsules are typically not certified organic because, although the powdered mushrooms within are organic, the capsules are not organic. 

5. Ensure there is a Certificate of Analysis

A third-party lab’s Certificate of Analysis is crucial to determine the beneficial medicinal substances, such as beta-glucans, in Cordyceps. The levels of heavy metals and other foreign pollutants may also be mentioned on a certificate of analysis. The heavy metals that are usually tested for include lead, mercury, arsenic, and cadmium. Reputable vendors of Cordyceps mushrooms should be able to furnish this information upon request or, even better, make it available to the public on their website.

FAQS About Cordyceps For Energy

Does Cordyceps Interact With Any Medications?

Studies have indicated that Cordyceps may have inhibitory effects on monoamine oxidase (MAO), so it is advisable to proceed with caution when taking other MAO inhibitors or consuming foods high in tyramine. Cordyceps can exacerbate anticoagulant therapy and interfere with platelet aggregation. It may also intensify the effects of epinephrine bronchodilators by relaxing the trachea.

Does Cordyceps Work Immediately?

Since Cordyceps militaris dissolves in water, you should be able to experience the mushrooms’ benefits quickly. Your body will completely absorb the water-soluble substances found in cordyceps, such as cordycepin, within 24 to 48 hours.

How Do You Take Cordyceps For Performance?

Typically, athletes begin taking 1 gram of cordyceps daily, either all at once or in smaller doses throughout the day. Many will increase their dosage to 2-3 grams over time based on their age, weight, and level of exercise. 

Are Cordyceps Mushrooms Healthy?

Cordyceps mushrooms support optimal blood circulation, healthy cholesterol levels, and improved oxygen absorption during exercise, among many other bodily functions.  The immune system benefits greatly from the beta-glucans found in mushrooms. Consuming Cordyceps is also beneficial to health because they are high in vitamin B12 and water content, which helps hydrate and revitalize the body.

What Are The Other Natural Ways To Increase Energy Levels?

Drinking plenty of water, cutting out caffeine, and starting the day with a carbohydrate-rich breakfast can help fight fatigue. Exercise increases energy-promoting neurotransmitters like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine in the brain, which is why you feel great after a workout. Exercise also makes muscles more efficient and stronger, so they need less energy and conserve ATP.

Conclusion

Research on lab animals, young and older adults, and athletes has consistently shown benefits from Cordyceps, which supports energy usage for various wellness goals. When taken regularly, the antioxidants and other bioactive ingredients in Cordyceps support cellular energy use, increase endurance, and speed up recovery. Choosing the Cordyceps supplement that best suits your needs will make it simpler to include this superfood in your wellness regimen.

References

1. The Journal of Korean Oriental Medicine. Review of the Prevalence of Chronic Fatigue Worldwide.

2. Mycobiology. Beneficial Effect of Cordyceps militaris on Exercise Performance via Promoting Cellular Energy Production.

3. International journal of medicinal mushrooms.Caterpillar Medicinal Mushroom, Cordyceps militaris (Ascomycetes), Mycelia Attenuates Doxorubicin-Induced Oxidative Stress and Upregulates Krebs Cycle Dehydrogenases Activity and ATP Level in Rat Brain.

4. Biochemical and biophysical research communications.Cordycepin exhibits anti-fatigue effect via activating TIGAR/SIRT1/PGC-1α signaling pathway.

5. International journal of medicinal mushrooms. Effect of Polysaccharide from Cordyceps militaris (Ascomycetes) on Physical Fatigue Induced by Forced Swimming.

Author

  • 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.

DISCLAIMER

DISCLAIMER
The information on this website is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. All information found here is not meant as a substitute for, or alternative to, information from your doctor for ongoing medical treatment you currently receive. If unsure, please consult with your doctor before using medicinal mushrooms. Any content related to cancer should not be considered as prescriptive medical advice and should not be a substitute for any cancer treatment, unless advised by your doctor first. The efficacy of these products has not been confirmed by TGA and FDA-approved research. If you are pregnant or on prescription drugs that thin the blood, consult with your medical professional before using medicinal mushrooms.
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