Cordyceps And Parkinsons: The Neuroprotective Effects Of Natural Mushrooms

Last Updated on June 19, 2023

Parkinson’s Disease is a chronic and debilitating neurodegenerative disease. There is a loss of dopamine-secreting neurons in the substantia nigra, a brain region that controls movement. Patients experience tremors in their arms, hands, legs, and brain as well as a loss of motor control.

There is no cure for Parkinson’s disease (PD), but there are treatments to help manage symptoms. However, some medications have side effects, prompting people to seek complementary therapy. The most common therapy for Parkinson’s is individualised physiotherapy. Recent research has shifted focus to the potential health benefits of medicinal mushrooms.

In vivo and in vitro studies have shown that Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris, a staple in traditional Chinese medicine, have therapeutic effects on Parkinson’s disease. The mushroom exerts antioxidant effects on the brain and suppresses neuroinflammation. 

Below we will explore the neuroprotective effects of cordycepin, a compound extracted from Cordyceps mushroom. Let’s get a closer understanding of how cordycepin may help in the treatment of PD. 


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”. 

Cordycepin Has Neuroprotective Effects 

A 2019 study found that cordycepin exerts a neuroprotective effect on the brain by an anti-apoptotic mechanism in rat model of Parkinson’s disease (1). Based on a 10-point scale and grid test, behavioral tests were performed on the animal.  Additionally, researchers looked at the concentrations of dopamine in the neurons and its metabolites as well as the quantity of TH-positive neurons ( a marker of dopamine) in the substantia nigra pars compacta.

Results showed that this Chinese herbal medicine significantly improved erratic movements (dyskinesia) and increased the number of neurons in the brain. The caterpillar fungus also maintained levels of dopamine and its metabolites in the rats. Researchers also found the suppression of apoptosis or cell death. 

The study concluded that Cordyceps mushrooms have protective effects on dopamine neurons against apoptosis (cell death) by improving mitochondrial function. This demonstrates the therapeutic potential of the medicine Cordyceps militaris for this disease.

Another study from 2019 also examined the neuroprotection of cordycepin (2). According to numerous reports, cordycepin has a neuroprotective effect that helps to treat cognitive dysfunction brought on by cerebral ischemia. Therefore, it is crucial to research whether cordycepin enhances LTP induction to restore cognitive function after brain ischemia.
Researchers used electrophysiological recording in the current study to examine the effects of cordycepin on neuron loss brought on by reduced cerebral blood flow (ischemia) and excitotoxicity. Results demonstrated that cordycepin significantly reduced LTP impairment and shielded brain neuronal cells from cerebral ischemia and glutamate-induced excitotoxicity. In conclusion, the findings provide a fresh understanding of the neuroprotective effects of cordycepin in excitotoxic disorders.

Cordycepin Suppress Oxidative Stress

Oxidative stress plays an important role in the development of  Parkinson’s disease, according to mounting research. Cordycepin isolated from Cordyceps mushroom has displayed a potent antioxidant effect, indicating its potential in the treatment of PD. 

In a 2016 research titled ” Cordycepin protects PC12 cells against 6-hydroxydopamine induced neurotoxicity via its antioxidant properties”, scientists looked into the protective effects of Cordycepin against neurotoxicity and its underlying mechanism (3). Researchers found that the compound inhibited cell death induced by oxidative stress. Cordycepin also significantly increased superoxide dismutase, the antioxidant enzyme. 


Cordycepin Mitigates MPTP-Induced Parkinson’s Disease

MPTP is a chemical precursor of the neurotoxin that causes permanent PD symptoms. In a 2019 animal study, rats and cells were injected with MPTP and LPS to induce Parkisons followed by the administration of Cordycepin (4). Researchers then examined the motor functions of the induced rats.  Oxidative stress and inflammation-related factors were also measured in vivo and in vitro. 
Results showed that MPTP caused the development of motor disorders and treatment with Cordycepin alleviated these changes. Moreover, the mushroom mitigated the cytotoxic effects on the cells. 

Cordycepin Inhibits Neuroinflammation

Neuroinflammation has been implicated in the onset and development of neurodegenerative diseases like PD and Alzheimer’s disease.  A new study from 2020 examined the neuroprotective effects of natural cordycepin and demonstrated that the fungal compound suppressed inflammatory activity in the mouse (5). 

The results from the study indicated that LPS treatment led to dopaminergic (DA) neuron degeneration. At the same time, cordycepin exerted neuroprotective effects by alleviating the loss of DA neurons in LPS-treated PD mice. Additionally, cordycepin remarkably inhibited pore formation in the plasma membrane and reduced the release of proinflammatory mediators that cause inflammation.  Researchers concluded that Cordcyeps should be developed as a natural medicine or healthcare food for the treatment of PD in the future.

How To Take Cordyceps For Parkinson’s?

Cordyceps mushroom can be steeped in tea. Just boil a dose of Cordyceps in water for a few minutes, then reduce to a simmer and steep for another 15 minutes. Remove the fruiting bodies, either save them for cooking or discard them, and then add honey and other tea spices to taste.
But if you’re not a fan of making your own Cordyceps tea or need something on the go, high quality Cordyceps supplements can be a great option.  Cordyceps drops and powders are the two most popular forms of the mushroom supplement. The drops can be taken directly or added to drinks for health benefits. The mushroom is dried and ground into powder. This is then soaked in alcohol or hot water to extract the beneficial compound which can be added to various foods. 

FAQs About Cordyceps And Parkinson’s Disease

What Does Cordcypes Do To The Brain?

The neuroprotective properties of cordyceps help to guard the brain against damage and protect it. The benefit of cordyceps for brain health can assist to reduce the detrimental effects of getting older and, as a result, lower the risk of age-related cognitive decline, including the onset of disorders like dementia and Alzheimer’s disease as well as neurodegenerative diseases like Parkinson’s.

Does Cordyceps Increase Dopamine?

Research has shown that cordyceps alleviates depressive symptoms in rats by stimulating dopamine and adrenaline receptors in the brain. In these animals, Cordycepin reduced depressive symptoms more quickly and effectively than the conventional antidepressant imipramine (Tofranil).

Does Cordyceps Work Immediately?

According to research, Cordyceps can provide benefits in as little as one week. A daily dose provides even more benefits.

Key Takeaway

With a growing number of research exploring the potential benefit of Cordyceps mushroom in Parkinson’s, there is a rising popularity of the use of the functional mushroom for Parkinson’s disease. The mushroom can help combat brain inflammation, has neuroprotective effects, and can counter the damaging effects of oxidative stress. 

If you or your loved ones are suffering from Parkinson’s disease, talk to your healthcare provider about adding the benefits of Cordyceps to your daily life. the bioactive compounds in the mushroom may help alleviate PD symptoms and help you lead an easier life. 




  • 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.


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.
By using this using this website, you agree to follow the Privacy PolicyTerms of Use and Advertising Disclosure printed on this site.