Cordyceps Mushrooms: Benefits and Warnings

Cordyceps mushrooms, a fascinating and mysterious fungus, have been used for centuries in traditional medicine [1] [12].

This blog post will explore its history, differences between two popular Cordyceps mushroom species, researched health benefits, and potential warnings and side effects.

Historical Use

Cordyceps mushrooms have provided various advantages for centuries. They first appeared in traditional Chinese medicine as early as 1757 AD [3] and were first known for their immune-modulating benefits.

However, it is worth noting that the first written record of the Cordyceps mushroom comes from China in AD 620, during the Tang Dynasty [2].

Cordyceps mushrooms have a long tradition of being used as a natural raw material in Asian ethnomedicine due to their adaptogenic and tonic effects and ability to reduce fatigue and stimulate the immune system in humans [1]. They were particularly valued for their ability to increase energy and endurance, making them a prized supplement for athletes and laborers.  

Differences Between Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps Militaris

Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris are the two most common species of Cordyceps [1]. You primarily find Cordyceps sinensis at high altitudes in southwestern China's Qinghai-Tibetan plateau.

Because of its rarity and high demand, Cordyceps sinensis's market price has risen as high as $75,000/kg [4]. On the other hand, Cordyceps militaris can be commercially cultivated, making it a more sustainable and cost-effective option [1][4].

The key distinction lies in the concentrations of two compounds: adenosine and cordycepin [1]. Cordyceps sinensis is higher in adenosine, which is good for the heart and energy, while Cordyceps militaris is higher in cordycepin, which is beneficial for wellness, immunity, inflammation, and cell growth regulation [1].

Key Bioactive Compounds

Cordyceps Sinensis

Cordyceps Militaris

  • Nucleosides
    • Adenosine
    • Cordycepin
  • Polysaccharides
    • Beta-D-glucans
    • Cordycepic Acid (D-Mannitol) 
    • Mannoglucan
    • PS-A
  • Sterols
    • Ergosterol
    • Beta-Sitosterol
  • Peptides


  • Nucleodides
    • Cordycepin
    • Adenosine
  • Polysaccharides
    • Beta-D-glucans
    • Cordycepic Acid (D-Mannitol)
  • Sterols
  • Amino Acids
    • Ergothioneine
    • γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA)
  • Polyphenols and flavonoids
  • Carotenoids

Researched Health Benefits

1. Immune Support

Cordyceps mushrooms have been studied for their potential to stimulate the immune system., such as Natural Killer cell activity, interleukin (IL)-1β, IL-2, IL-6, and IL- [1][8][10].

A randomized controlled clinical trial with Cordyceps militaris mycelium evaluated the immune response in forty healthy adults, twenty males and twenty females.

The study suggests Cordyceps militaris stimulates the immune response by activating NK cells, increasing monocyte concentrations, and reducing inflammatory cytokine secretion in adults without toxicity [6].

These mushrooms are also known to stimulate the phagocytosis of immune cells, increase nitric oxide production by enhancing inducible nitric oxide synthase activity, and stimulate the inflammatory response via the mitogen-activated protein kinase pathway [1][8].

Moreover, Cordyceps mushrooms contain different compounds that can strengthen the immune system's response and control its exacerbated response [1][8].

2. Boosting Exercise Performance

Research suggests that Cordyceps increases the body's adenosine triphosphate (ATP) production, which is essential for delivering energy to the muscles. Cordycepin in Cordyceps mushroom supplements may improve how your body uses oxygen, especially during exercise.

In one clinical study, participants who took a Cordyceps mushroom supplement showed a 7% increase in VO2 max, a measurement used to determine fitness level. Cordycepin also helps reduce the build-up of lactic acid during exercise [4][5].

3. Healthy-Aging Properties

The elderly have traditionally used Cordyceps to reduce fatigue and boost strength and sex drive.

Researchers believe their antioxidant content may explain their anti-aging potential. In addition, studies have found that Cordyceps increases antioxidants in aged mice, helping improve memory and sexual function [1][4][5][7][8][9].

4. Cellular Health Support

Studies have shown that Cordyceps mushrooms have immune support properties, inhibiting the growth of unhealthy cells both in vitro and in vivo [1]. For example, a study on the cellular health effects of Cordyceps sinensis extract on damaged human colon cells found that the extract significantly inhibited unhealthy cell proliferation and induced cell death [1].

5. Adaptogen for Stress Management

Cordyceps mushrooms are considered adaptogens, which help the body ‘adapt’ to stress [4]. One of the bioactive compounds in Cordyceps mushrooms is γ-Aminobutyric acid (GABA), a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain. It is thought to have a calming effect on the nervous system [1].

In addition, researchers have studied Cordyceps mushrooms for their potential health benefits, as they are thought to increase the body’s production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), essential for delivering energy to the muscles. This may improve the way your body uses oxygen, especially during exercise [4][5].

Cordyceps have also been found to support kidney function, heart health, energy, anti-aging, and brain health, and have many immunomodulatory and antioxidant benefits5. They may also help support cellular health [5].

Warnings and Side Effects

While Cordyceps is considered safe for most people and animals, some side effects have been reported.

Mild side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Stomach discomfort

In addition, Cordyceps can slow blood clotting, posing a risk for individuals with bleeding disorders or those about to undergo surgery [1].


Cordyceps mushrooms have a rich history and potential health benefits. More than 2400 published research studies evaluated the health benefits of fruiting bodies and mycelium of both Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris.

These studies suggest that the fruiting body and mycelium of Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris help support your well-being.

This is why Superfood Science Mushroom Ekismate contains both extracts to offer complete nutritional supplementation, unlike competitors’ Cordyceps mushroom powder products that contain only Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies or mycelium.

Cordyceps mushroom extract in Mushroom Ekismate is made with certified organic Cordyceps mushrooms grown in the U.S.A. to ensure safety, purity, and efficacy.


  1. Jędrejko, K. J., Lazur, J., & Muszyńska, B. (2021). Cordyceps militaris: An overview of its chemical constituents in relation to biological activity. Foods, 10(11), 2634.
  2. Holliday, J. C., & Cleaver, M. P. (2008). On the trail of the yak: Ancient Cordyceps in the modern world. ResearchGate.
  3. Tao, Y., Luo, R., Xiang, Y., & Hu, Y. (2005). The traditional Chinese medicine Cordyceps sinensis and its effect in apoptotic homeostasis. Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 96(1-2), 19-29.
  4. (2023). Exploring the bioactive mycocompounds (fungal compounds) of selected medicinal mushrooms and their potentials against HPV infection and associated cancer in humans. Journal of Fungi.
  5. Tuli, H. S., Sandhu, S. S., & Sharma, A. K. (2013). Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin. 3 Biotech, 4, 1–12.
  6. Ontawong, A., Pengnet, S., Thim-Uam, A. et al. A randomized controlled clinical trial examining the effects of Cordyceps militaris beverage on the immune response in healthy adults. Sci Rep 14, 7994 (2024).
  7. Qin, P.; Li, X.; Yang, H.; Wang, Z.-Y.; Lu, D. Therapeutic Potential and Biological Applications of Cordycepin and Metabolic Mechanisms in Cordycepin-Producing Fungi. Molecules 2019, 24, 2231. [Google Scholar]
  8. Das, G., Shin, H., Del, M. L., Cortes, H., Singh, Y. D., Panda, M. K., Mishra, A. P., Nigam, M., Saklani, S., Chaturi, P. K., Martorell, M., Sharma, V., Garg, N., Sharma, R., & Patra, J. K. (2021). Cordyceps spp.: A Review on Its Immune-Stimulatory and Other Biological Potentials. Frontiers in Pharmacology, 11, 602364.
  9. Li, X., He, Y., Zeng, P., Liu, Y., Zhang, M., & Liu, J. (2023). Molecular mechanisms, structure-activity relationships, and application prospects of polysaccharides by regulating Nrf2-mediated antioxidant response. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules.
  10. Jung, SJ., Jung, ES., Choi, EK. et al. Immunomodulatory effects of a mycelium extract of Cordyceps (Paecilomyces hepiali; CBG-CS-2): a randomized and double-blind clinical trial. BMC Complement Altern Med 19, 77 (2019).
  11. Zhang, G., Huang, Y., Bian, Y., & Wong, J. H. (2016). Structural properties of polysaccharides from cultivated fruit bodies and mycelium of Cordyceps militaris. International Journal of Biological Macromolecules, 86, 731-742.
  12. Panda, A.K., & Swain, K.C. (2011). Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim. Journal of Ayurveda and Integrative Medicine, 2, 9 - 13.
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