01 Mar 2023

How to take cordyceps

Cordyceps is becoming ever more popular as a way to enhance our wellbeing. However, understanding how to harness its health benefits can be confusing if you’re new to the world of medicinal mushrooms. In this article, we cover some different options for how to take cordyceps, and the pros and cons of each. Hopefully this will help you find the optimal method for enjoying its many wellness-boosting powers.

What is cordyceps?

Cordyceps is a type of fungus that’s prized for its wealth of potential health benefits. There are over 400 species of the mushroom, however the main types sold today are cordyceps sinensis and cordyceps militaris.

Practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine and similar healthcare systems have been using cordyceps for thousands of years. They believe it can help with everything from improving athletic performance to boosting the immune system. What’s interesting is that modern scientific research is finding promising results to support this impressive reputation.

Another fascinating thing about cordyceps is its unique life cycle. In the wild, it develops on a living host.(1) If you think that sounds creepy, you’re right! The spores infect a caterpillar, ant, or similar small insect, and the fungus then spreads inside its body. The cordyceps takes control of its host, directing it to a spot that’s more suitable for the mushroom to mature. Eventually the bug dies, and the fungus grows out of its body, ready to release more spores.

Right now, you’re probably not wondering how to take cordyceps. Instead, you’re likely asking yourself why on earth anyone would want to consume such a fungus. Well, first of all, don’t worry: taking cordyceps won’t turn you into a mindless zombie! Quite the opposite – the mushroom has a wide range of wellness-boosting properties to offer us. Secondly, the vast majority of cordyceps on the market is grown on carefully controlled substrates with no insects in sight.

With those concerns out of the way, let’s go over how the fungus could benefit you. We’ll then turn to the specifics of how to take cordyceps.

Himalayan Gold: the benefits of taking cordyceps

Before thinking about how to take cordyceps, it’s important to know what gains you’re hoping to get from the mushroom. The good news is that there are several possible ways in which it can boost your wellbeing. That’s what earned cordyceps the nickname ‘Himalayan Gold’. We do have a dedicated article about the benefits of cordyceps, but here’s a quick recap.

One of the most popular reasons for taking cordyceps is to boost energy. Research suggests the fungus might reduce fatigue and improve athletic performance, partly by improving the way the body uses oxygen.(2) The mushroom could similarly work to enhance a low sex drive. It’s not only the body though. Some studies have found cordyceps also improves memory in aged mice, however trials on humans are required to clarify this.

Speaking of ageing, as an antioxidant, cordyceps could additionally help to fight the damage caused to our cells by free radicals. This is vital because experts have linked such damage to an array of chronic diseases and signs of ageing. Moreover, cordyceps boasts impressive anti-inflammatory properties.(3) Inflammation contributes to a number of harmful conditions, for example heart disease, so this is another important benefit.

People especially prize cordyceps for the positive impact it can have on your immunity. This is thanks to the beta-glucans it contains, which can enhance the function of certain types of immune cells.(4)

Furthermore, evidence indicates that cordyceps might be effective at inhibiting cancer cells and slowing the growth of tumours.(5) Research also suggests the fungus could work to manage blood sugar levels in people with diabetes.(6) So with all these potential advantages to be gained, it’s important to know how to take cordyceps safely and effectively.

How to take cordyceps

Now that you have a better idea of the benefits this fascinating fungus can offer, let’s talk about how to take cordyceps. There are several different options out there, and the best choice for you will depend on a few factors. These include your personal preferences, what fits in with your daily routine, and so on.

Like with all adaptogens, you shouldn’t expect results overnight. Whichever method you pick, you’ll probably need to take cordyceps for a few weeks before the benefits appear. We recommend taking a break after 6-8 weeks of using cordyceps, to allow your body to rebalance. Healthy individuals can do three or four of these cycles a year.

With that in mind, below are three of the most common options for how to take cordyceps. We go through the pros and cons of each to help you decide which is the right method for you.

dried cordyceps

Method one: fresh or dried cordyceps mushrooms

Perhaps the most obvious way to take cordyceps is simply to consume the mushrooms in their natural state. If you’re curious about how to eat cordyceps, they are safe to munch on raw. However, you can also cook them just like any other type of mushroom. So far, so good.

The difficulty with this is that cordyceps mushrooms are not always easy to source. Unfortunately, you’re not going to find them alongside the chestnut mushrooms in the supermarket! An easier alternative is to buy them dried. You can then use these to make cordyceps tea.

This traditional drink is a great option for how to take cordyceps. That’s because hot water helps to extract the nutrients from the mushroom, enabling you to get the maximum health benefits. Plus, it’s nice and simple! All you have to do is add the dried mushrooms to hot water and leave it to steep.

The key factor to remember is you need to steep them for far longer than when you make leaf tea. Most recipes suggest leaving the mushrooms to simmer for at least 15 minutes and as much as 45 minutes. Cordyceps has a mildly bitter taste, so you can always add other ingredients to the tea to mask it if you’re not a fan. Honey, ginger and mint all work well for this.

Method two: cordyceps supplements

If you’re looking for the easiest option of how to take cordyceps, you might like the idea of daily capsules. There are different varieties available and, depending on the strength, they usually recommend taking 1-4 per day with a meal.

The main downside of capsules is that you need to be careful where you buy them from. Some suppliers are less reputable than others, and may bulk out their capsules with unwanted filler ingredients. Likewise, the capsules themselves often contain animal-derived ingredients like gelatine, meaning they’re not suitable for those on a plant-based diet.

In line with this, most supplements don’t indicate the amount of active ingredients – such as beta-glucans and cordycepin – they contain. This is important because those compounds are the ones doing the heavy lifting in terms of health benefits. 

Therefore, if you choose capsules, make sure you scrutinise the information about the ingredients and how they were sourced carefully. That way, you can be confident about what you’re putting into your body

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