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Cordyceps – What Are They?

Cordyceps – what are they?

Cordyceps are a group of fungi that have been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. They are thought to have various health benefits, such as having antibacterial, antiviral, and anti-tumor properties, improving exercise performance, and managing diseases.

Key takeaways: 

1. Cordyceps are a group of fungi that have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.

2. They contain a number of active compounds (cordycepin, polysaccharides, adenosine) that positively impact health.

3. Studies found that cordyceps can reduce inflammation, boost immune function, lower the risk of heart disease and improve exercise performance.


What are cordyceps? 

The fruiting body of cordyceps contains a bioactive component called cordycepin. Cordycepin plays a part in restructuring the cytoskeleton of cells, enhancing cell differentiation, stopping the phosphorylation of proteins, and is involved in many other important processes. Some other constituents of cordyceps include nucleotides, adenosine, polysaccharides, and D-mannitol. All of these components have been shown to positively impact health, so cordyceps have the potential to act restoratively and preventively. Cordyceps are generally marketed as nutritional supplements that are thought to improve lung capacity and exercise performance, slow aging, and fight disease.


Health benefits of cordyceps 

Since cordycepin increases antioxidant levels, it reduces inflammation in the body and has a neuroprotective effect. Additionally, the increase in antioxidants is related to better cardiovascular health and reduced risk of heart disease. The three nucleotides found in cordyceps are known for also known for improving immunity, which supports the research that has shown cordyceps provides immunological benefits. Cordyceps polysaccharides not only have antioxidant activity and antiviral/antibacterial capacities, but they are also shown to have anti-tumor properties. Lastly, research has shown that cordyceps is capable of reducing exercise fatigue and improving VO2.


Works Cited 

Cunningham, K. G., et al. “Cordycepin, a metabolic product isolated from cultures of Cordyceps militaris (Linn.) Link.” Nature 166.4231 (1950): 949.

Kuo, Yuh-Chi, et al. “Cordyceps sinensis as an immunomodulatory agent.” The American journal of Chinese medicine 24.02 (1996): 111-125.

Tuli, Hardeep S., et al. “Cordycepin: a bioactive metabolite with therapeutic potential.” Life Sciences 93.23 (2013): 863-869.

Xu, Jin, et al. “The mechanisms of pharmacological activities of Ophiocordyceps sinensis fungi.” Phytotherapy research30.10 (2016): 1572-1583.

Yi Liu, Jihui Wang, Wei Wang, Hanyue Zhang, Xuelan Zhang, and Chunchao Han, “The Chemical Constituents and Pharmacological Actions of Cordyceps sinensis,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2015, Article ID 575063, 12 pages, 2015.

Zhou, Xuanwei, et al. “Cordyceps fungi: natural products, pharmacological functions and developmental products.” Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology 61.3 (2009): 279-291.

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