Cordyceps – Uses, Side Effects, and More

Cordyceps, often heralded as a natural wonder, is a fungus with a storied history and a host of potential health benefits. This unique organism thrives on certain caterpillars in the high mountain regions of China, and its use in traditional medicine spans centuries. Today, most cordyceps supplements are cultivated in laboratories due to the scarcity and high cost of natural specimens. Despite its classification as a fungus, it’s important to note that laboratory-grown cordyceps do not produce a mushroom.

Potential Health Benefits and Uses of Cordyceps

Cordyceps has been traditionally used for a range of health conditions. It is believed to improve immunity by stimulating cells and specific chemicals in the immune system. Some research suggests that it may possess anti-cancer properties, with potential to fight cancer cells and reduce tumor size, particularly in lung or skin cancers.

Athletic Performance

Contrary to popular belief and traditional use, scientific evidence indicates that cordyceps does not appear to enhance athletic performance in adults. Despite this, it remains a popular supplement among athletes and fitness enthusiasts, often used with the hope of improving endurance and stamina.

Kidney and Liver Health

Traditional use of cordyceps includes treatment for kidney disorders and liver problems. While scientific backing is still in nascent stages, there are some studies that suggest potential benefits in these areas, particularly in protecting the kidneys from damage and supporting liver health.

Sexual Dysfunction

Cordyceps has been used to address various sexual problems, though again, the scientific evidence to support these claims is not robust. Some studies have hinted at its potential to improve libido and sexual function, but further research is necessary.

Side Effects and Safety

When taken by mouth in doses of 3-6 grams daily for up to a year, cordyceps is possibly safe for most people. However, its safety profile during pregnancy and breastfeeding is not well established, and it is recommended to avoid its use in these circumstances.

Cordyceps may cause the immune system to become more active, which could aggravate symptoms in individuals with autoimmune diseases such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA), or other similar conditions.

Furthermore, cordyceps might slow blood clotting, posing a potential risk when used in conjunction with anticoagulant or antiplatelet drugs. It could also potentially interact with medications intended to suppress the immune system, such as those used after organ transplants.

Minor Interactions

Cordyceps may interact with testosterone, potentially increasing its levels, which could be a concern for individuals taking testosterone or those with conditions sensitive to hormonal changes.

Dosing Considerations

The dosage of cordyceps can vary depending on the condition being addressed. Adults have most commonly used doses ranging from 3-6 grams taken orally each day. To determine an appropriate dose for a specific condition, it is always best to consult with a healthcare provider.

Research and References

While there’s a growing body of research on cordyceps, much of the scientific evidence is not conclusive. Some studies, such as those by Balon, T. W., Jasman, A. P., and Zhu, J. S. on insulin sensitivity and by Chen, S., Li, Z., Krochmal, R., Abrazado, M., Kim, W., and Cooper, C. B. on exercise performance, provide insights into its potential effects, but larger, more comprehensive studies are needed to solidify these findings.

For individuals interested in the potential anti-cancer properties of cordyceps, the study by Gong, H. Y., Wang, K. Q., and Tang, S. G. may offer some preliminary insights into its effects on T lymphocyte subsets and hepatofibrosis in patients with chronic hepatitis B.

Those concerned with renal health may find the research by Ding, C., Tian, P. X., Xue, W., Ding, X., Yan, H., Pan, X., Feng, X., Xiang, H., Hou, J., and Tian, X. to be of particular interest, as it explores the efficacy of Cordyceps sinensis in the long-term treatment of renal transplant patients.


Cordyceps is a fascinating fungus with a rich history in traditional medicine. While it shows promise for various health benefits, it’s crucial to approach its use with caution, considering its interactions and potential side effects. As with any supplement, consulting healthcare professionals before starting any new treatment regimen is essential.

For those looking to explore the world of traditional and alternative medicines, cordyceps offers an intriguing glimpse into the potential of natural compounds. However, it’s important to rely on evidence-based research and medical advice to make informed decisions about its use.