Cordyceps, a name taken from the Latin for “club head,” is a genus of fungi that accounts for some 400 unique species, several of which – including cordyceps militaris and cordyceps sinensis – are coming under closer examination for their myriad health benefits. Distributed mostly throughout East and Southeast Asia, Cordcyeps are parasitic fungi that infest and manipulate the behavior of their various insect hosts in ways that will allow for further propagation of the fungus. (cordyceps sinesis, in particular, is colorfully known as a “caterpillar hijacker” thanks to this activity.)
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The reputation for cordyceps‘ medicinal quality has become widespread enough that, in many villages of rural Tibet (where it is known as yartsa gunbu, and has been used for many centuries now), it is a staple of the local economy: governmental statistics in 2004 revealed that its cultivation accounted for about $225 million of the Tibet Autonomous Region’s gross domestic product. The international ‘boom’ in the popularity of cordyceps sinesis, in particular, can be partially traced back to the 1993 revelation of Chinese track & field coach Ma Junren, who claimed that Cordyceps-based concoctions boosted the stamina of his record-setting runners.” Go here to read more about the best testosterone boosters.
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Rigorous studies meant to determine the health benefits of various cordyceps species have been a mixed bag: several tests done to see if cordyceps heightened aerobic performance and VO2 max (i.e. maximum oxygen intake) were inconclusive. Yet numerous studies exist that either confirm the health potential of species in the cordyceps family, or at least invite further curiosity: for example, the lactate threshold of older individuals was found to be increased during a regimen of cordyceps sinensis (this being the point during exercise in which lactic acid accumulates in the bloodstream at a rate too quick to ‘clear’, with a higher lactate threshold therefore equating to more sustained workouts.)
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As to testosterone production in particular, there are some promising reports on the use of cordyceps varieties, particularly the mycelium (i.e. the vegetative portion) of cordyceps militaris (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3121254/). In 2008, A Taiwanese research team from the Jenteh Junior College of Medicine and Nursing Management found that Sprague-Dawley rats dosed with cordcyeps militaris for 6 weeks had increased concentrations of serum testosterone and other hormones such as estradiol (though no noticeable increase in the cell-stimulating LH [luteinizing hormone], or its synergistic partner FDH [follicle-stimulating hormone.]) Sperm quantity and motility was concluded to be directly and positively affected by adding cordyceps militaris to the rats’ diet.
Products containing a cordyceps extract are not common features of supplement or health supermarkets, though it is possible to purchase them directly from some companies. One such case is the Health Choice group in New Zealand, which offers a trademarked Cordysen™ extract and suggests health benefits in no less than twelve distinct areas (e.g. ‘anti aging’, ‘heart & cardiovascular’, ‘libido & erectile.’) Physician Formulas also offers a 60-capsule supply of 525mg capsules for $12.95 (if purchased directly from them), which utilizes the mycelia of the fungus as well as an extract, an innovation that the company claims will insure “a full spectrum of important cordyceps constituents.”
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There are downsides to the interest in cordyceps that have little to do with the personal results achieved from its usage: like many organic substances that have been touted as a “natural Viagra,” an unprecedented 21st century surge in popularity has led to overharvesting of the fungi, with some 100 tons being harvested over the period 2004-2007 (which was already a 10% reduction of harvests tabulated in each of the twenty years before this.)
Simple economics dictates that this will likely lead to higher prices in the future for cordyceps-based compounds, which will not be helped by the lengths to which some are going to maintain their cordyceps sinensis “turf” (in 2007, lethal gun battles over prime harvesting areas were reported in Sichuan province.) Put briefly, anyone wishing to commit to long-term use of cordyceps sinensis may want to resign themselves to the fact that their supply of mushrooms will be contingent upon the socio-economic stability of the countries in which it is harvested.
Overall, adverse effects resulting from cordyceps use are not frequently reported. Daily doses of up to 3-6g a day should be safe for most consumers, though there are exceptions. Individuals being medicated for hypoglycemia should be cautious, as it can react with this medication to drop blood sugar levels considerably. Supplement manufacturers will claim that cordyceps may be taken with or without food, with no preferred time of the day for self-administration. It is still advisable, in any case, to obtain a physician’s professional advice in relation to health complications.