The genus Cordyceps, a medicinal mushroom are a rare combination of fungus and caterpillar which originate from the mountain regions of China. The combination comes from fungi growing on the larvae of caterpillars. Despite the peculiar growth conditions, cordyceps have been found to have many potential health benefits and have been the subject of much scientific research.
Origins of Cordyceps
Having been used for medicinal purposes in China and Tibet for centuries, cordyceps are thought to be able to help treat a variety of illnesses. The cordyceps genus is a type of medicinal mushroom that has around 750 different species that are found across the world. Although most used in China and other Southeast Asian countries, cordyceps have become more commonly used in North America and Europe.
At the moment, there are 35 different species of cordyceps that have been reported to have therapeutic and medicinal properties. It is thought that the potential benefits of cordyceps include properties such as antibacterial, anti-diabetic, anti-inflammatory, and cytotoxic.
It has also been discovered that for medicinal mushrooms such as cordyceps, it can be more beneficial to consume extracts rather than taking the mushrooms directly.
What are Medicinal Mushrooms?
Medicinal mushrooms are types of macroscopic fungi that contain properties that could be potentially beneficial for medical conditions. Often taken in the form of capsules or powders, medicinal mushrooms could be used to alleviate, prevent, and sometimes even cure a range of diseases and health problems.
It is always important to do research however and ask for expert medical advice if you have serious health issues, however, in some circumstances, medicinal mushrooms could help to alleviate your symptoms.
What are the Potential Benefits of Cordyceps?
Historically, cordyceps have been used in ancient Chinese culture for many different types of medical issues, ranging from kidney disease to low libidos. Today, having been the subject of much scientific research, it has been discovered that cordyceps can have several potential benefits, including the following:
- Anti-allergic: Studies have shown that certain cordyceps properties may be able to inhibit allergic responses and could be used as a therapeutic agent to manage allergies.
- Anti-inflammatory: Cordyceps have been shown to suppress proteins responsible for increasing inflammation in the body. It has therefore been claimed that medicinal mushrooms including cordyceps can serve well as anti-inflammatory supplements.
- Antioxidants: Cordyceps are an excellent antioxidant, which helps to protect our cells from dangerous toxins and free radicals.
- Anti-fatigue: It is thought that cordyceps can help the body deliver energy to muscles efficiently, which results in a reduction in fatigue and exhaustion.
- Cytotoxic: Certain studies have found that as well as having antimicrobial and antioxidant properties, cordyceps are also high in cytotoxic properties.
- Improve Athletic Performance: As cordyceps can transfer energy more efficiently, they can help to improve stamina and therefore help with athletic performance.
The Differences Between Medicinal Mushroom Extracts and Powder
Powders can be made from medicinal mushrooms in a variety of different ways. To create mushroom powder, the mushrooms need to be dehydrated at temperatures that don’t entirely break down the chitin, which are the cellular walls of the mushroom that are mostly indigestible. Once they have been fully dried out, they need to be ground up into the powder. Mushroom powders can be made from either the fruiting body or from mycelium, also known as the mushroom’s roots.
Mycelium absorb nutrients and release enzymes for the mushroom, and is part of the foundation which gives the mushroom its beneficial properties. To make powder, the myceliated grains need to be freeze-dried and then crushed, without any type of extraction procedure.
Mushroom extract, on the other hand, is formed in a different way to powder. One common method is through Hot Water Extraction, which can be used to effectively break down the chitin as it is sensitive to hot temperatures. Once the chitin is boiled, the mixture is put through a spray drier which removes all liquid. Consuming mushroom extract which has been created through this method allows our digestive enzymes to absorb key bio-active and nutritional components of the mushrooms, including a variety of proteins and vitamins.
In terms of deciding whether to consume powder or extract, it entirely depends on the individual. Powders are a better option if you want to enjoy the benefits of mushrooms as part of your diet, as the nutritional value of the mushrooms are kept intact within powder. However, if you’re more interested in the medicinal value of mushrooms, extracts may be the better option, as they contain beta-glucans in this form which are easier for your body to digest after being extracted through the hot water method.
Cordyceps are frequently referred to as one of the best superfoods on the planet, and there are seemingly some good reasons behind this with it looking like Cordyceps could help with a variety of issues. Is it worth including them in your diet to see if you experience the potential benefits?