When most people think of mushrooms, they picture the typical cap mushrooms found in most supermarkets. These mushrooms are often used as a meat substitute or as a side dish, adding a layer of complexity to a meal.
While cap mushrooms might be some of the most common mushrooms, they are not the only type of edible fungi. Cordyceps are a rare mushroom that is grown in East Asia. Unlike cap mushrooms, cordyceps are eaten mainly for their health and medical benefits rather than their taste.
Cordyceps are one of the latest health food trends and have caught many people’s attention as a result of their dense blend of vital nutrients. Another reason that cordyceps has become so popular is that they can be consumed in the form of cordyceps mushroom capsules, making them easy to work into a person’s diet.
What exactly are cordyceps mushrooms, and do they live up to the hype?
What Are Cordyceps?
Cordyceps mushrooms have a much milder taste than is commonly expected of mushrooms. This is one of the reasons that they are rarely used in western dishes. Along with the fact that they grow in East Asia and have only recently become widely available in the west.
Even in East Asian cuisine, cordyceps is not typically used in cooking but is instead used as a herbal remedy. Cordyceps are packed with vitamins, minerals, and proteins and have been used throughout history to improve digestion and general health.
Many people are put off of trying cordyceps mushrooms due to the way in which they grow. Cordyceps spread by taking over the bodies of young insect larvae and transforming them into caterpillar-funk hybrids.
The result of this process is an unusual-looking fungus that resembles a cluster of worms sticking up from the ground. When cordyceps are harvested, they deepen in color to a dark brown, making them look slightly less insect-like and more like the root of a plant.
Cordyceps mushrooms are found in the Himalayan foothills of Western China and Tibet. It has become harder to find cordyceps growing in the wild in the last few decades due to over-harvesting. Instead, most cordyceps that are available to purchase are now developed in labs and derived from cultivated varieties of the fungi.
Top Health Benefits Scientists Have Linked to Cordyceps Mushrooms
The main reason that cordyceps mushrooms have gained the status of ‘super food’ is as a result of the dense combination of nutrients that they contain. Cordyceps are special because they contain a unique blend of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and complex carbohydrates.
The idea of consuming cordyceps, whether as a food or a health supplement in western society, is still relatively new. Research into the full extent of the ways in which the fungi can positively benefit a person’s health is still in its early stages.
There are a few things that we can learn about Cordyceps mushroom from science that support the idea of it being an effective superfood. Here are a few of the benefits of Cordyceps that are supported by scientific research.
#1 – Support the Body’s Immune System
Cordyceps contain polysaccharides and are believed to work within the body to support the immune system. Working products like Cordyceps capsules or powders into a regular part of a healthy diet is thought to provide the immune system with a bit of extra support when protecting the body.
Several other compounds found within cordyceps, like cordycepin, have also been found to support the immune system. Research has shown cordycepin to have a similar chemical structure to adenosine, one of the critical components in human cells. Therefore, it is thought that these two compounds can work and benefit the body in a similar way.
#2 – Increased Energy
Evidence suggests that Cordyceps can be used to improve a person’s energy levels. One particular study found that when participants were given Cordyceps supplements every day for a prolonged period of time, their energy levels began to improve.
It was concluded that the Cordyceps supplement could be an effective treatment for people who suffer from chronic fatigue. It could also be possible to use the cordyceps supplement for more short-term gains to boost energy and motivation for work and exercise purposes.
#3 – Improved Fitness Levels
Research focusing on the unique blend of proteins, minerals, vitamins, amino acids, and polysaccharides found within cordyceps has caught the attention of many looking for an all-natural health supplement. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts are increasingly using cordyceps mushrooms to help increase their overall fitness levels.
Products such as cordyceps capsules and powders added to meals have become popular ways to incorporate the fungi into a healthy meal plan for maximum effectiveness.