Cordyceps mushrooms have recently gained more popularity, partly due to their feature as the brainwashing zombie-infesting villain of the new hit TV series, The Last of Us. In the show, cordyceps is a deadly infestation that plagues the entire human race. However, in reality, cordyceps actually have some pretty amazing health benefits for the human body. Improving energy levels, supporting the immune system response, and helping to regulate the nervous system are just a few of the many benefits Cordyceps can provide.
Like many supplements, there is often misinformation and confusion about the right way to take them. Many wonder how to take cordyceps and what time of day is best to get maximum benefits. In this deep dive, we’ll explore the science behind the benefits of cordyceps supplements, what forms they can take, and the ideal times to consume them for optimal results.
Cordyceps, also known as the caterpillar fungus, zombie fungus, and even the “himalayan viagra” (more on that later), has a fairly unique alien-like appearance. Contrary to the stereotypical mushroom cap toadstool appearance, cordyceps mushrooms fruiting bodies grow in long clusters of stalks, ranging from brown to bright orange. Wild cordyceps is most commonly found growing in Asia and is believed to have originated in the Tibetan Plateau. There are over 400 species of cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris being the most commonly known).
The fungus has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for hundreds of years, targeting an immense range of wellness benefits. More recently, the mushroom has gained popularity in western cultures and is considered one of the more popular functional mushrooms for energy and focus alongside other well-known species like Reishi and Chaga. These health benefits stem largely from the high presence of beta-glucans in the mushroom’s fruiting body (the part that grows above ground). Essentially, this chemical is a polysaccharide that helps prevent the buildup of harmful particles called free radicals in your body. The compound gives the mushroom its anti-oxidative effect, leading to an improved immune system and overall better well-being.
If you’d like to learn more about antioxidants, check out our article on the antioxidant benefits of Chaga.
Cordyceps are known for a fantastic array of benefits to support your overall health (hence the reason many consider it to be a true superfood). When taken correctly, Cordyceps has been shown to provide these beneficial effects on the body:
With very few adverse side effects, it’s no wonder that cordyceps has remained a popular medicinal mushroom and health food for so long.
There are a few different forms of cordyceps mushrooms and several kinds of mushroom products, which all have different benefits depending on your specific goals.
Whole mushrooms are an excellent option for those who want to experiment in the kitchen, using them as flavor additives and meal nutrition boosters. The cordyceps will have the same effect, whether they’re fresh or dried in this form. Consuming whole mushrooms can be a great way to incorporate them into your daily life and can be as simple or as elaborate as your kitchen expertise goes.
One popular way to benefit from whole cordyceps mushrooms is by making them into mushroom tea. Place them in just-boiled water alongside your favorite tea blends, spices, and honey, and let steep for around 10-15 minutes. This at-home hot-water extract method allows you to get some of the fungi’s health benefits from the comfort of your own kitchen.
You can also incorporate dried mushrooms into your cooking recipes. Because of their rich, umami flavor, they can be a great addition to soups, stir fry, and pasta recipes. This recipe uses cordyceps’ natural noodle shape to create a mouth-watering and healthy pasta dish.
Mushroom extracts are considered an even more effective way to absorb the benefits of cordyceps because they can draw even more nutrients out of the mushrooms. Extracts can come in the form of tinctures, pills, and powders. It’s important to ensure that the type of mushroom extract you consume uses a dual-extraction method, meaning both alcohol and water-soluble extractions are used. This is because different types of compounds will be extracted using each method, leading to the most benefits when combined.
Many of these products also offer mushroom blends to help you target different symptoms and wellness benefits.
If you want to learn more about how different combinations can target other areas, check out our article on mushroom stacking.
Because of the associated energizing effect of cordyceps mushrooms on the body, it is most commonly suggested to take them in the morning, especially if you want to improve your endurance and exercise performance with a cordyceps pre-workout supplement.
If you’ve ever wanted to get some of the energy benefits of coffee without the intense crash that commonly follows, a cordyceps coffee blend might be a great option!
On a logistical level, the morning also adds a lot of opportunities to make it easier to remember to take your supplements, as you can incorporate it with your morning wake-up routine.
If you have ever struggled with wanting to reach for that after-lunch coffee or you tend to feel sluggish mid-day, you might want to try implementing cordyceps into your afternoon routine. You can easily incorporate cordyceps into your day with a flavored water drink or smoothie. These are a great way to prevent the daily after-lunch crash and maintain consistency as you try to reap the benefits of this incredible mushroom.
While cordyceps are often suggested as a potential aid for insomnia, there is some debate about whether the supplement is effective when taken at night. Since cordyceps are often associated with giving you more energy, many recommend taking the mushroom in the morning. In turn, it will help you regulate your energy levels throughout the day to get a good night’s rest later on.
In general, however, cordyceps is a great functional mushroom to support energy levels, mood, and the immune system. Trying out these supplements in the morning is a great way to start, as they can help regulate your energy levels throughout the day, leading to a more balanced well-being and often a better night’s rest!
No matter when you decide to incorporate these mushrooms into your routine, it’s a good idea to test out different kinds of supplements and methods to see what works best for you. The mushroom journey is unique to everyone, and you may find that what works for you may not work for everyone else!
It’s also important to know that, like many pharmaceutical drugs, the benefits of medicinal mushrooms come with taking them consistently over a longer period of time. As you continue to explore the world of functional mushrooms, we know you’ll enjoy their life-improving benefits just as much as we do!