The Nootropics Library: Cordyceps Mushroom

Everything You Need To Know About Cordyceps Mushrooms

General Information

Scientific Name: Cordyceps militaris (and Cordyceps sinensis)

Any Other Names: Caterpillar Fungus, Caterpiller Mushroom, CS-4, Chinese Caterpillar Fungus, Chinese Caterpillar Mushroom, Tochukaso, Dong Chong Xia Cao, Dong Chong Zia Cao, and Champignon Chenille

Primary Constituents: Cordycepin, or 3′-deoxyadenosine [derivative of the nucleoside adenosine]

Country or Region of Origin: Abundant in Humid Temperate and Tropical Forests, Prevalent in Asia, Found Worldwide

Known Uses: Anti-Fatigue, Energy, Endurance, Anti-Tumor, Increased Testosterone, Management of Type 2 Diabetes, [purportedly] Anti-Aging, and More

General History & Introduction

The Cordyceps Mushroom is one of the many fungi popular for use in Chinese, Tibetan, and other Asian medicines (Sung et al., 2007). Sometimes they grow in plentiful quantities, even in clusters, and other times they grow independent of one another and more sparsely apart. There are hundreds of species of the Cordyceps Mushroom. Some species of Cordyceps actually grow on caterpillars (Carroll, 2019). The Cordyceps militaris contains the most cordycepin, making it one of the most desirable species of the genus (Cunningham et al., 1950). It has been promoted as a nootropic in recent years for its possible ability to boost energy and combat aging (Paterson, 2008).  

The Mushroom’s nucleosides include adenosine, allowing the body to authenticate Cordyceps and its benefits (Paterson, 2008). Basically, cordycepin is so similar to adenosine that some enzymes will treat them the same.  This lack of discrimination means cordycepin can enjoy many of the same biochemical reactions as Adenosine (Kondrashov et al., 2012). Cordyceps sinensis is another species within the Cordyceps Mushroom genus which has many well-studied benefits (Panda & Swain, 2011). These purported benefits include increased longevity, erectile dysfunction treatment, aphrodisiac, infertility, energy, and as a holistic treatment for many diverse illnesses, ailments, and diseases (2011).

Nootropic Benefits of Cordyceps Mushrooms



The Cordyceps Mushroom has traditionally been known for its use as an energy and endurance booster.  In fact, one study has concluded that the mushroom has the direct ability to increase energy, promote greater aerobic and anaerobic exercise benefits, and improve the consumption and use of oxygen in the body (Hirsch et al., 2017). Another recent study has suggested that the mushroom can improve exercise endurance capacity and athletic power (Kumar et al., 2011). Additionally, supplementation of healthy doses of antioxidants can have a great impact on the body’s energy production (Takami et al., 2019). The bioactive constituents of which produce the mushroom’s anti-fatigue properties can be narrowed down to nucleosides, peptides, phenolic compounds, polysaccharides, and triterpenoids (Geng et al., 2017). And although natural and cultured samples of Cordyceps Mushrooms vary, both provide excellent antioxidant capacity (Wang et al., 2015).

Anti-Tumor Effects

Although the research is minimal, there is some rather promising data in terms of the Cordyceps Mushroom’s possible capacity for treating and preventing tumors. For instance, the mushroom’s nucleosides provide excellent anti-tumor activities (Paterson, 2008). Many recent studies have revealed its potential effects on tumors and the prevention of growth (Panda & Swain, 2011). Some recent test-tube studies revealed the mushroom’s potential to inhibit the growth of a variety of cancer cells in humans (Nakamura et al., 1999; Wu et al., 2007; Ng & Wang, 2005).  This includes cancers of the colon, liver, lung, and skin (1999; 2007; 2005).

Increased Testosterone

Cordyceps Mushrooms offer common, holistic solutions for infertility in both men and females, even offering increased sperm production (Panda & Swain, 2011). It has been suggested that the mushroom can extend erectile capacity, resolve erectile dysfunction, and improve physical endurance in men (2011). The mushroom is used for its purported general aphrodisiac properties and is especially useful as a female aphrodisiac.  Studies reveal the Cordyceps Mushroom can also delay muscle fatigue (2011). 



Although there is no rock-solid, empirical data that supports this plant prevents aging, some studies do support some claims that the Cordyceps Mushroom can produce some superior, health-inspiring benefits. For example, the fungi’s powerful antioxidant properties may have the clinical capacity to prevent many age-related diseases (Paterson, 2008). The potency of the mushroom’s polysaccharides offers an enhancement by increasing the speed and duration of the immune response development (2008).  Modern studies have also revealed the mushroom’s exciting potential to combat aging changes in gene expression throughout brain and muscle tissues (Wood, & Mastaloudis, 2010).  This study also outlined the fungi’s potentially positive impact on overall healthy lifespan (2010).

Other Benefits

There are clinical trials and studies which support the use of Cordyceps Mushrooms for the treatment and regulation of Type 2 Diabetes, alcoholic hepatitis, liver diseases, and kidney diseases (Panda & Swain, 2011).  The fungi have been shown to improve coronary heart disease, prostate enlargement, low blood pressure, and dizziness. It is used to fight inflammation, for hormone regulation, and jaundice.  It has even been used to treat bronchitis and tuberculosis.  And finally, there are studies which support the use of the mushroom to treat cough, colds, and chronic pain (2011).

Dosing and Usage Information

A typical dose of a Cordyceps Mushroom extract in a dietary supplement is around 200-300 mg. These extracts are anywhere from 2:1 to 10:1 in terms of strength.  Traditionally, although inconvenient and fowl tasting, the mushroom would be brewed into an herbal tea.

Side Effects

Although the Cordyceps Mushroom is typically considered safe for short-term use, there are some rare, mild side effects for some users.  These side effects may include: stomach ache, light nausea, diarrhea, or dry mouth (Carroll, 2019). It could also create issues for hypoglycemics and diabetics (whom are encouraged to speak to their physicians before adding the mushroom to their daily regimen), as it can have an effect on blood sugar (2019).  Additionally, there is a possibility it could increase the effects of blood-thinning medication (2019).

Other Important Information


It is important to remember that there are many varieties of species within the Cordyceps genus, and that they do offer different variations of benefits.  Some of the species possess higher contents of the primary constituents responsible for significant medicinal benefits.  While the administration methods of the plant have changed from primitive brewing techniques to modern extractions, the way the constituents work within the human body have not changed.  Cordyceps Mushrooms are an important part of the nootropics world for their incredible energizing and general antioxidant properties.


In the end, there are many medicinal mushrooms, and the Cordyceps Mushroom genus is rather diverse.  There are a lot of ways the mushrooms have been used in traditional holistic healing throughout many cultures.  Many of these traditional uses are still effective and popular in modern times, with the exception that they are offered in the form of Codyceps nootropic supplements rather than herbal teas.  The mushrooms do boast a large number of studies and clinical trials (some of which are used as evidence throughout this article) which support a good portion of its purported benefits and general safety.

A Note from NooFiles

This article is intended to be used for information only.  We want to remind you that consulting your physician is recommended before adding any dietary supplement of any kind to your daily regimen.


Carroll, P. (2019). Cordyceps: Benefits and Side Effects. Lifestyle. Retrieved from:

Cunningham, K., Manson, W., Spring, F., & Hutchinson, S. (1950). Cordycepin, a Metabolic Product isolated from Cultures of Cordyceps militaris (Linn.) Nature. Vol. 166(4231). Pp. 949. DOI:10.1038/166949a0

Geng, P., Siu, K. C., Wang, Z., & Wu, J. Y. (2017). Antifatigue Functions and Mechanisms of Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms. BioMed research international. DOI:

Hirsch, K. R., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Roelofs, E. J., Trexler, E. T., & Mock, M. G. (2017). Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation. Journal of dietary supplements. Vol. 14(1). Pp. 42–53. DOI:

Kondrashov, A., Meijer, H., Barthet-Barateig, A., Parker, H., Khurshid, A., and Tessier, S. (2012). Inhibition of polyadenylation reduces inflammatory gene induction. RNA. Vol. 18(12). Pp. 2236–50. DOI:10.1261/rna.032391.112

Kumar, R., Negi, P., Singh, B., Ilavazhagan, G., Bhargava, K., Sethy, N., (2011). Cordyceps sinensis promotes exercise endurance capacity of rats by activating skeletal muscle metabolic regulators. Journal of Ethnopharmacology. Vol. 136(1). Pp. 260-266. DOI:

Nakamura K, Yamaguchi Y, Kagota S, Kwon YM, Shinozuka K, Kunitomo M. (1999). Inhibitory effect of Cordyceps sinensis on spontaneous liver metastasis of Lewis lung carcinoma and B16 melanoma cells in syngeneic mice. Jpn J Pharmacol. Vol. 79(3). Pp. 335-41. DOI: 10.1254/jjp.79.335. PMID: 10230862.

Ng, T. and Wang, H. (2005). Pharmacological actions of Cordyceps, a prized folk medicine. J Pharm Pharmacol. Vol. 57(12). Pp. 1509-19. DOI: 10.1211/jpp.57.12.0001

Panda, A. K., & Swain, K. C. (2011). Traditional uses and medicinal potential of Cordyceps sinensis of Sikkim. Journal of Ayurveda and integrative medicine, 2(1), 9–13.

Paterson, R. (2008). Cordyceps: a traditional Chinese medicine and another fungal therapeutic biofactory?. Phytochemistry. Vol. 69(7). Pp. 1469–1495. DOI:

Sung, G., Hywel-Jones, N., Sung, J., Luangsa-ard, J., Shrestha, B., and Spatafora, J. (2007). Phylogenetic classification of Cordyceps and the clavicipitaceous fungi. Stud Mycol. Vol. 57(1). Pp. 5–59. DOI:10.3114/sim.2007.57.01

Takami, M., Aoi, W., Terajima, H., Tanimura, Y., Wada, S., & Higashi, A. (2019). Effect of dietary antioxidant-rich foods combined with aerobic training on energy metabolism in healthy young men. Journal of clinical biochemistry and nutrition, 64(1), 79–85.

Wood, S. & Mastaloudis, A. (2010). New Studies Show Significant Anti-Aging Benefits of Cordyceps: Chinese Mushroom Improves Youthful Genetic Expression. Cision PR Newswire. Nu Skin Enterprises. PROVO, Utah. Retrieved from:

Wu, J., Zhang, Q., Leung, P. (2007). Inhibitory effects of ethyl acetate extract of Cordyceps sinensis mycelium on various cancer cells in culture and B16 melanoma in C57BL/6 mice. Phytomedicine. Vol. 14(1). Pp. 43-9. DOI: 10.1016/j.phymed.2005.11.005

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