Considered a powerhouse tool in traditional Chinese medicine, cordyceps mushroom is a nootropic compound used for anti-aging, hormone regulation (specifically as a testosterone booster), and anti-fatigue agent [1].

The scientific literature has not fully matched the traditional claims, but there is animal evidence that cordyceps benefits many aspects of physical and mental health. Although not typically considered a “nootropic” per se, it is a useful tool for adapting to stress (adaptogenic properties), and is relatively safe to use [2].

Also Known As

Cordyceps Sinensis, Cordyceps Militaris, Caterpillar Fungus, Cetepiller Mushroom, Summer grass-winter worm, Totsu kasu, Yarchakunbu, Aweto

Editors’ Thoughts on Cordyceps

I’m a really big fan of cordyceps mushroom and use it on a regular basis. It provides basic adaptogenic support and does stimulate me to some degree. Anecdotally, it is a useful adaptogen that ranks second only to rhodiola rosea in my mind.

There are some potential interactions that I don’t particularly like, however. In theory, cordyceps interacts with caffeine (due to a specific antagonism), which can inhibit testosterone synthesis in vitro. I don’t know if that has a biological significance when I take caffeine + L-theanine and add cordyceps on top of that, but I probably will not continue to do that anymore.

Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor


History of Cordyceps

For hundreds (if not thousands) of years, cordyceps mushroom was used in traditional Chinese medicine as a libido enhancer [3]. The traditional medicine men would provide a sexual tonic, which was to help with fertility and (although they didn’t call it this at the time) testosterone as well [4].

Historically, it has been much easier (and thus affordable) to use cordyceps sinensis, which is a species that grows separately from cordyceps militaris. Until recently, cordyceps sinensis was the major tool for supplementation, but this has changed with recent developments.

A breakthrough method of cultivating cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies has made it more reliable in dosage and in the cost.

Benefits of Cordyceps

One of the primarily benefits of cordyceps is as an antioxidant. The antioxidant effects are due mostly to the polysaccharide content (and beta-glucans specifically), but unfortunately one antioxidant profile can change compared to the next depending on the vendor [5].

By using a particular grower (such as Nammex, which supplies both Pure Nootropics and Nootropics Depot), you can ensure a reliable antioxidant count.

The adaptogenic properties of cordyceps are also useful for anti-fatigue and anti-stress benefits. In one animal model, cordyceps was given to rats and it took 12.5% longer for them to become fatigued during a swimming test [6]. The same study showed many organs within the rats were healthier under stressful conditions when using cordyceps.

This is currently the best evidence in favor of using cordyceps to reduce physical (and mental) fatigue. The traditional Chinese medicinal claim that cordyceps is “pro-vitality” probably comes from this and the testosterone benefits.

Research is lacking on the testosterone enhancing effects of cordyceps, unfortunately. The research that does exist focuses on how cordyceps extract increases testosterone secretion in cells, which is hardly direct evidence it can do the same in humans [7][8]. Nonetheless, the risks of using cordyceps as a testosterone enhancer are fewer than some of the other purported drugs.

Finally, cordyceps benefits include immune boosting properties tested in a laboratory setting. In one study, cordyceps showed mitogenic properties and could increase immune system processes by around 12% [9]. Other evidence suggests cordyceps can suppress inflammatory cytokines like TNF-alpha [10].

Cordyceps Side Effects

There do not seem to be many studies looking at the cordyceps side effects, but most of the evidence suggests it is safe. The consequences of taking doses that are too high might include gastrointestinal distress among others. None of these side effects of cordyceps seem all too dangerous or serious.

The interactions between cordyceps and other compounds can create side effects, however. For example, the combination of cordyceps and forskolin can reduce the likelihood of increasing testosterone. In fact, according to some anecdotal reports, the two combined will decrease testosterone.

As mentioned in the Editors’ Notes, caffeine and cordyceps can interact negatively to inhibit testosterone synthesis. While this is a theoretic problem, it is a consideration for users of this adaptogenic medicinal mushroom.

Cordyceps Dosage

The human dosage for cordyceps has not been adequately researched or documented, but traditional sources cite 1 – 3,000 mg per day in either 1 single or multiple doses throughout the day.

It is recommended that you start off with 500 – 1000 mg per day and then work your way higher. Do not expect to have a subjective “feeling” associated with cordyceps mushroom. While some anecdotal reports claim that this happens, most people benefit from cordyceps for purely adaptogenic / anti-stress purposes.

How and Where to Buy Cordyceps

Cordyceps mushroom is commonly available because it has such a long history in traditional Chinese medicine. That does not mean it is a good idea to purchase cordyceps at a local health food store, however.

The extraction method and many other details regarding medicinal mushrooms make it a minefield to buy cordyceps at a store. For example, many products use the mycelium, which is grown on grain (rather than from the fruiting bodies). There are few products that have cordyceps for sale from the fruiting bodies and even fewer that have reliable and safe extraction methods.

The best manufacturer in the United States (based in the U.S. with cultivation done in China) is Nammex, which provides the cordyceps for other companies I’ve mentioned before. To get cordyceps capsules feel free to do so here. Pure Nootropics is a reliable vendor and they use the cordyceps sourced from Nammex.

Cordyceps Review

Take any cordyceps reviews with a grain of salt. Many of the negative cordyceps reviews (especially the non-responsive ones) are created because people purchase products that are made incorrectly and provide no bioactive value. There are many vendors that have cordyceps for sale, which is not manufactured using the best practices.

The purported increases in testosterone you may read with cordyceps reviews is also worth taking with a grain of salt. Unless someone has done a specific testosterone blood test to see the change (with all else being equal), it is hard to say for sure whether cordyceps was really useful in increasing testosterone. The cordyceps reviews can help us to better understand the compound and possible nootropic effects, but should be taken alongside the research.

Selected Community Experiences

“…I was sorta floored at how well this compound compliments my current stack…” [11] – DarkTriadBAMN

“anyone experience anger on cordyceps? i’ve been much more angry lately and i think it is to blame. going to stop taking it for a while tomorrow and see if the anger fades away…” [12] – stackz07

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Mansal Denton is the founder of Nootropedia on a quest to inform users on effectively utilizing nootropics and smart drugs. His work has been featured in Forbes, Inc, Entrepreneur, and Vice.