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Ingredient Spotlight: Your Quick Guide to Cordyceps Mushroom

Another amazing medicinal mushroom you’ll find in our brand-new 310 “All-In-One” Shake blend is cordyceps – known as the “caterpillar fungus”. You can find this mushroom (that isn’t technically a mushroom!) in some of the hardest-to-reach locations across Asia. And you won’t believe where it likes to take root!

It's known in China as “dong chong xia ca” or “‘worm in winter and grass in summer”. This mushroom has a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, with first mentions of it harking all the way back to 1694 (1, 2, 3). But only recently have we started exploring its many potential health benefits across the western world.

Read on to discover more about this fascinating fungus. And head to our blog on adaptogens to learn more about all the other herbs and super-mushrooms you can find in our new 310 Shake.

Cordyceps Quick Benefits 

  • Incredibly nutrient-rich, with therapeutic antioxidant potential 
  • Supports higher energy levels & helps fight fatigue and exhaustion 
  • Helps improve athletic endurance & recovery
  • Promotes a healthy gut & immune system 
  • Supports healthy blood pressure & heart health

What is Cordyceps?

Cordyceps is a medicinal fungus used for over 300 years in traditional Chinese medicine (1, 3, 4). Although often called a mushroom, cordyceps is actually a “parasitic fungus”. What does this mean? Organisms that are parasitic survive by feasting off of a “host”, usually killing it in the process. 

This fungus, consisting of over 300 different species, remarkably grows on the head of insects like caterpillars found at high altitudes of the Himalayan plateau (3, 4)!

Traditional healers from the Himalayan regions have been using this insect-fungus combo for generations to treat all sorts of ailments from fatigue to the common cold (4). And in China, the government has even approved Cordyceps CS-4 as a drug for use in their hospitals (1)

The Latin translation of cordyceps (“cord” which means “club” and “ceps” which means “head”) accurately describes the look of this parasitic fungus (3). The base of the “mushroom” grows out of the head of the insect and shoots up into a club-like appearance that gives the insect a unicorn-like horn (4).

This is where the nickname “caterpillar fungus” comes from because it shoots up into a long, thin, almost caterpillar-like bright orange shape (2). Not to mention that it might even grow out of a caterpillar! 

Its needs at a hard-to-reach 14,000-foot Himalayan altitude make wild cordyceps (also called “Cordyceps Sinensis”) difficult to harvest (1, 3). This along with their potential therapeutic value gives them a pretty hefty price tag, ringing in at around $12,000 USD per kilogram (3)

To prevent overharvesting (and overspending!) people started using synthetic cultivation techniques to grow another species of cordyceps, called “Cordyceps Militaris”. This species, which you’ll find in our brand-new 310 Shake, offers the same benefits with a much more economical cost (5). And it doesn’t involve killing insects! 

In-Depth: Cordyceps Health Benefits

Cordyceps Militaris is an incredibly nutrient-rich antioxidant and adaptogen. It’s packed with proteins, unsaturated fatty acids, essential amino acids, oils, carotenoids, phenolic compounds, flavonoids, minerals, vitamins, as well as various types of carbohydrates including prebiotic fiber (3, 6). Cordycepin, one of the bioactive compounds found in cordyceps, contains therapeutic potential due to its high antioxidant properties (3)

This high nutritional content rich in bioactive compounds and phytochemicals is what makes this mushroom valuable for its many potential health benefits, such as the ones below (3)

Improves athletic performance

Cordyceps first started gaining major popularity in the west in 1993. Record-breaking Chinese track and field athletes started mentioning their use of cordyceps as part of their nutrition for training (5). This got people's attention, and they might have been onto something!

One of the main benefits of this intriguing mushroom is that it may increase the body’s production of a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) – which delivers energy to the muscles (7). This may improve the way the body utilizes oxygen during exercise which could help increase endurance as well as muscle growth (7)

In one study measuring exercise performance in younger adults, researchers found that after three weeks of cordyceps consumption, the athletes eating the mushroom increased their VO2 max, a measurement of maximal oxygen consumption, by 11% (5)

One of the first to discover this benefit was Tibetan herdsmen working at the high altitudes of the Himalayas. Cordyceps helped them work long hours in low oxygen conditions thanks to its potential for enhancing blood flow and oxygen utilization (5, 6). This means that for anyone looking to improve their aerobic performance, cordyceps could be a helpful tool for increasing your endurance and recovery when pushing your body to the max (5)

Reduces fatigue 

Cordyceps’ energy-boosting properties can make a difference for more than just athletes looking to improve their performance. This medicinal mushroom also has a powerful antioxidant effect, which could help fight fatigue as a natural energy booster (1, 2, 5)

In one study they found that mice eating cordyceps were able to swim for longer than other mice (7). This suggests that the mushroom has an anti-fatigue effect that could help you resist feelings of exhaustion (6, 7). And not just for exercise, but all activities. This is a big reason why in China they administer cordyceps as part of a patient’s recovery from disease to help enhance their endurance, strength, and energy levels (1)

Fosters a healthy gut and immune system

Adaptogens like cordyceps are especially helpful when it comes to healthy immune functioning. Cordyceps could improve your immunity by stimulating cells and chemicals in the body to help fight off infection and return your immune system to normal (1, 3). In one study, for example, they found that cordyceps significantly lowered harmful bacteria populations, like salmonella and E. coli (1)

The high nutritional content of cordyceps, especially the prebiotic fibers, vitamins, minerals, and bioactive compounds, could also help support a healthy immune and digestive system (1, 3, 6). The prebiotic fiber found in cordyceps helps feed and grow your body’s good bacteria populations (1, 6). You need the good bacteria in your gut to help digest your food and keep you healthy. And the happier your gut microbiome, the healthier your immune system. 

Promotes better heart health

Thanks to the mushroom’s ability to support greater oxygen utilization, this can have some pretty helpful benefits for the heart (6). Cordyceps may help improve your cardiac function and respiratory efficiency (6). It may also help reduce unhealthy cholesterol levels (3)

And thanks to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, the mushroom could also help stabilize your blood pressure levels (2). This is largely due to cordycepin, an active compound found in cordyceps which may help relax blood vessels and improve circulation (2). There’s so much evidence around its heart-boosting properties that in China, they even use cordyceps as an approved medication for certain heart problems (1)

Shop Our Brand-New 310 Shake

Are you just as excited about cordyceps as we are? Once you look past its strange nature, you can start to appreciate all that this organism has to offer. 

And with our brand-new 310 “All-In-One” Shake blend, you can easily add adaptogens like cordyceps to your diet, without having to spend a whopping $12,000 to experience the benefits!

Our new shake features the best ingredients that plant nutrition has to offer. This includes adaptogens (like the powerhouse cordyceps mushroom!), a triple protein blend, fiber, healthy fats, vitamins, minerals, probiotics, digestive enzymes, and superfoods. 

Ready to take care of yourself with better nutrition? Shop our exciting new flavors and add some adaptogens to your diet today! 


Written by:

Megan Elizabeth Clark

310 Nutrition Content Writer 

Megan Elizabeth Clark is a freelance copywriter and content marketing specialist in the health, wellness, and fitness industry. As a NASM certified personal trainer and RYT-200 certified yoga instructor Megan is passionate about using her fitness background and writing skills to provide authentic, actionable, and accurate information to the world [...]

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