Cordycepin is a chemical compound typically used in traditional medicine, where it’s rumored to have anti-inflammatory effects and other healing benefits.
The chemical compound is a derivative of the nucleoside adenosine. It’s extracted from a fungi called cordyceps, which is particularly popular in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicines. Cordyceps is actually a genus of fungi and there are over 400 different species in that genus.
Cordyceps can be found all over the world, although most of the over 400 species of the cordyceps genus are found in Nepal, China, Bhutan, Korea, Vietnam, and Thailand. The fungi is abundant in tropical climates with humid temperatures and jungles.
Benefits of Cordycepin
Cordycepin has a long history of being used in traditional medicine. One of the earliest known uses occurred in a 15th century Tibetan medical text, where the writer described how to use cordyceps as an aphrodisiac.
Ancient Chinese medicine often describes how cordycepin has been used for “thousands of years” since ancient times. However, no cordycepin evidence exists that’s older than the 15th century textbook mentioned above.
In any case, Chinese medicinal practitioners argue that cordyceps comes with all of the following benefits:
Improves Respiratory Functionality
Cordyceps has been shown to alleviate the symptoms of respiratory illnesses like asthma and bronchitis. One double blind placebo-controlled study showed that cordyceps significantly improved the maximum oxygen intake of a group of 30 elderly volunteers.
Improves Cellular Oxygen Absorption by Up to 40%
Better cellular oxygen absorption can reduce muscle fatigue and boost energy. In one study, participants with obstructive pulmonary diseases were observed to increase their oxygen absorption by up to 40% after taking a cordyceps supplement.
Improves Cardiovascular Health and Heart Functionality
Many of the benefits of cordycepin revolve around heart health. Cordycepin has demonstrated cardiovascular benefits in numerous scientific studies performed to date. In one study, mice taking cordyceps had a significantly greater survival rate of 20% mortality versus 80% mortality in 30 minutes.
Maintain Healthy Cholesterol Levels
Another reason why cordyceps helps the heart is because it’s been shown to help manage healthy cholesterol levels. Four different studies have indicated the benefits of cordyceps for maintaining cholesterol. One study showed that cordyceps supplementation could reduce total cholesterol by 10, or an average of 21%, while also reducing triglycerides by 9, or 26%.
Cordycepin supplements have also been shown to increase HDL cholesterol, also known as good cholesterol, by 27, or 30% on average.
Protects your Liver
Cordycepin may help reduce your risk of chronic liver conditions, including hepatitis. Studies have shown that it protects the liver – even if it’s been severely damaged by disease. One trial involved 33 patients with hepatitis B and another 8 patients with cirrhosis. These patients took cordyceps supplements and showed 71.9% improvement on the thmyol turbidity test and 78.6% improvement in the SGPT test, both of which are designed to test the functioning of the liver.
Improve Sexual Functionality
Traditionally, cordyceps was primarily used to improve libido and cure sexual dysfunction. Today, studies have indicated that regular cordyceps supplementation can improve sexual function in adults.
Three separate studies from China have measured the libido-boosting effects of cordycepin. These studies involved 200 men with “reduced libido and other sexual problems.” All of these men showed remarkably similar results after supplementing their diets with cordyceps.
Specifically, 64% of cordyceps users on average reported “significant improvement” in sexual performance by the end of the trial period.
Cordyceps has also proven to be a successful sexual dysfunction cure for women. One Chinese study involved 21 elderly women. After taking cordyceps, 90% of those women reported improvements of their condition. (Reference 4 below)
Boost Immune System
Numerous studies have shown that cordycepin can boost the immune system, specifically by raising levels of “NK (Natural Killer)” cells within the body. These cells are your body’s first line of defense against harmful outside bacteria.
Perhaps the most significant benefit of cordycepin is that it can reduce the size of tumors in cancer patients. One study with Cordyceps sinensis mycelium showed that a therapeutic dose of 6 grams per day (approximately two cordyceps capsules) was able to reduce tumor size by an average of 46% in patients with lung cancer.
Another study showed that cordyceps improved subjective symptoms experienced by cancer patients. The immune system-boosting effects of cordyceps can also help cancer patients whose immune systems need all the help they can get. (References 1 and 2 below)
Other Purported Benefits
The benefits listed above have been demonstrated in numerous studies over the years. The following benefits are also attributed to cordycepin, although they’re not backed by the same amount of strong scientific evidence (although some studies do exist):
— Anti Aging
— Better Endurance, Stamina, And Overall Athletic Ability
— Reduced Free Radical Damage
— Promotes DNA Repair
Cordycepin Scientific Studies
As you can see above, supporters of cordycepin make some bold claims about the drug. Before you get too excited about these claims, however, consider that most of these studies come from China and were performed in the 1990s.
Many of these Chinese cordyceps studies appear to be led or at least influenced by one man named Dr. Georges Halpern, who is a physician and professor emeritus at the University of Hong Kong. He has also published several books about cordyceps.
In any case, here are the scientific sources for all of the benefits listed above:
1. Zhu, J.S., Halpern, G.M., and Jones, K. (1998): The Scientific Rediscovery of an Ancient Chinese Herbal Medicine: Cordyceps sinensis.
2. Zhu, J.S., Halpern, G.M., and Jones, K. (1998): The Scientific Rediscovery of a Precious Ancient Chinese Herbal Regimen: Cordyceps sinensis.
3. Mizuno T. (1999): Medicinal effects and utilization of Cordyceps (Fr.) Link (Ascomycetes) and Isaria Fr. (Mitosporic Fungi) Chinese Caterpillar Fungi, “Tochukaso” (Review)
4. Xiao Y., Huang X.Z., Chen G.,Wang M.B., Zhu J.S., Cooper C.B.: Increased Aerobic Capacity in Healthy Elderly Humans given fermented Cordyceps Cs-4: a Placebo controlled Trial.
These studies were published in reputable journals. However, some skeptics argue that more western research needs to be performed on cordyceps before it can universally be declared an effective natural health product.
How to Buy Cordycepin
Interestingly enough, the price of cordyceps has skyrocketed in recent years as it has become more popular in the alternative medicine community.
One report claims that the price of cordyceps rose by 900% between 1998 and 2008, which leads to an average annual rise of 20%. In the 1980s, it was priced at 1,800 yuan per kilogram ($290 USD/kg). Today, that price is closer to 60,000 yuan per kilogram ($9,660 USD/kg).
In any case, cordyceps supplements can be purchased online from Amazon.com or from many drug stores, pharmacies, and nutritional supplement retailers.
One popular supplement on Amazon.com is made from Swanson Premium Brands. That supplement contains 600mg of Cordyceps Sinensis in 120 capsules. The supplement describes the compound as a “unique, mushroom-like fungus” that “yields a pure, deep layer mycelia extract.”
The supplement’s manufacturer is vague about its benefits and simply explains that it can be used as an “energy-enhancing, health-promoting tonic.”
Cordycepin and The Last of Us
The popular action-adventure survival horror video game The Last of Us actually has a plot that revolves around cordycepin.
In that game, the world has been taken over by a mutated strain of the cordyceps fungi. Society is now being affected by the fungi and the two main characters have to survive.
The Last of Us has helped cordycepin become even more popular over the last few years. Thanks to this video game, cordycepin manufacturers enjoyed a small boost in sales.
Who Should Use Cordycepin?
Cordycepin is a unique natural herb that has a long history of use in ancient Chinese and Tibetan medicines. In more modern times, Chinese studies have indicated that it can boost cardiovascular health, help your immune system, and even reduce the size of tumors.
Western medical professionals, however, argue that more high-quality research needs to be performed on the natural compound before it can definitively be linked with the benefits listed above.
Nevertheless, if you’re willing to try something new and want to experience the rumored energy-boosting, health-promoting tonic effects, then you can find cordycepin and cordyceps supplements at most health stores and at major online retailers like Amazon.