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There’s a good chance you’ve heard about the infamous cordyceps in the HBO hit show The Last of Us, but cordyceps was popular long before its big Hollywood debut. In Chinese medicine, it has been used for hundreds of years to treat everything from fatigue to kidney disease to a low libido.
Read more to learn about Mother Nature’s energy boosting mushroom (and no, it can’t colonize humans!), in our scoop on cordyceps:
Also known as “winter worm summer grass” or “the Chinese caterpillar,” cordyceps have been used for centuries in ancient Chinese and Tibetan medicine. Unlike most other mushrooms, cordyceps don't grow on fallen tree trunks. It is actually a combination of a caterpillar and a fungus, and it is found in the soil of prairies at high elevations. Cordyceps is a parasitic fungi that grows on the larvae of insects, which it turns into its fruiting body.
Chinese medicine books have recorded Cordyceps since 1694, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that Western medicine caught on to the power of this mushroom. Because of their popularity, the yield of cordyceps in the wild has decreased significantly, so the majority of cordyceps today are grown through large-scale cultivation (Herbal Medicine: Biomolecular and Clinical Aspects, 2011).
Cordyceps is most commonly known as the athletic performance-boosting mushroom, but it has a plethora of other benefits as well. Cordyceps increases the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body, which is essential for delivering energy to the muscles (Int. Journal of Medicinal Mushrooms, 2016). More energy in your muscles means more stamina for not only athletic performance, but also balanced energy for daily activities such as making meals, playing with your kids or going on a walk with friends. The more fully we can show up for our daily rituals, the more we will enjoy them, which is why cordyceps are part of our SuperTeas formulations.
Cordyceps has also been found to help fight inflammation in the body, by suppressing inflammation-causing proteins. Inflammation causes a plethora of diseases, including cancer and heart disease, and most of us have too much inflammation in our bodies, especially during stressful times (Oriental Pharmacy and Experimental Medicine, 2014).
There are beautiful aspects of aging, but decreased energy levels and lower sex drive aren’t typically things that we look forward to. Cordyceps is also known for its anti-aging properties, and it’s even known as the “Himalayan viagra” (Cleveland Clinic, 2023).
Cordyceps have a savory and nutty flavor, and while they’re safe to eat raw, they’re even better when cooked and added into your favorite pasta or soup. Their bright orange color and umami flavor are sure to be a delicious addition to your meal. Or better yet - sip some in a SuperTea!
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