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Herbal Focus: Cordyceps <span class="latin">(Cordyceps militaris)</span>

Herbal Focus: Cordyceps (Cordyceps militaris)

Jan 29, 2021 | Disease, Disorders, and Illnesses, Herbal Focus

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Boost Energy, Calm Inflammation, and Regulate Blood Sugar with Cordyceps

Used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine, Cordyceps mushroom has an impressive range of beneficial qualities. It is said to improve athletic performance, circulation, and blood sugar levels. Additionally, the mushroom is known to have neuro-protective attributes that can help limit neuronal cell death. Cordyceps is also anti-microbial, anti-bacterial, anti-viral, anti-fungal, and antiprotozoal. Importantly, it helps to combat fatigue and boost energy. It’s truly an all-around miracle mushroom.

Basic Identification: Cordyceps are capless and have an elongated body that averages 7-8 inches (18-20 cm) in length. They range in color from light to deep brown to bright orange.

Where Does It Grow? Found in humid and temperate regions, Cordyceps grow in high elevation areas throughout Asia, especially the Himalayas.

Edible uses: The extract and powder can be added to food and beverages, such as smoothies and coffee. In China, the mushroom was traditionally used in tea, soups, and stews. For therapeutic use, concentrated tinctures, extracts, and capsules can be taken for specific health goals.

Medicinal Uses: Traditionally used to treat respiratory disorders, colds, and liver damage, Cordyceps is also known to help boost energy levels, off-set the effects of stress, and improve immune function.

Here are my top 3 uses for Cordyceps:

Anti-cancer effects. In numerous experiments, Cordyceps was shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells, including those of the lung, colon, and liver1,2,3. Moreover, animal studies demonstrate the anti-tumor effects of Cordyceps on lymphoma and melanoma.4,5.

Regulates blood sugar levels. Containing two unique compounds, d-mannitol cordycepin and 3’-deoxyadenosine, Cordyceps helps control blood sugar levels by mimicking the activity of insulin. The mushroom may also protect against kidney disease, a frequent complication of diabetes.

Anti-inflammatory properties. Cordyceps is known to help fight chronic inflammation, which may lower the risk of heart disease and cancer. When human cells are exposed to the mushroom, specific proteins that trigger inflammation are suppressed. Taking the mushroom extract internally can help to reduce inflammation in the air passages and may be a potential therapy for those suffering from asthma. When applied topically, Cordyceps calms skin inflammation.

Recipe: Almond Cordyceps Latte

Warm over medium heat 6 oz unsweetened non-dairy milk, 2 oz water, 1 teaspoon coconut oil, and 1/2 tsp almond extract. Remove from heat and transfer to a blender. Add 1 dropper full Cordyceps extract or 1/2 teaspoon powder, 1/4 teaspoon powdered monk fruit or other sweetener of choice, and 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg. Blend for 15 seconds then enjoy.

It’s important to note that medicinal mushrooms require double-extraction as well as spagyric extraction, like the Cordyceps tincture found in my Apothecary, to access the full spectrum of beneficial compounds.


Generally considered safe, do not use Cordyceps if pregnant or breast-feeding, or have a blood clot disorder. Cordyceps is a vasodilator, avoid using two weeks before a scheduled surgery. 

Nicole Apelian


  1. Bizarro, Ana et al. “Cordyceps militaris (L.) Link Fruiting Body Reduces the Growth of a Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cell Line by Increasing Cellular Levels of p53 and p21.” Molecules (Basel, Switzerland) vol. 20,8 13927-40. 31 Jul. 2015, doi:10.3390/molecules200813927
  2. Lee, Hwan Hee et al. “Anti-cancer effect of Cordyceps militaris in human colorectal carcinoma RKO cells via cell cycle arrest and mitochondrial apoptosis.” Daru : journal of Faculty of Pharmacy, Tehran University of Medical Sciences vol. 23,1 35. 4 Jul. 2015, doi:10.1186/s40199-015-0117-6
  3. Lee, Seulki et al. “Anti-tumor effect of Cordyceps militaris in HCV-infected human hepatocarcinoma 7.5 cells.” Journal of microbiology (Seoul, Korea) vol. 53,7 (2015): 468-74. doi:10.1007/s12275-015-5198-x
  4. Wu, Jian Yong et al. “Inhibitory effects of ethyl acetate extract of Cordyceps sinensis mycelium on various cancer cells in culture and B16 melanoma in C57BL/6 mice.” Phytomedicine : international journal of phytotherapy and phytopharmacology vol. 14,1 (2007): 43-9. doi:10.1016/j.phymed.2005.11.005
  5. Ng, T B, and H X Wang. “Pharmacological actions of Cordyceps, a prized folk medicine.” The Journal of pharmacy and pharmacology vol. 57,12 (2005): 1509-19. doi:10.1211/jpp.57.12.0001

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