Cordyceps may protect the kidneys from damage caused by certain antibiotics, enhance kidney function, and help balance the immune system in people with kidney transplants.
Aminoglycoside are a broad class of antibiotics commonly prescribed to children (gentamicin and neomycin are some examples). Unfortunately, they can seriously damage the kidneys. C. sinensis prevented kidney damage in some people taking aminoglycoside antibiotics.
In rats with kidney disease, Cordyceps reduces inflammatory cytokines, decreases oxidative stress, and improves kidney function. C. sinensis also prevented cell death and decreased inflammation in rats with poor blood flow to the kidneys.
Protects the Liver
Cordyceps may protect the liver by boosting protective antioxidants and preventing the buildup of fats in the liver. It might also help people with hepatitis, although the evidence is limited.
In 60 hepatitis B patients, cordyceps reduced inflammation and scarring in the liver and improved liver function.
In mice with non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, it decreased fat stores and increased liver antioxidants. And in rats, cordyceps protected against liver injury due to kidney disease and prevented scarring of the liver due to alcohol.
One cell study sheds light on its mechanism. In the study, cordyceps prevented the buildup of fat in liver cells by increasing the activity of genes involved in fat-burning. At the same time, cordyceps decreased the activity of a gene involved in fat-storage.
Improves Lung Function
Cordyceps reduced inflammation in the lungs and improved lung function and overall symptoms.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) found that the mushroom improved lung function and shortness of breath.
Cordyceps reduced lung inflammation and prevented scarring and thickening of the airways in rats with COPD. In summary, cordyceps is probably good for the lungs and it may offer some relief to people with asthma or COPD.
Cordyceps extract improved their capacity for intense exercise. It reduced their fatigue and helped them use oxygen more effectively during a cycling workout.
Mice given cordyceps were able to swim up to twice as long before getting tired. This is likely because cordyceps increases ATP levels, which releases energy. Plus, it reduces oxidative stress and lactic acid buildup, which are both associated with prolonged exercise. In short, cordyceps extracts improve exercise performance in older adults, but they probably won’t have a noticeable effect in well-trained athletes.
Improves Immune System
Cordyceps improves immune function, but that doesn’t mean it should be classified as an immune booster. Its action is balancing: lowering immune overactivation in autoimmune diseases while heightening defense when the immune system is weakened or under attack.
The more common type of cordyceps – C. sinensis – reduced levels of thyroid antibodies and balanced proinflammatory and anti-inflammatory immune cell levels
In mice, C. sinensis prevents the decline in immune cells caused by chemotherapy and improves the ability of immune cells to fight pathogens. And although this is promising, no clinical studies have confirmed its ability to counter chemotherapy side effects
Cordycepin, ergosterol, and polysaccharides from cordyceps trigger programmed cell death, which is needed to remove cells that start behaving cancer-like. These active compounds also increase the activity of cancer-fighting immune cells, and prevent the growth of blood vessels that provide nutrients to cancer.
The main active compound cordycepin also makes brain and mouth cancer cells more sensitive to cancer treatment.
Cordyceps slows cancer growth, reduces tumor size, and increases survival time in mice with skin, immune cell, lung, and liver cancers. It also helps prevent cancer from spreading. While Cordyceps shows excellent potential as an anticancer therapeutic in animal and cell-based studies, we still don’t know if this benefit translates to humans.
Diabetes and Blood Sugar
Cordyceps extract improves insulin sensitivity and reduces blood sugar in healthy rats.
In diabetic mice and rats, cordyceps reduces blood sugar levels and insulin resistance. It boosts antioxidant levels and prevents liver, kidney, and pancreatic damage.
Cordycepin reduced weight gain in obese rats fed a high-fat diet by modifying the composition of gut bacteria.
Interestingly, cordycepin helps convert inactive fat cells into calorie-burning fat cells. As a result, cordyceps might help you burn more fat for energy, supporting your weight-loss goals.
Fertility and Sex Hormones
In Northern India and Nepal, cordyceps is known as the "Himalayan viagra". Apparently, local herders first observed that yaks, goats, and sheep that ate cordyceps became much stronger and bulkier. Subsequently, the mushroom became very popular for increasing vitality and as an aphrodisiac.
Both species – C. sinensis and C. militaris – also increase levels of the sex hormones estradiol and testosterone in mice and rats. While cordyceps consistently improved fertility and increased sex hormones in animal studies, these benefits remain unexplored in humans.
Cordyceps reduces high cholesterol and triglyceride levels caused by diets high in saturated fat and cholesterol in mice. In turn, it may protect the blood vessels and prevent their clogging.
Cordycepin from the mushroom may also protect the heart. It prevented plaque buildup mice, reducing the risk of heart disease.
In rats, cordyceps can help prevent irregular heartbeats. It also reduced oxidative stress and improved recovery after poor oxygen supply in mice hearts. Based on these studies, cordyceps might support heart health by improving blood flow, reducing plaque buildup, and lowering blood fats.
Cordyceps may offer unique skin protection, although its use in skincare products is still not commonplace.
Both species – C. sinensis and C. In one study, cordyceps extracts protected skin cells from damage due to UVB radiation by reducing free radicals and increasing antioxidants. In another cell study, cordyceps helped prevent the breakdown of skin collagen and provided UV protection equivalent to SPF 25.
Cordyceps also reduced skin inflammation in mice with eczema.
Cordyceps may be a good nootropic and brain-protective medicinal mushroom, according to animal studies. It seems to boost brain circulation and reduce brain cell damage.
In gerbils, cordyceps prevented short-term memory loss and the loss of neurons due to stroke. It’s possible that it might also help in cases of poor brain circulation.
Cordyceps protected against memory loss, prevented brain cell damage, and reduced inflammation in the brains of mice with dementia. It also increased the birth and growth of new neurons and reduced memory loss in rats.
Cordyceps reduced symptoms of depression in rats by activating adrenaline and dopamine receptors in the brain.
In mice, cordycepin reduced symptoms of depression faster and stronger than the common antidepressant drug imipramine.
Cordyceps reduced pain in rats and was more effective than the control drug phenylbutazone, which commonly used to treat pain in animals.
Cordycepin reduced pain and inflammation in arthritic rats by preventing the activation of NFκB, a molecule that serves as a genetic switch for increasing inflammation.
The more common cordyceps species, C. sinensis, prevented the loss of bone density and mineral content in rats with osteoporosis. In turn, it also improved their strength.
In mice, the other cordyceps species, C. militaris, prevented bone loss due to inflammation from the bacterial toxin LPS.
In Northern India, cordyceps is highly valued as a longevity-promoting remedy. Despite the traditional claims, only one scientific study explored its anti-aging potential.
In mice with accelerated aging, cordyceps increased levels of key antioxidants, reduced oxidative stress, and improved brain and sexual function.