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Medicinal Mushroom Series: Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis)

In terms of where mushrooms are able to grow, Cordyceps takes the cake. This is probably the most interesting mushroom on this list in terms of its natural habitat. If you don't already know where this is going, take a look at the picture below.

If you're looking at that picture and thinking to yourself, "That just looks like a bowl full of caterpillars," well, you would in fact be correct. While the Cordyceps mushroom prefers the humid temperature of more tropical areas of Asia, it has quite the knack for growing as a fungal parasite on insects! Once again, I would love to meet the first person who decided to chomp down on one of these things to see what would happen. 

While not known for its culinary appeal (if any at all), Cordyceps has made quite the splash in the health industry for its many health benefits. At an estimated $20,000/kilo, here are the the top 4 benefits of the most expensive mushroom in the world!

1) Increases Lactate Threshold

Lactic acid is produced during periods of intense exercise. It is associated with burning sensation associated with activities such as lifting weights or short distance sprints. It is a protective mechanism that effectively decreases the ability of the surrounding muscles to contract in order to protect them from damage. It is also something athletes can train at improving, and increasing the body's ability to exercise in this threshold, confers some serious performance advantages. High power output is difficult to maintain. Studies are supporting the fact that supplementing with Cordyceps can help increase your ability to perform under these conditions!

2) Immunomodulatory 

When taken as a supplement, the Cordyceps mushroom has the ability to strengthen the immune system and decrease inflammation at the same time. Cordyceps has the ability to increase the amount of Natural Killer cells and at the same time increase their activity in the body. These cells are responsible for killing off anything that it recognizes as foreign, so increased activity means you get sick less!

3) Improves Aerobic Performance

When compared to a placebo group receiving no active supplementation, participants who were taking a combination of Cordyceps and Rhodiola (an herbal supplement that is also very popular in sport), experienced a greater increase in aerobic exercise capacity measured by exhaustive running capacity. Pretty useful stuff!

4) Decreases Organ Rejection in Transplantation

Organ transplant is a notoriously risky operation. While it most definitely saves lives, patients must be constantly monitored to ensure their body does not reject the new organ even when there is a very close donor match. Patients often need to be on immunosuppressive drugs indefinitely to ensure this does not happen. Interestingly enough, supplementing with Cordyceps in this population has been shown not to increase the chance of acute organ rejection while at the same time allowing for potentially lower doses of standard drug therapy and subsequently decreasing the risk of side effects from these drugs. Yet another outstanding benefit of the Cordyceps mushroom. 

Dr. Rob Raponi ND, CISSN, B.Kine(Hons)

Podcast: Well Talks

Facebook: @Dr.Raponi


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