Could an Insect-Killing Mushroom Be Healthy to Humans?

mushroom health benefits

Cordyceps mushrooms have been used for thousands of years and are one of the most popular herbs used in my practice.

I have a love-hate relationship with mushrooms.

They’re slimy.

They’re kinda weird looking.

They grow in weird places.

And, they eat weird things.

This species of mushroom will actually invade an insect, turn it into a suicidal zombie by causing it to climb and attach itself to a plant. Then the mushroom will actually sprout growth and launch its spores directly from the dead insect’s body. The spores then affect other insects, sometimes killing entire colonies.

Cool, right?

It might sound like something out of a sci-fi flick, but I’m actually talking about  Cordyceps mushroom.

Despite it’s peculiar nature, Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis, Cordyceps militaris, etc) has been used for thousands of years as traditional chinese medicine (TCM) (1).

You will often find it in anti-stress herbal combinations and like most natural therapies, Cordyceps’ popularity is rapidly growing.

Health Benefits of Cordyceps Mushroom

Here’s a list of the WIDE health benefits that can be found in the research literature for cordyceps:

  • Pro-sexual
  • Anti-inflammatory
  • Anti-oxidant/anti-aging
  • Anti-tumor/anti-cancer/anti-leukemic/anti-proliferative/anti-metastatic/Anti-angiogenetic
  • Immunomodulatory
  • Anti-microbial
  • Anti-bacterial
  • Anti-viral
  • Anti-fungal
  • Anti-protozoal
  • Insecticidal
  • Larvicidal
  • Anti-fibrotic
  • Steroidogenic
  • Anti-diabetic
  • Lipid-lowering
  • Anti-HIV
  • Anti-malarial
  • Anti-fatigue
  • Nerve, liver, heart, lung and especially kidney-protective
  • Regarded to have synergistic activities with other herbal remedies
    (23; 4; 5; 6; 7; 8; 9; 10)

And for you science geeks like me, the bioactive compounds include 3’-deoxyadenosine/cordycepin, cordycepic acid, ergosterol, alpha-aminoisobutyric acid and Cordyceps polysaccharides (1112)  which are thought to contribute to the health benefits of cordyceps extracts.

Other uses:

Cordyceps has also been used to support exercise performance with limited support from at least one double-blind, placebo-controlled trial of older adults (1314), but other studies with cyclists have not been as promising (15; 16).

Despite the mixed results, Cordyceps is often paired with Asian ginseng and/or Rhodiola root which both have more promising evidence for a role in sports performance enhancement.

There is also early support for use of Cordyceps to support childhood asthma, but more research is needed (17; 18).

Cordyceps has so much to offer when it comes to your health, and it’s one I personally take in my daily regimen through a few products from Host Defense Mushrooms

So you might think mushrooms are a little weird, and you may still not want to eat them, but you may be willing to try one as a supplement.

Although ants and wasps would disagree, Cordyceps appears to be a great place to start.




  1. Marguerite June 26, 2012 at 5:02 am - Reply

    Somehow after reading the beginning of the article, I am not inclined to eat mushrooms, especially this kind… of course until you read about all the benefits

    • Alexander Rinehart, MS, DC, CCN June 29, 2012 at 2:31 pm - Reply

      Nature works in interesting ways!

  2. Christopher June 26, 2012 at 6:06 am - Reply

    Dr. Alex, if I eat one of these and a mushroom stalk pops out of my head, I will NOT be happy at all.

    Where do I get one of these crazy mushrooms? Or can we just find it in supplement form?

    • Metagenics carries a stress-balancing supplement that contains Cordyceps, and there’s Mushroom Science that carries a line of products. No mushrooms have came out of my head yet…but nature is brutally awesome.

      • Max Slavin June 29, 2012 at 1:45 pm - Reply

        What about food’s? It would be awesome to kill two birds with one stone, are there any dishes you know of that could incorporate Cordyceps Mushrooms?

        • Alexander Rinehart, MS, DC, CCN June 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm - Reply

          I do not think it’s available raw as “food”, it’s typically processed into a powder which is then consumed supplementally or as part of chinese medicine.

          It’s also important to note that with herbs, taking more does not always equal a greater effect.

  3. […] are powerful medicinal mushrooms such as Cordyceps, and molds such as penicillin. We also use yeast in baking; and mold growth defines some of our […]

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