The potential effects on physical performance and endurance
Clinical trials and other research indicated that Cordyceps helps to increase the oxygen intake ability of red blood cells. This property helps to improve physical performance, can minimize fatigue and oxidative stress and can increase respiratory capacity.
This specific property is due to the presence of cordycepin (3'-deoxyadenosine) in particular, which is a vasodilator and also similar to ATP, the main source of energy in our body.
ORIVeDA Cordyceps C+ contains over 1% of cordycepin. Cordycepin is the main quality marker for Cordyceps supplements.
This makes Cordyceps C+ a good choice for the elderly (it is already very popular in SE-Asia in particular, as it is said to improve the quality of life significantly) and athletes. (Cordyceps has been used be Chinese Olympics team).
A traditional belief that has been investigated thoroughly in both animal and clinical tests. Apart from the assumed effect on sex-drive an increased synthesis of 17-OH corticosteroids and 17-ketosteroids and a massive reduction in the production of abnormal spermatozoa was noted.
This effect is usually attributed to cordycepin, just like the effect on physical performance.
A recent study presented at the 46th annual meeting of The American College of Sports Medicine gave the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled CS-4 trial. CS-4’s effects were tested on 30 healthy, elderly subjects randomly assigned to receive three grams a day of either CS-4 or a placebo. Exercise performance was tested before and after six weeks of treatment using a symptom-limited, incremental work-rate protocol on a cycle ergometer. Those taking CS-4 during the six-week trial significantly increased maximum oxygen uptake from 1.88 to 2.00 liters per minute. Those taking the placebo showed no change in performance.
A similar trial in the US with 24 young and well-trained males however showed no effect after using CS-4. The main difference with the previous trial was the administration of the supplement – 1 hour before the actual test took place, whereas the elderly people were using a CS supplement for six weeks. This indicates that the effect of CS-4 is not immediate but builds up slowly over time.
Cordyceps sinensis has been known for centuries for its benefits as a tonic against aging and senescence. Several papers recently reported an improvement of vitality, coupled with an increase in superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity and a decrease in oxygen free radicals. It is generally known that one of the main factors related to aging is a dramatic reduction of cellular superoxide dismutase
(SOD – anti-oxidant) functions, leading to a build-up of oxidative damage to cells. In one clinical study, 66 senescent elderly patients on CS-4 (3 g/day for 3 months), had a significant (15%) increase in SOD activity and improved vitality and energy scores including a higher tolerance to cold than the control group.
This article is about the scientific research into health benefits of Cordyceps. If you wish to learn more about the background, history and production of Cordyceps, please read this article here.
Cordyceps is thought to improve the blood circulation to essential organs, decrease platelet aggregation and might have an anti-thrombotic and blood thinning effect. All this because of the presence of adenosine (although the levels in OTC dietary supplements are low) and cordycepin (3'-deoxyadenosine). Cordycepin is a vasodilator.
A long clinical study with CS-4 was completed in 1995. Researchers at Fu-Jian Medical College in China were testing CS-4 for its potential effects on the quality of life of 64 chronic heart failure patients. Two groups were created: a control group of 30 randomly assigned patients who received only conventional Western medicines and a group of 34 randomly assigned patients who received CS-4 as an adjuvant therapy. The dosage of the CS-4 was 3 to 4 gr/per day, 500mg capsules for an average of 26 months. The patients were regularly checked for changes in their ECGs, quality of life, and other measurements according to Western medical standards.
The researchers found no significant differences in the number of patients that died in each group, but they found very significant differences in all other readings. In the shortness of breath/fatigue index, the control group only taking Western medicine improved in average ± 25%. But in the group on CS-4 plus the Western medicine the improvement averaged 66%. Statistically significant improvements were found in the CS-4 group; in their cardiac output, stroke volume, and heart beat.
Measurable improvements were found in general activities in 12 of the 30 control patients, but in the group using CS-4 plus Western medication 27 out of 34 improved. Overall the people in the CS-4 group also felt better and felt more in control.
Cordyceps and Healthy Cholesterol Levels
The largest study of Cordyceps in China for promoting healthy cholesterol levels was a multi-center clinical trial at 9 hospitals including 273 patients. Cordyceps was shown to promote healthy HDL (good) cholesterol levels, which helps in lowering the LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. In two placebo-controlled clinical trials with elderly patients, CS-4 was shown to reduce the age-related oxidation of fats in the system. The red blood cells of 60 to 84-year-old patients on the CS-4 therapy (3 grams/day for 3 months) had significantly higher levels of the enzyme superoxide dismutase (SOD) after using CS-4. SOD levels increased so much (from 882.74 ± 138.05 to 1021.16 ± 144.95) that they reached levels comparable to those of 17 to 20-year-olds (949.16 ± 125.18) who were checked for comparison.
A study of elderly patients on CS-4 for 4 weeks also showed a significant decrease in cell-damaging free radicals known as lipo-peroxides. Lipo-peroxides are formed when lipids (fats) in the body are oxidized or burnt by the system. Researchers can measure them in the form of something called plasma malondialdehyde, or MDA levels. The MDA levels were initially high in the elderly patients, but after 23 months on CS-4 levels got significantly lower; they reached the levels found in the 17 to 20 year olds. These findings indicate that CS-4 reduces oxidative damage to cells caused by free radicals which contribute to the formation of plaque in artery walls.
Promotes Healthy Lung Function
In TCM, Cordyceps is said to keep the lungs fit, and is called lung-nourishing. Cordyceps helps to keep the lungs healthy through its ability to increase the activity of the body’s own antioxidant, SOD. The lung is bombarded with free radicals (pollution, dust, smoke) and can only defend itself by producing endogenous antioxidant free radical scavengers, such as the aforementioned SOD. In one study, lung patients placed on a course of Cordyceps mycelium powder (3 x 330 mg capsules, 3 times a day) for 21 days, showed a highly significant increase (35.7%) in levels of the naturally-occurring SOD compared to their pre-Cordyceps reading. The increase indicated to the investigators that tissue repair and protective mechanisms had gone into higher gear.