Updated: Aug 15
Cordyceps sinensis and cordyceps militaris are two of the roughly 600 cordyceps fungus species found, these mushrooms have been the subject of health and fitness study.
However, since most of this research is restricted to animal or preliminary trials, health professionals are unable to make conclusions regarding their impact on humans at this time.
Their possible health and fitness benefits seem encouraging. With claims of boosting testosterone and improving exercise performance, it's an interesting fungus.
Cordyceps sinensis and militaris have the ability to increase testosterone by directly stimulating its production via the StAR pathway. In one study on rats, a 280% rise in testosterone production was noted.
In this article, I'll dive deep into how cordyceps can influence your testosterone levels, as well as improve sexual wellbeing, and increase your exercise performance and even muscle growth.
How It Works
Cordyceps may boost immunity by activating cells and molecules in the immune system. It may even have anti-cancer effects. (1)
It's also thought to boost the body's synthesis of the chemical adenosine triphosphate (ATP) which is necessary for muscular energy delivery, similarly to how creatine works.
This may help your body utilise oxygen more efficiently, particularly during exercise. (2)
There are other benefits and effects of cordyceps, but these will be discussed in another article.
How It Affects Testosterone
Testosterone is an important steroid hormone that regulates male reproduction. Sexual enhancement has been explored using alternative medicines found in plants, fungus, and insects.
For hundreds of years in Far East Asia, cordyceps species such as cordyceps sinensis (CS) and cordyceps militaris (CM) have been used to improve sexual function.
The impact of cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies, cultured on bee drone medium (CMD) and brown rice medium (CMB) on testosterone concentration in rats was studied. (3)
For 4 weeks, 18 rats were kept on a standard diet or a diet enriched with CMB and CMD. Serum was taken from six animals in each group. Both groups elevated testosterone levels in the blood.
Cordyceps also enhances sperm number and quality without altering pituitary hormones like as LH and FSH, indicating that if it raises testosterone, it likely does so by direct testicular stimulation. (4)
Cordyceps stimulated StAR (steroid acute regulatory protein) in the testicles, resulting in a significant 280% rise in testosterone levels when directly injected into the rodents.
StAR operates by transporting cholesterol into the inner membrane of Leydig cells through a process that the researchers have yet to discover.
StAR is a rate-limiting stage in testosterone synthesis, thus if a drug can boost StAR, it's nearly certain to boost testosterone production. (5)
Although there aren't many human studies, testosterone has good theory and animal study to prove its positive effect on testosterone levels.
Human safety research on cordyceps is lacking. However, its long history of usage in traditional medicine implies it is harmless. In fact, the Chinese government considers cordyceps as safe.
Below are definitions and short explanations of what some of the terms in this article mean.
StAR (steroid acute regulatory protein): StAR regulates cholesterol transport into the mitochondria, which is an important step in steroid synthesis. It's involved in the production of hormones like testosterone. (See more here)
ATP (adenosine triphosphate): ATP is an energy molecule present in all living cells. It drives many functions in the body, such as muscle contraction, nerve impulses, etc.
LH (luteinising hormone): LH is a gonadotrophin hormone secreted by anterior pituitary cells. It regulates the function of the testes in men and ovaries in women. It's important for hormone regulation.
FSH (follicle stimulating hormone): FSH is a gonadotropin secreted by the anterior pituitary, it affects bodily development, growth, pubertal maturation, and reproduction.
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This evidence based analysis of cordyceps effect on testosterone features 5 references, listed below.
1. Lee HH, Lee S, Lee K, Shin YS, Kang H, Cho H. Anti-cancer effect of Cordyceps militaris in human colorectal carcinoma RKO cells via cell cycle arrest and mitochondrial apoptosis. Daru. (2015, Jul 4). ✔
2. Xu YF. Effect of Polysaccharide from Cordyceps militaris (Ascomycetes) on Physical Fatigue Induced by Forced Swimming. Int J Med Mushrooms. (2016) ✔
3. Hong, In Phyo, Choi, YoungSu, Woo, Soon Ok, Han, Sang Mi, Kim, Hye-Gyeong, Lee, Man-Yeong, & Lee, Myeong-Lyeol. Effect of Cordyceps militaris on Testosterone Production in Sprague-Dawley Rats. International Journal of Industrial Entomology. (2011)
4. Chang Y, Jeng KC, Huang KF, Lee YC, Hou CW, Chen KH, Cheng FY, Liao JW, Chen YS. Effect of Cordyceps militaris supplementation on sperm production, sperm motility and hormones in Sprague-Dawley rats. Am J Chin Med. (2008) ✔
5. Leu SF, Poon SL, Pao HY, Huang BM. The in vivo and in vitro stimulatory effects of cordycepin on mouse leydig cell steroidogenesis. Biosci Biotechnol Biochem. (2011) ✔
✔ Citations with a tick indicate the information is from a trusted source.
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