No, cordyceps won't turn you into a zombie à la The Last of Us
✓ Medically Reviewed and Fact-Checked by Dr. Jesse Ropat, PharmD, RPh, B.Sc.
Cordyceps is a fascinating mushroom that has been a staple in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries.
While some may associate cordyceps with the zombie mushroom from the post-apocalyptic video game and TV show The Last of Us, they can’t “infect” humans.
In reality, these fungi may be one of the most important medicinal mushrooms available. While the genus has about 700 species, the cultivated form, cordyceps militaris, is what you find in most supplements today.
Medical mushrooms like cordyceps have become popular to talk about on podcasts sponsored by the latest “miracle mushroom coffee.” However, today we’ll look at the evidence for these claims and explore which products are worth the hype. If you’re looking for a miracle, I’ll be honest: you won’t find it in a mushroom supplement.
That said, many companies offer pure, third party-tested cordyceps supplements that may benefit cardiovascular performance, energy, and more. So, if you want to get anything out of a cordyceps supplement, make sure you’re purchasing the highest-quality product you can afford.
Here are the 14 best cordyceps supplements on the market in 2023.
The capsules, powder, tea, coffee, and gummies on our list are cGMP (current good manufacturing practices) certified. We also prioritize products that are third-party tested for purity and quality.
Other products go beyond this, and where they have, we have noted it.
*Note: We do have affiliate links throughout this article, which means we receive a commission if you purchase from any of our links. This supports our mission to bring complicated health and fitness info in an entertaining package. And it keeps us from putting up annoying things like banner ads. Those suck.
Here is a quick look at our shortlist:
Best Cordyceps Powder: RealMushroom Organic Cordyceps Powder
Best Cordyceps Gummies: Fungies Cordyceps Mushroom Gummies
Best Cordyceps Tea: DIRTEA Cordyceps Powder
Best Cordyceps Coffee: Four Sigmatic Focus
Best Cordyceps CS-4 Supplement: MRM Cordyceps CS-4 Strain
Best Cordyceps Mushroom Blend: Morphogen Nutrition SHROOMS
RealMushrooms are the leading experts on mushroom supplementation. They’ve been family-owned and operated for over 40 years and specialize in making the highest quality mushroom products.
One gram (about a 1/2 teaspoon) guarantees 250 mg of beta-glucans. They’re one of the only companies that third-party test their mushrooms for beta-glucan content, which gives mushroom supplements like Cordyceps their effectiveness. With RealMushrooms, you know you’re getting tested, science-backed products.
Their beta-glucan content is so high because, unlike many products that ground up the whole mushroom, RealMushrooms gets it from the fruiting body. This is the part of the mushrooms that contains more of the active compounds that are responsible for its benefits. They also use hot-water extraction, considered the most effective for extracting the active compounds.
This Cordyceps supplement by RealMushrooms is a great bulk and powder-based option. The powder is easy to add to your coffee, smoothie, or any recipe.
RealMushrooms is a reputable, practitioner-approved brand, and its products are quality-tested at accredited third-party labs. The powder contains no added starch, mycelium, or grain fillers. It is also USDA Certified Organic, Certified Kosher, gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan.
Lastly, this product contains 60 grams of abstract mushroom powder, which can provide 30 to 60 servings, making it also one of the best values on the market.
For all of these reasons, RealMushroom Organic Cordyceps powder is our #1 pick.
RealMushrooms also has a capsule version. Every capsule has 500 mg of Cordyceps and 125 mg of beta-glucans, with NO added starch, mycelium, or grains. It is also USDA Certified Organic, Certified Kosher, gluten-free, non-GMO, and vegan.
Like all their products, this is third-party tested for beta-glucan content, pure mushroom extract, and free of any grain fillers, making it the highest quality mushroom brand on the market.
You can purchase bottles of 120 or 300 capsules.
Fungies Cordyceps Mushroom Gummies pack the equivalent of 50 mg of cordyceps mushroom in each delicious mango and pineapple-flavored delight. While 50 mg might sound sparse, it’s a 50:1 extract ratio – 500 mg of mushrooms are used to make the dose found in each gummy.
Fungies gummies are third-party tested and made in an FDA-registered, cGMP-certified, and allergen-free facility.
On top of that, the gummies are vegan, gluten-free, non-GMO, and naturally flavored and colored. That said, they contain glucose syrup and sucrose. The amount is minimal, but it may not be the best choice for diabetics or those on a keto diet.
On the downside, they aren’t clear about how much of the fruiting body vs. the mycelium they use. They also don’t disclose the level of beta-glucans. Still, if you’re looking for a cordyceps gummy product, this is probably one of the best.
Double Wood Supplements provides a simple cordyceps product.
2 capsules give you 1000 mg of the mushroom fruiting body standardized for 7% polysaccharides. That said, they aren’t clear about which cordyceps mushroom extract they use or how it’s grown.
It’s still a great budget cordyceps option. With 210, 500 mg capsules for under $20 it’s tough to beat that value.
Meet DIRTEA Cordyceps Mushroom Tea Powder is a fun take on other mushroom powders – it’s basically a herbal tea with an edge.
First off, you get a potent 2-gram dose of cordyceps per serving. It’s organic, non-GMO, and made with 100% organic fruiting bodies.
The company suggests adding a 2-gram serving to a cup of boiling water, stirring well, and adding your milk of choice for a tasty herbal tea. If that’s not your thing, add the powder to coffee, a protein shake, or a smoothie.
Dirtea uses a dual extraction method to make the powder, so you get both water-soluble and alcohol-soluble components of cordyceps. And it’s DAKKS certified lab-tested, so you know you’re getting the real deal.
Fresh Cap is another company that produces high-quality mushroom supplements.
One scoop of this powder contains a gram of organic cordyceps extract standardized to contain 32% Beta-Glucan and 0.3% Cordycepin. And they focus on getting beta-glucans from the fruiting body, AKA the part of the mushroom that does anything.
It’s non-GMO, gluten-free, paleo-friendly, and vegan. The only difference is that they don’t use strict, third-party testing on the amount of beta-glucan compared to other brands.
Still, it’s a great product.
They also sell cordyceps in capsule form. Each bottle contains 120 capsules, which is roughly 60 servings.
Four Sigmatic make top-tier coffee + mushroom blends. Their Boost High-Caf Ground Coffee isn’t just coffee; it’s a mushroom coffee designed to give you a mental and physical edge.
Whether you like drip coffee, French press, or cold brew, this delicious blend does it all. Plus, Four Sigmatic products are USDA organic, keto-friendly, gluten-free, and toxin-free.
Om Mushrooms Cordyceps is another solid powder option.
Om grows non-GMO, organic medicinal mushrooms on their indoor farm in California, according to FDA-certified Good Manufacturing Practices (cGMP).
The powder is vegan, keto, and paleo and contains no added sugars. One teaspoon delivers 2,000 mg of certified organic cordyceps extract.
The downside is that they use myelinated oats, which are not as high quality and aren’t tested for beta-glucan content. That said, it makes their powder milder and less bitter than others.
Om also has a capsule option. It’s also vegan, organic, and paleo. A bottle comes with 90 vegetable capsules.
Micro Ingredients Pure Organic Cordyceps Powder is a potent product. It has a 100:1 extract ratio. They use 100 grams of the fruiting body and the mycelium to make just 1 gram of this powder. You’re getting a concentrated dose of 30% polysaccharides and cordycepic acid.
Plus, it’s vegan-friendly and free from GMOs, additives, preservatives, and artificial colors.
We love Micro Ingredients because they source their ingredients sustainably in the US.
OCL Functional Mushroom Gummies are jam-packed with three potent mushrooms: 300 mg of Lion’s Mane, 100 mg of Cordyceps, and 10 mg of Reishi Mushroom. Each gummy also contains 2 mg of vitamin B6.
The ingredients are non-GMO and organic. And they use 100% fruiting bodies, so you’re getting the crème de la crème of mushroom goodness and never mycelium and grain fillers.
The delicious berry-flavored gummies are third-party tested. If you don’t believe us, FOCL provides the test results on their website. On top of that, FOCL offers a 60-day satisfaction guarantee.
It’s not a ton of cordyceps per serving, but it’s still a good option if you want a comprehensive mushroom gummy.
Morphogen Nutrition SHROOMS is a functional mushroom complex of Chaga, Lion’s Mane, Cordyceps, Maitake, Reishi, Shiitake, and Turkey Tail. Each serving packs 200 mg of each mushroom.
Morphogen is US-based and uses cGMP-certified facilities. Each batch is also tested for purity and potency by the third-party lab.
If you’re looking for a wild-grown Cordyceps sinensis supplement, this MRM product contains 750mg of cordyceps Cs-4®. It’s a patented strain of cordyceps grown in liquid fermentation – and it doesn’t have a fruiting body at all. There is a lot of debate around CS-4, but limited research suggests it has benefits.
This is a great dose at a lower starting price if you want to try cordyceps for the lowest cost.
That said, it’s not suitable for celiacs or those on a gluten-free diet.
This Doctor’s Best Cordyceps also has 750mg per capsule and comes from the mycelium.
The difference between other products is that it has ginkgo biloba and artichoke extracts, which aim to support energy and stamina. However, it’s hard to say whether these additions have any substantial benefit.
Overall, it’s a vegan-friendly supplement that won’t break the bank.
In all honesty, there are some terrible mushroom products on the market. We want you to avoid the companies jumping on the mushroom “bandwagon” hype.
Here are the considerations we took to make our list of the best-quality and best-rated cordyceps supplements on the market.
Generally, quality is a key measurement to look at. For mushroom supplements, like cordyceps, the beta-glucan content tells you whether you’re getting the beneficial substances. Companies that test and disclose this, like RealMushrooms and Fresh Cap, appear highest on our list.
We prioritize companies that use third-party testing to independently analyze the quality, purity, potency, and safety.
Cordyceps supplements come in capsules and powders alike. It’s a personal preference, but I’m a big fan of the powder/coffee method, but capsules work too. We list various forms so you can pick what works for you.
We prioritize companies that use third-party testing to independently analyze the quality, purity, potency, and safety.
Cordyceps is a functional, medicinal mushroom and adaptogen. Cordyceps militaris, the species found in most supplements, is a bright yellow-orange fungus with a slender stem and cap – it’s rather pretty.
Cordyceps has been huge in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and is now a popular anti-inflammatory, stress-busting, and energy-boosting supplement.
The word “nutraceutical” comes from combining “nutrition” and “pharmaceutical.” It’s a “food or a part of food which not only impart health benefits but also contributes to preventing or treating various diseases”. Nutraceuticals have become popular for longevity and various health conditions, including cardiovascular disease, arthritis, high cholesterol, diabetes, cancer, and depression.
There are hundreds of species of cordyceps mushrooms. However, when looking at the best cordyceps mushroom supplements, most use the cultivated form cordyceps militaris.
If you’re a mushroom nerd, you may think of cordyceps as the parasitic mushroom that grows by feasting on live arthropods high up in the Himalayan mountains. That’s cordyceps sinensis. It’s often called the OG cordyceps mushroom because ancient cultures revered it for its medicinal properties. That said, cordyceps sinensis is hard to harvest and super expensive.
In contrast, cordyceps militaris is grown without harming arthropods. This cultivated version is also better. It contains more beneficial compounds, like cordycepin. One study on edible mushrooms showed it had 90% more.
You may also see cordyceps mycelium listed on products. This isn’t a different species but refers to the part of the mushroom that does not have powerful compounds. So, if you see “myelinated” or “mycelium” you’re not getting the good stuff.
Here are some of the potential benefits of cordyceps mushrooms. Keep in mind that there are limited clinical studies on humans.
Cordycepin, an active compound in cordyceps mushrooms, is a metabolite studied for its anti-inflammatory effects.
Cordycepin is an adenosine analog, so it mimics the structure of adenosine, a compound involved in processes like inflammation. Cordycepin may bind to adenosine receptors, thus modulating inflammation at a cellular level.
Research tells us that cordycepin may inhibit the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
While current research is mainly on animals, future research may support the role of cordyceps in chronic inflammation conditions like arthritis, allergies, and skin conditions.
In 1993, female Chinese Olympic runners reportedly took this mushroom extract to improve endurance.
It’s hard to know if this is true. But plenty of athletes use cordyceps, which may work by increasing the body’s use of oxygen.
This study found supplementing with cordyceps militaris for 3 weeks or longer significantly improved VO2 max and time to exhaustion during high-intensity exercise.
Another study confirmed these benefits, showing a 7% increase in Vo2 max. Further human studies, like this one, show increased cardiovascular performance in older people using cordyceps Cs-4® – a patented version of wild-grown Cordyceps sinensis.
To take it further, one group studied mice and their ability to swim to exhaustion. The treatment group had prolonged swimming times, and their blood work showed that the mushroom appeared to have an anti-fatigue effect. This may be because cordyceps can increase blood flow. Cordyceps is often called “The Viagra of the Himalayas” because of its blood flow benefits.
However, other studies are conflicting, so more research is necessary to confirm the benefits.
Overall, if you’re an athlete, particularly an endurance athlete, you may see some athletic performance benefits. That said, invest in a third-party tested product (like RealMushrooms) so you’re not accidentally taking a banned substance.
Of all the medicinal mushrooms, cordyceps is called the “energy mushroom.”
Perhaps related to its athletic performance increases, some research suggests cordyceps may improve our ability to produce energy. It may improve our ability to use oxygen and produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate, if you paid attention in high school biology.) This is what we convert calories from food into to give us usable fuel.
This would explain the cardio performance improvements and why some people use cordyceps in their pre-workout stack. It could help with performance and recovery.
Cardiovascular disease is one of the major causes of death worldwide, so it’s no wonder we are always searching for new and innovative ways to reduce our risk of succumbing to it.
Cordyceps may help regulate the AMPK pathway, which helps regulate LDL (the bad cholesterol) associated with poor cardiovascular outcomes.
Animal studies show it may help maintain LDL cholesterol levels in a healthy range. However, we don’t know if it does the same in human studies.
We need much more research. If there is an effect, it’s likely modest.
Anecdotally, one of the claims about cordyceps is the improvements in cognition. One mouse study, for example, showed that it had a neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory effect on the brain of mice. The reason for this may be because of this mushroom’s antioxidant properties.
Again, though, it hasn’t been replicated in humans.
Diabetes is one of the most prevalent ailments today, especially in North America, and affects about half a billion people worldwide, claiming 1.3 million lives yearly.
We have several effective medications for diabetes and managing blood sugar levels in a healthy range. These medications typically have adverse effects, but it is hard to deny their effectiveness.
Cordyceps has been shown in some studies to produce a significant decrease in blood glucose. The mechanism is not fully understood, but there are some speculations. One such possible explanation is that cordyceps prevents the production of both nitrous oxide (NO) and pro-inflammatory molecules called cytokines, which in turn is believed to reduce the expression of genes that negatively impact diabetes. Another explanation is that cordycepin found in cordyceps may improve insulin sensitivity.
In addition, cordyceps may protect kidney cells (they get damaged easily with high blood sugar levels) by preventing cell death and renal fibrosis. This was shown in rat models, but it may extend to humans as well.
However, don’t neglect other non-medicinal options to manage your blood sugar, like following a well-designed exercise program and keeping your diet in check.
Cordyceps has a compound called cordycepin, which reportedly stimulates the immune system.
Cordycepin may promote blood cell proliferation, which likely plays into its anti-cancer activity, though this has yet to be shown in clinical studies. In some mouse studies, cordyceps improves the survival rate of mice with lupus. Lupus is an autoimmune condition where our body attacks its cells, and in this situation, cordyceps acts as an immunosuppressant.
These mushrooms are being explored for a range of properties, including reducing tumor proliferation. Granted, these are in pre-clinical trials, but the results are promising. Not only was the mushroom extract able to reduce tumor growth, but it also showed signs of tumor DNA damage and cell cycle arrest, all of which are good things – it means we’re halting their growth in its tracks.
The mechanism isn’t clear, which is unfortunate for a mushroom that’s been around for so long. However, we do know some rough details.
A pathway often exploited by cancer medications is the mTOR and AMPK pathway involved in protein synthesis. The mTOR protein is regulated by various cellular signals, such as growth factors, hormones, nutrients, and cellular energy. It helps to coordinate cell growth and metabolism and can often be unregulated in cancer cells. When the mTOR pathway is inhibited, it reduces the translation of proteins, particularly in cancer cells as has been shown in several studies, which results in cancer cell death and halts replication.
Outline of the potential anti-cancer mechanism of action of Cordyceps:
Here are some of the most common questions about cordyceps supplements.
The health properties of cordyceps likely come from anti-inflammatory, anti-cancer, and immune-supportive compounds like beta-glucans and cordycepin.
This is why it’s important that a quality cordyceps product tests for beta-glucan levels.
We’ve talked about the benefits this mushroom imparts in various ways, but what about nutritionally? Cordyceps are high in essential amino acids and vitamins like B1, B2, B12, vitamin E, and vitamin K. Many people take multivitamins for these compounds that our bodies need regularly, but you can certainly get them from other, more natural sources. Cordyceps happens to be chock full of them.
Some of the most notable benefits of cordyceps are improved performance, energy support, potential mood and brain health benefits, and anti-cancer effects. Some animal studies even suggest it could help maintain LDL cholesterol levels within a healthy range.
If you scroll up, we’ve got a whole section on the health benefits of these fungi.
Athletes, especially those into endurance sports, love using cordyceps to naturally increase cardiovascular performance and energy. It’s not a magic supplement, but every little bit helps.
While some claim that cordyceps can boost testosterone, the evidence is shaky. If you want to up your T-levels, regular exercise, eating enough quality protein, sleeping 7-8 hours per night, and managing your stress are the golden rules.
Cordyceps is a non-toxic medicinal mushroom, and the side effects are mild in general. The most common side effects are related to indigestion. This includes:
To limit this, start with a small dose of just a few grams. In general, a safe dose is 3-4.5 grams per day, but my typical advice is to start low and go slow to avoid the side effects. Second, don’t ever exceed the recommended dose. Third, make sure you grab a high-quality supplement free of fillers.
Also, since it may interplay with our immune system, do not take cordyceps supplements if you have an autoimmune disorder (eg. rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, multiple sclerosis) without talking to your healthcare provider.
Beta-glucans are a type of polysaccharide (carbohydrate-type substance). The “fruiting bodies” of mushrooms have the highest percent of beneficial beta-glucans to support your immune health, gut health, and more.
This is true across nearly all “medicinal mushrooms” like lion’s mane, reishi, and more. If you don’t see beta-glucans, it’s probably not as effective.
The fruiting body refers to the actual body of the mushroom – the cap and stem. The mycelium is the vegetative part of the fungus, a web-like structure mostly underground.
Supplements made from the fruiting body are generally of higher quality. They contain a higher percentage of beta-glucans and other active compounds and less starch. Mycelium-based supplements, especially those grown on grains like rice, are often high in starch and lower in beta-glucans. While the mycelium still contains beneficial compounds, experts believe it’s not as potent as the fruiting body.
Companies that use the fruiting body (like Real Mushrooms) typically make it known by listing the product as free from mycelium and grain fillers. Most of them also have testing to back up these claims.
The best time, generally, is to take cordyceps in the morning. This is for a few reasons:
First, it may support your productivity, so it makes sense to take it at the start of your workday. It may also improve your energy levels, which makes it an option to include in your pre-workout stack.
Practically speaking, many people take cordyceps with their morning coffee.
Absolutely, but make sure you’re getting a high-quality supplement.
Most companies recommend a daily dose of around 3-6 grams, which you can split into two or three doses. But again, if you’re new to it, start with a lower dose and work your way up.
You can, but some people report nausea or diarrhea when they take cordyceps on an empty stomach. If you’re new to it, start with a small dose alongside some food to see how your body reacts.
Given its potential to boost energy levels, taking cordyceps right before hitting the sack might not be the best idea. Most people take it in the morning or before a workout.
That said, cordyceps is not a stimulant, so no worries if you prefer taking it at night.
If it’s your first time, start with 1-2 grams. It can cause some indigestion if your stomach isn’t used to it. After you’re used to it, companies recommend 3-6 grams.
Cordyceps mushroom capsules, powder, or mushroom “coffee” are the most popular. No one of these forms is better than the other. It’s all about what’s more convenient for you and whether the product is high quality.
Mushrooms are pesky creatures that grow in an array of environments. Cordyceps, in particular, is most abundant in Asia, particularly China.
If you’re dealing with an autoimmune disorder like rheumatoid arthritis, systemic lupus, or multiple sclerosis, hold off on the cordyceps. It can interact with your immune system in ways we don’t understand yet.
Also, if you’re pregnant, nursing, or taking other medications, chat with your healthcare provider before diving head first.
The timeline can vary from person to person, but you might start noticing benefits like increased energy and improved athletic performance within a few weeks.
The term “detox” is often thrown around loosely, but no solid evidence suggests that cordyceps is a detoxifying agent. It has various health benefits, but “flushing” toxins out of your system isn’t one of them.
Mushroom supplements have a ton of clever marketing that doesn’t mean anything about the product. One such term is “superfood.” What is a superfood? Who decides it? Is there a committee? Can I sign up for it?
I don’t know the answers, but I wouldn’t categorize this as a superfood. I’d keep that reserved for products like high-quality greens powders.
“Full-spectrum” is also a confusing term you may see on some products. I think this refers to the full spectrum of beta-glucans, but the messaging isn’t clear. Just know that this term doesn’t mean much in this context.
Finally, “hot water extraction” is a tricky one. As the RealMushrooms team covers in this article on extraction, a combination of water and alcohol extraction (called dual extraction) may be necessary for some compounds. For cordyceps specifically, hot water extraction seems to be the most effective.
In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and most research, they use hot water extraction for cordyceps. Remember, though, this depends on the mushroom species.
Just a disclaimer: Look, this isn’t your first time on the internet. You know this, but we’re going to tell you anyway. Do not take dietary supplements without talking to your healthcare provider. DO NOT just trust strangers on the internet. Also, supplements are not regulated by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), and they’re NOT designed or approved to treat any diseases. These are not magic, nor are they particularly well-researched.