Cordyceps is a fascinating parasitic fungus that grows from insect bodies after consuming them inside out. Interestingly the process basically turns the insect into something healthy for human consumption, as it offers different benefits. There are different types of commercially available cordyceps supplements, and each has its unique features. The question is when it comes to Cordyceps militaris and sinensis, which variety offers more health benefits?
Cordyceps sinensis is a functional and health-supporting mushroom that has been applied medicinally in Traditional Chinese medicine for many years. Today, it has become highly sought after, especially for the health-supporting benefits it offers. There are alternatives to sinensis, which is also commercially cultivated today. Unlike sinensis, this alternative doesn’t require insects to grow, making them more affordable. This alternative is called Cordyceps militaris, and it offers the same beneficial compounds as Cordyceps sinensis.
Continue reading to learn about the differences between the two mushrooms and determine which is the best Cordyceps supplement.
What Are Cordyceps Mushrooms?
There are more than 400 species of Cordyceps, and they are mostly parasites that grow on in specific insects. However, the focus of this article is on just two species, which are Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris.
Once the spore of the mushroom enters the body of the insect, it starts to grow in the insect, where it transforms into the mycelium. This then spreads inside the insect and eventually consumes it to turn into a full mycelium. The fruiting body then grows from the insect’s head.
Cordyceps Sinensis: The Caterpillar Fungus
This is one the most common and popular Cordyceps species, and it’s also known as Ophiocordyceps sinensis. As mentioned earlier, the mushroom enters and grows in the caterpillar of the Hepialus moth. The mushroom is mostly found in the wild, and in many cases, it’s found growing above the ground, with the insect body below.
Cordyceps sinensis is a rare species, especially in the wild, and this is mostly due to the lifecycle of the fungus. It is mostly found growing only under specific environmental conditions, which is mostly characterized by high elevations like the Chinese and Tibet provinces of Gansu, Qinghai, Yunnan, and Sichuan. The species are also found in Bhutan, Nepal, and India but are not abundant. In these regions, it’s also called yartsa gunbu or yarsagumba. In Chinese cultures, it’s known as Dōnɡ Chónɡ Xià Cǎo (冬虫夏草), which means summer grass, winter worm.
The Price of Cordyceps Sinensis, A.K.A Himalayan Gold
This is a rare variety of mushroom that only grows in a few regions. It is a wild variety with many health-promoting benefits, but its scarcity makes it to be very expensive. This is why the fungi are rarely found in most supplements. The persistent rise in the price of the mushroom is the reason why it has been dubbed “Himilayan gold.” It is now a major contributor to the income of most households within the region where the mushroom grows.
Today, the Chinese government now issues harvesting permits which makes it easier for local land holders to access the regions where these mushrooms grow.
Cordyceps Sinensis and the Chinese Runners
This is a complete article on its own, but totally worth mentioning. In 1993, the mushrooms made international headlines during the Chinese national games that were held in Beijing. During the tournament, many Chinese runners shattered track and field records, and the most notable was Wang Jungxia, after beating the 10,000m record within 42 seconds.
She then came second to her teammate three days later, and this was in the 1,500m to beat the previous record. After two days, Wang went on to beat a 3000m record, a record that still stands today. Upon interviewing their coach, he attributed their success to the Cordyceps sinensis tonic they took.
Today, this story is used in marketing different Cordyceps products. However, the key thing to note is that along the line, these athletes all failed drug tests, with some being dropped out of the Chinese Olympic team.
Why Cordyceps Sinensis is Not in Some Cordyceps Supplement
Cordyceps sinensis is not in many supplements because of its high price tag. It is currently one of the most expensive mushrooms in the world, and it’s mostly sold in Asian and North American markets. The main reason why it’s expensive is because science hasn’t provided methods for the cultivation of the mushroom.
Even though most mushroom supplements lack the caterpillar fungus, many companies still use pictures of Cordyceps sinensis for marketing their products and on-label information. Today, most customers believe they are consuming Cordyceps sinensis, even though they aren’t.
Cordyceps Militaris – The Cultivated Alternative
Among all the Cordyceps species available, there’s one that is now being commercially cultivated to produce the fruiting body. This specie is also growing in popularity and is now widely used in supplements. The mushroom is called Cordyceps militaris, and it’s also known as Caterpillar Killer or the Scarlet Club Fungus.
This species is known to be able to grow on different types of insects, most of which are found in Asia and North America. They are also common in the mountains. The interesting thing about this mushroom is that it can be cultivated commercially without the use of insects.
Advantages of Cordyceps Militaris Over Cordyceps Sinensis
There are two different advantages of militaris over sinensis to note, and they include the following:
- Cordyceps militaris is a super-charged Cordyceps version because it produces health-supporting compounds like cordycepin in higher concentrations than Cordyceps sinensis.
- Insects aren’t required for the cultivation of the mushroom. Cordyceps miliaris can be grown in a sterile medium.
Extract of Cordyceps Militaris Mushrooms
There are much emerging research showing that Cordyceps militaris offers similar benefits to Cordyceps sinensis. The mushroom has long been applied as an alternative to Cordyceps sinensis in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
As mentioned earlier, the main reason why most supplements are made from Cordyceps militaris and not sinensis is because of the high cost of Cordyceps sinensis. However, it’s important to note that some of these supplements contain myceliated grains rather than the actual mushroom extract. Therefore, it’s important to know how to identify quality products when buying.
A Supplement Shopping Guide
To get the best supplement, there are certain things to look out for, and this includes the following:
- The supplement is made from Cordyceps militaris: As mentioned earlier, militaris produce a higher concentration of cordycepin than sinensis.
- The label of the supplement highlights that it is made from the fruiting body and not the mycelium: Supplements made from the mycelium include the grain used in growing the fungal filaments, which don’t have a high proportion of the beneficial compounds.
- The label highlights beta-glucan as a content: This is a key compound for getting the health benefits of the fungi.
At Microdose Bros, we provide Cordyceps supplements, made exclusively from organic Cordyceps militaris mushrooms with more than 25% beta-glucans.