The Fungi Folks

Cordyceps – The Clinical Trials

In order to understand the medicinal value of Cordyceps and how best to use it, we can draw upon several sources of information. The reputation of Cordyceps mushrooms as prized medicinals can be evidenced through both thousands of years of traditional use, and modern scientific studies. The first mention of the use of Cordyceps is in the Chinese classic “Herbal of the Divine Plowman” in 200AD, and the wealth of knowledge from traditional Eastern systems of medicine reinforce modern scientific findings.

In terms of modern research, the gold standard for studying the effects of different medicines and treatments is the double-blind, placebo-controlled human clinical trial. In vitro (cell culture) and animal studies are also important in gaining understanding of medicines such as Cordyceps, but human clinical trials are superior as they focus on the medicine in its true context – within the complex system of the human body.

Below is a list of many of the available human clinical trials, with brief descriptions of the objectives and findings of each study. Cordyceps has a range of other effects that are not covered in this list of clinical trials, which have been evidenced through animal trials, in vitro trials, and centuries of traditional use. (I will go into this in a later blog)

Modern scientific research – particularly in the West – is playing catch up in the study of myco-medicine. There is a great need for more studies – in particular clinical trials, to be conducted to understand the massive potential of fungal medicines and start to incorporate them in modern systems of medicine.

However, it is understandable in the current climate of Western medicine that folk remedies and whole organism medicines such as plants and mushrooms are not prioritised in the research efforts. Research requires funding, and funding is controlled by the institutions. Herbs and mushrooms are accessible to the people working outside the institutions – they can be grown, they can be foraged, they can be extracted, and they cannot be patented.

Double blind, Randomized, Single center, Placebo controlled studies

  • All subjects completed a maximal graded exercise test, 6 min sub-maximal cycle test, and 3 min all-out cycle test, each separated by at least 24 hrs. Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2 max), time to exhaustion (TTE), and ventilatory threshold (VT) were determined via respiratory gas analysis during the maximal graded exercise test performed on a cycle ergometer. Lactate and oxygen saturation (SPO2) were measured
  • There was a significant increase in VO2 max (44.0 ± 10.5 to 48.8 ± 11.1 ml/kg/min-1; p = 0.042) for MR (C. militaris group). There was also an increase in TTE (+69.8 sec; 851.7 ± 170.0 to 921.5 ± 146.2 sec) for MR as determined by 95% confidence intervals.
  • Though not statistically significant (p > 0.05), there was a greater increase in VT for MR
  • There was also a non-significant increase (p > 0.05) in PP in MR
  • To determine the effects of a mushroom blend containing Cordyceps militaris on high-intensity exercise after 1 and 3 weeks of supplementation.
  • Maximal oxygen consumption (VO2max), time to exhaustion (TTE), and ventilatory threshold (VT) were measured during a maximal graded exercise test on a cycle ergometer.
  • Statistically significant improvements in TTE (time to exhaustion), and VO2 max
  • The aim of this study is to determine the efficacy of C. militaris for enhancing cell-mediated immunity and its safety in healthy male adults.
  • Statistically significant effect on immunity
    • Increased natural killer cell activity
    • Increased lymphocyte proliferation index
    • Increased IL-2 (interrleukin) levels
    • Increased IFN-y (interferon) levels
    • (Partially increased Th1 cytokine secretion – not statistically significant)
  • The objective of this study was to examine the effect of Cs-4® (Cordyceps sinensis) on exercise performance in healthy elderly subjects.
  • Increase in metabolic threshold (10%) (point at which lactate starts to build up), and ventilatory threshold (8.5%) were seen in the treatment 
  • Cs-4 (Cordyceps sinensis mycelium) is a different species from the Cordyceps we grow on the farm (Cordyceps militaris). C.militaris has a very similar chemical profile to C.sinensis, and two of the main compounds of interest (cordycepin and adenosine) are even found in higher concentrations in C.militaris.
  • Looking at safety (Phase 1) and effect on mild liver dysfunction
  • Most assays did not prove statistically significant
  • No adverse effects – safe
  • Statistically significant effect on the Hounsfield units of liver CT scans – these assay the fat deposits in the liver

Open Label

  • Focusing on weak urinary system in males – increased frequency, hesitancy, nocturia (excessive night time urination), and sexual function
  • Significant increase in maximum flow, and prostate size decrease were observed
  • VERY significant qualitative decreases in symptoms of micturition (weeing trouble), nocturia, incomplete emptying, straining, and weak stream symptoms were observed
  • Significant improvements in sexual function, erectile maintaining, sexual satisfaction, sexual problem alleviation

Mushroom Benefits

Modern studies and a long history of traditional use have indicated that mushrooms can offer natural immune support, stress relief, improved cognitive function, and promote overall well-being through a range of bioavailable compounds. Here are some of the potential indications:
  • Cordyceps: Energy, endurance, respiratory health, general vitality
  • Lion’s Mane: Focus, memory, general cognition, and gut health
  • Reishi: Stress relief, adaptogenic, sleep, immune modulation
  • Shiitake: Immune support, cardiovascular health, rich in vitamins and minerals

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