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Cordyceps has long been a traditional treatment in Chinese medicine. It comes from a bizarre source: a fungus that grows on caterpillars. Some people use it to try to boost energy and improve well-being.

Why do people take cordyceps?

In Chinese medicine, people take cordyceps as a daily treatment for good health. However, we don't have much research about whether cordyceps has health benefits.

Some lab studies have been promising. In test tubes, cordyceps seems to trigger immune cells. It may help the immune system fight some viruses and cancers. In animal studies, it seems to protect the kidneys from toxic drugs. It may also lower blood sugar levels. However, we don't know yet if cordyceps would have any benefit in people for any of these conditions. We need more research.

Studies have not found that cordyceps boosts athletic performance.

The best dose of cordyceps hasn’t been set for any condition. Quality and ingredients in supplements may vary widely. This makes it hard to set a standard dose.

Some studies use 3 grams per day. Ask your health care provider for advice.

Can you get cordyceps naturally from foods?

Cordyceps is not found in foods.

What are the risks?

Tell your doctor about any supplements you’re taking, even if they’re natural. That way, your doctor can check on any potential side effects or interactions with medications.

  • Side effects. Cordyceps is generally safe, but it may cause upset stomach, nausea, and dry mouth in some people.
  • Risks. Don't take cordyceps if you have cancer, diabetes, or a bleeding disorder. Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding and children should avoid cordyceps. We don’t know if cordyceps is safe for them.
  • Interactions. If you take any medicines regularly, talk to your doctor before you start using cordyceps supplements. Cordyceps could interact with blood thinners, diabetes treatments, and drugs that suppress the immune system.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA.

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by David Kiefer, MD on June 14, 2015

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