Medically Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on April 14, 2022

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 at least one large-scale study, cordyceps lowered creatinine levels in people with chronic kidney disease, and in others, it had the effect of protecting the kidneys from toxic drugs, complications of diabetes, and transplant rejection. It may also lower blood sugar levels. 

Studies have also shown that cordyceps may boost athletic endurance and tolerance to high-intensity exercise. 

However, more research is needed to determine if cordyceps has real benefit on human health.

The best dose of cordyceps hasn’t been set for any condition. Quality and ingredients in supplements may vary widely. This makes it impossible to recommend a standard dose. 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 and drugs that suppress the immune system.

Supplements are not regulated by the FDA the same way that medicines are. They are treated as foods and do not have to prove that they are safe or effective before being sold on the market.

Show Sources


Fundukian LJ ed, The Gale Encyclopedia of Alternative Medicine, third edition, 2009.

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center web site: About Herbs: "Cordyceps."

Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database web site: "Cordyceps."

NYU Langone Medical Center: "Cordyceps."

Cochrane Database Syst Rev:  "Cordyceps sinensis (a traditional Chinese medicine) for treating chronic kidney disease."

J Diet Suppl: "Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation."

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