Cordyceps is one of the world’s most profound species of fungi–and its potential medicinal effects as a mushroom nootropic and performance enhancer have an eternal reputation. This funky little fungus, sometimes called “the zombie fungus” has an intriguing life.
In the wild, Cordyceps Sinensis grows on caterpillar hosts in very specific conditions Foraging has proven difficult and the natural-grown version of this medicinal mushroom can cost upwards of $20,000 per kilogram.
Needless to say, that left Cordyceps Sinensis benefits a bit out of reach for most people, so experts synthesized a new Cordyceps species that was a bit easier to grow–but what’s the difference in Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps Militaris benefits? Do they match up? Is it worth it to buy this “consumer version” of this magical mushroom?
Let’s dive into the benefits and differences between the two:
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Cordyceps Sinensis is the “wild strain” of cordyceps, but it is nearly impossible (and expensive) to obtain.
Cordyceps Militaris is the “lab-grown” version of Cordyceps, but it’s also the only variety that contains cordycepin, an active substance associated with increased benefits.
Both varieties of cordyceps may have similar benefits, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, antidiabetic, anti-aging effects, and more.
Understanding Cordyceps & It’s Benefits
As we mentioned, natural Cordyceps is a parasitic fungus that typically infects the larvae of insects and transforms into a unique mushroom-like structure. This natural phenomenon led to its discovery and subsequent use in traditional medicine. Cordyceps has been valued for its potential to enhance vitality, improve endurance, and boost overall health.
In fact, the potential benefits of Cordyceps are expansive and may include (pending more expansive human trials):
- Enhanced blood flow
- Enhanced physical performance
- Stabilized blood sugar
- Anti-aging effects
- Anti-tumor effects
- Anti-inflammatory effects
The question we want to explore today is: what’s the difference between the rare, but naturally sourced Cordyceps Sinensis and the lab-grown Cordyceps Militaris, and do the benefits match up? Let’s talk about both Cordyceps varieties:
Cordyceps Sinensis: Cultivated by Nature
Cordyceps sinensis, commonly known as the caterpillar fungus, is the original and most well-known species of Cordyceps. It primarily grows in the high-altitude regions of the Tibetan Plateau and the Himalayas. More specifically, it grows parasitically, using ghost moth larvae as its host.
Traditional Chinese medicine has used Cordyceps sinensis for centuries to support respiratory health, improve kidney function, and enhance physical performance.
Cordyceps Militaris: Cultivated for Consumption
Cordyceps Militaris is a species that can be cultivated in controlled laboratory conditions. It is often considered a substitute for Cordyceps Sinensis due to its similar chemical composition and potential health benefits. Cordyceps Militaris has gained popularity in recent years due to its availability and ease of cultivation, making it a viable alternative for individuals seeking the benefits of Cordyceps.
Cordyceps Sinensis vs Militaris: Comparing the Benefits
So, while the two species of Cordyceps are very different in how they are produced, the way they are used and their benefits mostly line up. Cordyceps Militaris, was, after all, designed to offer consumers an affordable and accessible option to replace the benefits of the original fungi strain.
There are, of course, a few differences to be aware of when it comes to the chemical composition between the two. Specifically, there’s a difference in two active compounds: adenosine and cordycepin.
Cordyceps Sinensis has greater levels of adenosine, but contains no cordycepin. Cordyceps Militaris contains both, but lower levels of adenosine. This merely makes a difference in the degree to which each cordyceps variety helps with specific ailments and situations. Over all, the benefits are incredibly similar.
Unfortunately, there has not been any research to date to directly compare the two varieties, but we can take what we know about each one to draw close conclusions. Let’s break down the benefits:
Both varieties of Cordyceps are thought to have powerful antioxidant properties, but research suggests that there is some variation between them.
According to research, Cordyceps Militaris has a more potent inhibitory effect on liposome peroxidation, a natural process that leads to the breakdown of cells and their signaling function. According to this same study, however, the Sinensis variety is better at inhibiting protein oxidation, which is a mechanism that’s implicated in Alzheimer’s disease and other neurodegenerative diseases.
Both varieties of Cordyceps also exhibit hypoglycemic properties, meaning they can help to lower the blood sugar, which means they may be useful for managing diabetes. However, one study suggests that the Cordyceps Militaris variety is more effective in this regard.
A recent study found that both Cordyceps militaris and Cordyceps sinensis may help to relieve symptoms related to respiratory illness, but the study did not suggest a significant difference in the effects of the two varieties.
Autoimmune Disease Support
Another study found that both varieties may be effective for treating autoimmune diseases. The study suggested that both may be equally effective, but for different reasons, and seems to call for a mixed use in this regard.
The same autoimmune disease study listed above found that while both varieties of Cordyceps are incredibly similar, only Cordyceps Militaris contains a compound called cordycepin. This biologically active compound is associated with a multitude of benefits, and it's fair to say that Cordyceps Militaris may behold these increased benefits above Cordyceps Sinensis.
According to one report, the benefits associated with cordycepin include:
Comparing the Side Effects of Cordyceps Sinensis vs Militaris
One reason that medicinal mushrooms like Cordyceps are so popular is because they aren't usually linked to any severe side effects. Of course, while high-quality mushroom supplements are usually safe, there are still a few potential mushroom supplements side effects to be aware of. Generally speaking, though, the risk is the same for both varieties of Cordyceps. The most common side effects may include:
- Upset stomach
- Drug interactions with antidepressants and blood thinning medications
- Allergic reactions (common in those allergic to mushrooms or mold), including itchy, watery eyes, swelling, difficulty breathing, rash, and more.
Read “Cordyceps Side Effects & How Quality Impacts Risk” to learn more.
So, What's the Difference? Cordyceps Sinensis vs Militaris
If you're looking for the short and sweet comparison between Cordyceps Sinensis benefits and Cordyceps Militaris benefits, it's simply this: Both varieties of Cordyceps have similar potential benefits, including:
However, Cordyceps Militaris is the only variety that contains cordycepin, a bioactive compound that is associated with additional benefits.
The two varieties have the same safety profile and side effects. Cordyceps Sinensis, which grows only on caterpillars in only a few parts of the world, is incredibly hard to come by and costs upwards of $20,000 per kilogram. Cordyceps Militaris, however, is much more accessible and affordable.
Which Cordyceps Species Should You Choose?
When looking at the facts, it's plain to see–Cordyceps Militaris is the better choice. Not only is Cordyceps Sinensis extremely rare and expensive, but it doesn't contain cordycepin, a powerful bioactive compound associated with most of Cordyceps Militaris' increased benefits.
The good news is, most Cordyceps supplements on the market are made with the Militaris variety, making Cordyceps supplements more affordable and attainable for the public.
There's more to choosing a good mushroom supplement than just differentiating between Cordyceps varieties. You also need to determine the style of cordyceps you prefer (like Cordyceps coffee vs capsules) and the Cordyceps dosage that best fits your needs. Finally, take a good look at the overall quality of your mushroom supplements since this has everything to do with the Cordyceps Militaris benefits you will reap and the side effects you may encounter.
We'll quickly break it down:
Cordyceps Supplement Quality
When buying mushroom supplements, you have two basic options–mushroom powder and mushroom extract.
Mushroom powder is a ground up version of dried, whole mushrooms. It contains all of the vitamins and minerals found in the fresh mushroom, usually in similar ratios. Mushroom extract, on the other hand, is a concentrated version of the bioactive compounds (in this case, beta-glucans and cordycepin) found in the mushroom. Mushroom extract, which also often comes in powder form, allows you to consume powerful doses of beneficial beta-glucans without needing to consume copious amounts of powder.
Next, you also have to look at the source of the extract you choose. Some products are made from mushroom mycelium while others are made from fruiting bodies.
Mycelium is the underground “root” portion of the mushroom, and while it is important to the mushroom life cycle, it does not typically contain a high concentration of bioactive compounds. Typically, mushroom extracts made from 100% fruiting bodies are the best choice for medicinal use.
Looking for a high-quality Cordyceps Militaris supplement? Consider pairing Cordyceps with other medicinal mushrooms and botanical nootropics for the ultimate brain and body awakening.
Our Lucid mushroom+nootropic formula contains a hearty dose of Cordyceps, plus other mushrooms and nootropics, including:
This synergistic mix is designed to enhance cognitive capacity while improving cellular energy and endurance so that you feel good inside and out. Read "Why We Chose Our Ingredients: What’s in a Lucid Stack?" to learn more. Or check out one of our three flavor varieties: