Cordyceps Types: How to Choose a Cordyceps Supplement

Cordyceps Types: How to Choose a Cordyceps Supplement - Lucid™

Cordyceps is a type of medicinal mushroom that has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. It is known for its potential health benefits, including boosting energy, supporting immune function, and improving athletic performance. 

With the growing popularity of cordyceps supplements, it's important to understand the different types available and how to choose the right one for your needs. In this article, we will explore various cordyceps types and provide guidance on selecting a high-quality cordyceps supplement. 

Let’s jump in:

Key Takeaways

Cordyceps Sinensis and Cordyceps Militaris are the two main varieties of Cordyceps supplements. 

High-quality supplements are usually derived from mushroom fruiting bodies (not mycelium), are organically sourced, and feature a guaranteed beta-glucan content for maximum efficacy.

Different forms of Cordyceps supplements, like powders, beverages, capsules, and tinctures, have varying levels of effectiveness. Tinctures may not contain beneficial beta-glucans due to alcohol extraction.

Understanding Cordyceps Supplements

In the wild, Cordyceps, also known as Cordyceps Sinensis, is a parasitic fungus that grows on the larvae of insects, typically found in high-altitude regions like the Himalayas. 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

However, due to its rarity and high cost, Cordyceps Sinensis is not often used for supplemental purposes. Now, other species of cordyceps have been modified to make them easier to cultivate. More specifically, Cordyceps Militaris has become increasingly popular and accessible. 

So, which type of cordyceps is best? Let’s compare:

Cordyceps Sinensis vs Cordyceps militaris

Cordyceps sinensis, the original species of cordyceps, is highly valued for its medicinal properties. It has been traditionally used in Chinese medicine to enhance energy, improve lung function, and support kidney health.

Cordyceps sinensis is believed to contain bioactive compounds like cordycepin, adenosine, and polysaccharides, which contribute to its potential health benefits. However, it can cost upwards of $200,000 per kilogram, putting it out of reach for most consumers.

Cordyceps militaris is considered an alternative to Cordyceps sinensis due to its similar bioactive compounds and potential health benefits. Cordyceps militaris is more accessible and affordable, making it a popular choice for cordyceps supplements.

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. Overall, the benefits are incredibly similar, meaning that Cordyceps Militaris is the best choice for most people.

Learn more by reading “Cordyceps Sinensis vs Cordyceps Militaris.”

Extracts vs. Powders

Cordyceps supplements are commonly available in two forms: extracts and powders. 

Cordyceps extracts are concentrated forms of cordyceps, usually obtained through a process of hot water extraction or dual extraction (using both water and alcohol–we’ll discuss this more below). This extraction method aims to isolate the beneficial compounds from the mushroom, making them more bioavailable and easier for the body to absorb.

Powdered cordyceps, on the other hand, consists of ground-up mushroom material. While powders are less concentrated than extracts, they can still provide potential health benefits. Particularly, they are more useful for nutritional purposes because they contain all of the natural vitamins, minerals, and fiber from the mushroom. 

When choosing between extracts and powders, consider factors such as potency, convenience, and personal preference. Extracts tend to be more potent and require smaller doses, while powders offer versatility and can be easily added to beverages or recipes.

Generally speaking, mushroom powder is NOT the best mushroom product to use as a wellness supplement. Mushroom extract, on the other hand, is a concentrated version of the bioactive compounds (called beta-glucans) found in the mushroom.

Cordyceps Mushroom Extract Quality

Supplements in the U.S. are not regulated in the same way as medications, so it's up to the consumer to put in the footwork to ensure the quality of the supplement they buy. A product can be labeled a "cordyceps supplement" if it contains any amount of cordyceps material, but that doesn't guarantee that it will have health benefits.  

Buying a high-quality cordyceps supplement is as easy as checking the label. More specifically, look for a product that:

  • is made from mushroom extract, not whole mushroom powder
  • is extracted from fruiting bodies and not mycelial biomass
  • is made using a single hot water extraction process
  • is organically sourced
  • has a suitable, verifiable beta-glucan content
  • has additional ingredients that are also clean and aligned with your needs

Let’s break each of these down: 

Extracted From Fruiting Bodies

Mushroom extract is a vague term, so you need to know more about where the “mushroom extract” comes from to assess its quality. More specifically, you want to look for an extract made from mushroom fruiting bodies, NOT mycelium. 

Here’s the difference:

The “fruiting body” is the portion of the mushroom that most people associate with mushrooms–the stem, cap, and gills. This fleshy portion of the fungi is the part that is most commonly eaten, but it’s not necessarily the part most commonly used for supplements. 

Mycelium, sometimes denoted as “mycelial biomass,” is the fungi’s tangled web of “roots” that grows beneath the surface. This portion of the fungus is a crucial part of the mushroom life cycle, and it's essential to the life and health of the mushroom fruiting body, but it does not contain many of the mushroom’s bioactive beta-glucans. 

Read “Mushroom Mycelium s Fruiting Bodies” to learn more. 

Single, Hot Water Extraction Process

How the extract is made is just as important as what it is made from. When looking at mushroom supplement quality, you’ll find many brands that boast a “double extraction” process as though it is superior. On the contrary–a product that is made using a single hot water extraction is what you’re after.

Hot water is sufficient at removing beta-glucans and “activating” them for the body. A “double extraction” involves a second phase using alcohol, which may degrade the beta-glucan content.

Read “Dual Extract Mushroom vs Hot Water Extract: Which is Best for Mushroom Supplements?” to learn more.

Organically Sourced

If you’re familiar with the harms of GMOs and pesticides, this one may seem obvious, but there’s even more to the story you may not yet understand. You want to find a cordyceps supplement that is made from organically sourced mushrooms. Here’s why:


There are roughly 11 pesticide residues that are commonly found on conventionally grown mushrooms. According to information collected by the USDA Pesticide Data Program, Thiabendazole (a pesticide) is present in 54.5% of conventionally grown mushrooms and is not present in any organically grown mushrooms. 


Take into account that this isn’t your typical “conventional vs organically grown produce” debate. There’s one important factor at play when you’re growing mushrooms, especially for medicinal use: the substrate. 


Mushrooms need to be grown in particular substrates, usually grains or wood chips. During the growth process, the mycelium and the substrate intermingle and the substrate ferments, producing bioactive compounds that help the mushroom grow. The resulting mushrooms are rich in nutrients and beta-glucans. Adding pesticides or synthetic fertilizers to the substrate can alter its microbiota, producing less nutritious mushrooms. 


In short, organic mushroom farming lessens the environmental impact of the manufacturing process, protects your health by ensuring that no pesticides make it into the final product, and ensures the therapeutic integrity of the mushrooms.  

Guaranteed Beta-Glucan Levels

A great mushroom product should have a guaranteed beta-glucan content. It’s important to note that companies are not required to list their beta-glucan content, but if they do, they need to be able to back those numbers up. 

In other words, if a product does not mention the specific beta-glucan content, it’s usually because the product contains little to none. Check the label for an estimate of the amount of beta-glucans in a product. It will vary some by the type of mushroom used and the manufacturing process, but, in general, you want a product with a beta-glucan content of 20% or more.

Clean Ingredients

Some cordyceps supplements, like cordyceps coffee, contain more than just cordyceps extract. Check all of the ingredients to make sure that they meet your specific needs and are derived from high-quality sources. 

What Type of Cordyceps Extract Supplements are Best?

We've focused on the particular formulation of a great cordyceps supplement, but we also want to touch on the many forms of cordyceps supplement you may encounter when shopping both in stores and online, including:

  • Cordyceps extract powder
  • Cordyceps mushroom beverages
  • Mushroom capsules
  • Mushroom tinctures

You still need to evaluate these against the credentials above, which poses an automatic problem for mushroom tinctures. That's because tinctures are made via alcohol extraction, so they won't usually contain a healthy beta-glucan content. 

Capsules are another example of a product that may misguide consumers. Many capsules contain whole mushroom powder and not extract, meaning their beta-glucans are not readily available for the body. 

All in all, you can choose whatever mushroom supplement meets your needs. But if you want it to be therapeutically significant, it needs to meet the rigorous standards aligned above.


Choosing the right Cordyceps supplement involves understanding the differences between the main types, Cordyceps Sinensis and Militaris, and recognizing the importance of the extraction method and supplement quality. High-quality Cordyceps supplements, preferably derived from fruiting bodies and organically sourced, can offer significant health benefits, including enhanced energy and immune function. 

By selecting the right form and ensuring the product meets stringent quality standards, you can maximize the therapeutic potential of Cordyceps in your wellness routine. 

If you want to take full advantage of the "functional" side of functional mushrooms, consider a mushroom super-blend like our Lucid Coffee, Chai, or Matcha powders. It takes full advantage of the benefits of these superfood mushrooms by pairing Cordyceps,  Maitake, Tremella, and Lion's Mane, plus powerful nootropics, like BCAA's, L-Theanine, Alpha-GPC, and more. 

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