A Miraculous Mushroom With
A Dark Side
We can’t think of a more exciting family of mushrooms than the various species of cordyceps, fabled for their invigorating effects, and feared for their zombie-like effects! This is because the various species of cordyceps mushroom have the ability to infect insect hosts. Once their unfortunate hosts have been infected, the cordyceps mushroom takes over their central nervous system, allowing them to control the movements of their host. This is how many of the cordyceps mushroom species travel around their environment. The most famous example of this happening is with Ophiocordyceps sinensis, which infects various species of caterpillars. These Ophiocordyceps sinensis infected caterpillars are quite rare, and are highly revered in traditional Chinese and Tibetan medicine. They are especially popular in Tibet, where they are referred to as yartsa gunbu, or in other parts of the world, as the “caterpillar fungus”.
Both the video game and HBO series The Last Of Us, centers around cordyceps. That’s the fungus that causes the “infected,” and results in the apocalypse seen in those series. Luckily, that cordyceps is just fiction. In reality, cordyceps is only able to infect arthropods… for now!
Finding and collecting Ophiocordyceps sinensis infected caterpillars in the wild is incredibly difficult, and thus it is perhaps not surprising that this caterpillar fungus is extremely expensive, reportedly going for the eye-wateringly high price of 50,000 USD per pound! This surely has earned yartsa gunbu even more notoriety! The concept of cordyceps mushrooms taking over the central nervous system of insects, was the main inspiration for the game ‘The Last of Us’, which first came out in 2013. In this game, the cordyceps mushroom has evolved, and can now infect human hosts too.
It’s an excellent and scary game, which gained the cordyceps mushroom way more notoriety than ever! Now, in 2023, cordyceps is having another resurgence with the HBO MAX ‘The Last of Us’ series coming out, and exposing a much larger audience to this “zombie fungus”!
Fear not however, the cordyceps mushroom definitely will not be infecting humans anytime soon, but it can certainly help enhance our physical and mental well being! These days, the most common species of cordyceps used in supplements, is Cordyceps militaris. Unlike other species of cordyceps, Cordyceps militaris can quite readily be cultivated on grain based substrates, making cordyceps mushrooms much more accessible to the rest of the world. However, cultivating Cordyceps militaris on grain based substrates is still quite tricky, and very different from cultivating other types of fungi.
Due to this, it is not uncommon to see inferior mycelium on grain products on the market, which simply do not possess as much of the stimulating effects that the Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies do. When it comes to the cordyceps mushroom, we have to keep in mind that traditionally the fruiting body was used exclusively. However, due to the high cost of the caterpillar fungus, an alternative had to be found in order to make the cordyceps mushroom more available. While not a perfect substitute for real caterpillar fungus, the Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies cultivated on grain based substrates, contain many of the same compounds found in the real caterpillar fungus, such as cordycepin. While we have personally never tried real caterpillar fungus, we have heard from our mushroom cultivators that the effects are similar, albeit slightly less stimulating and invigorating when compared to real yartsa gunbu. One comparison we can make however, is between Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies, and cordyceps mycelium on grain products. In our experience, even though the mycelium on grain products also contain cordycepin, they distinctly lack the unique energizing properties of the Cordyceps militaris fruiting bodies. We have done a lot of investigative work on this, and believe we have finally figured out why this is. We have a bit more research to delve into on this, but will share our results in the near future. The important thing to remember here though, is that if you want to get as close as possible to the effects of real yartsa gunbu, you have to opt for a high quality Cordyceps militaris fruiting body product, because cordyceps mycelium on grain simply won’t give you that unique energizing and invigorating effect! This brings us to the two different Cordyceps militaris products we carry, one being a full spectrum 1:1 optimized Cordyceps militaris powder, and the other being a optimized 10:1 dual water & ethanol extract. Let’s dive into the comparisons!
Which Cordyceps Is Best For You?
The differences between our two cordyceps products might seem a bit confusing at first. Our full spectrum Cordyceps militaris, which we call the 1:1 extract, is actually more like an optimized Cordyceps militaris mushroom powder, rather than an extract. To create our Cordyceps militaris 1:1 product, we use a proprietary hot water processing technique to break down the chitin in the cell walls of the mushroom. Chitin makes up the cell walls of the cordyceps mushroom, and humans can’t efficiently break down chitin. This means that many of the bioactives in Cordyceps militaris are locked away in the cell walls of the mushroom, and thus cannot be easily accessed by our bodies. By breaking down the chitin with our hot water processing technique, we can then more easily access the bioactives in Cordyceps militaris! After the hot water process is used to break down the chitin, the entire mushroom material is kept, dehydrated, then turned into a powder. So our 1:1 “extract” does not lose any compounds that are not soluble, making it the most full spectrum Cordyceps militaris product we offer.
In contrast, our 10:1 extract is made via a much more complex dual water/ethanol extraction technique. This extraction technique allows for the concentration of both water and ethanol soluble compounds. In this process, hot water is used to break down the chitin, while also being used as a solvent to pull out and concentrate the water soluble fraction of Cordyceps militaris. Subsequently, ethanol is employed in order to pull out and concentrate the ethanol soluble fraction of Cordyceps militaris. Unlike our 1:1 Cordyceps militaris product, we only collect the water and ethanol that has been enriched with Cordyceps bioactives, while the remaining mushroom biomass is discarded. The highly concentrated water and ethanol fractions are then dried to yield a high potency Cordyceps militaris extract powder. What this means is that we start the extraction off with 10 kg of Cordyceps mushroom, and end up with 1 kg of finished extract. This is why it is called a 10:1 extract, and goes to show just how potent the 10:1 extract is!
One interesting thing to keep in mind with both of these Cordyceps militaris products, is that the Cordyceps 10:1 extract certainly is much more potent than the cordyceps 1:1, however, what is perhaps more interesting is the difference in character of effects. The cordyceps 1:1 is much more rounded in effect, providing a wonderful energizing and invigorating effect. The cordyceps 10:1 extract on the other hand, is much more focused in effects. The energizing effects of the Cordyceps militaris 1:1 turn into a much zippier stimulating and mood boosting effect in the cordyceps 10:1 extract. Even if you were to take higher doses of the Cordyceps militaris 1:1, you would not be able to achieve the same overall character of effects that you can achieve with the Cordyceps militaris 10:1 extract. This means that the two mushrooms have two very different applications!
Cordyceps 1:1 For Smooth Full-Spectrum Effects
Our Cordyceps militaris 1:1 is best for those looking to add a little pep to their steps during the day, whilst keeping the effects smooth and balanced. The cordyceps 1:1 is wonderful for dialing in overall cardiovascular function, whilst giving a nice yet subtle lift to overall cognitive function. With the high beta-glucan content, it is also great for dialing in overall immune function. We also enjoy the cordyceps 1:1 as a component of more complex stacks, where cordyceps shouldn’t be the star of the show, but rather one of the many synergistic components of a great stack.
Cordyceps 10:1 For Electric Energy
Our Cordyceps militaris 10:1 dual water/ethanol extract provides a completely different experience than our more mild mannered Cordyceps militaris 1:1 extract. With the cordyceps 10:1, the natural feeling energizing effects of the cordyceps 1:1 is ramped up significantly and gains a fairly pushy edge. The mood boosting effects are also significantly elevated with the cordyceps 10:1. Finally, the cardiovascular enhancing effects are also more pronounced with the cordyceps 10:1. This makes it a very interesting Cordyceps militaris extract for those looking to use cordyceps primarily as a pre-workout ingredient or as an uplifting mood booster! The cordyceps 10:1, unlike the cordyceps 1:1, definitely attracts more attention to itself, so it is slightly harder to integrate into a more complex stack. However, if your current stack is missing some energizing drive, then the cordyceps 10:1 is still an ideal candidate!
Similar to the cordyceps 1:1, the cordyceps 10:1 is also good for enhancing overall immune function. That being said, the cordyceps 1:1 edges out the cordyceps 10:1 slightly in this area, because the cordyceps 1:1 has a higher immune function promoting beta-glucan content.