*We may earn a commission on links from this page, but we only highlight brands we trust.
Part parasite, part mushroom, cordyceps might be on the fringes of the fungi world, but its medicinal uses are not to be underestimated. Cordyceps is believed to have energizing, vasodilatory properties, according to generations of folk herbalists. The rarest and most sought-after variety, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, sits 14,000 feet above sea level on the Himalayan mountains. It sprouts from the head of dead caterpillars. Alternatively, mushroom growers have figured out how to synthesize versions of another species, Cordyceps militaris. We talked with a few herbalists to get a clearer idea of what to consider when buying cordyceps mushroom supplements.
Ahead, experts weigh in on the mysteriously cool cordyceps. Here’s what they had to say about what should be looking for on ingredient labels and the best time to supplement with cordyceps.
What Makes a Good Cordyceps Mushroom Supplement?
A good cordyceps supplement comes from brands that are honest about ingredient sourcing and composition. Acquiring authentic Ophiocordyceps sinensis is an expensive commodity item that, at least now, faces the threat of endangerment from overharvesting. Most cordyceps supplements sold in the United States feature Cordyceps militaris. That’s why if you see a product claiming to contain Ophiocordyceps sinensis at a suspiciously low price, you can weed it out as illegitimate.
When shopping for mushroom supplements, you’re likely to see the terms fruiting body or mycelium on the label. The “fruiting body” is the mushroom part of the supplement—it’s part of the fungi that grows above ground. Mycelium is the underground part of the fungus. The complex web spreads through the soil, overtakes logs, or colonizes bugs—in the case of Ophiocordyceps sinensis.
Mycelium vs. Fruiting Body Supplements
There’s plenty of debate about whether or not fruiting bodies or mycelium should both be present in a quality mushroom supplement. Many herbalists—including the ones we’ve interviewed here—recommend cordyceps supplements that have both mycelium and fruiting bodies listed on the ingredient label. But, here lies the controversy: Mushroom fruiting bodies have been used medicinally and as food for thousands of years. Yet, research on the potential health benefits of mushroom mycelium is really only just beginning.
Early research suggests that Cordyceps militaris mycelium has a different nutritional profile than mushroom fruiting bodies—although, much depends on the mycelium’s growing conditions. Another early study on immune cells suggests that mycelium from the medicinal mushroom Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail) may have positive effects on the immune system. Still, this early research needs to be confirmed in larger studies.
Myceliated grain is another term you’re likely to see on mushroom products. Grain is an invaluable material in the colonization process. Colonization is a term used to describe the way mycelium spreads throughout a growing medium. In a final supplement product, however, it merely acts as a filler.
“You don’t necessarily need to understand the science behind mushrooms in order to recognize a company with integrity,” says Bruno. A simple look at the “About page” will tell you how serious the brand takes plant and people reciprocity—or fungal reciprocity, perhaps.
The Best Cordyceps Supplements, According to Herbalists
“What I love about cordyceps is that it’s not stimulating,” says Cameron Allen, professional herbalist, and astrologer in Memphis, Tennessee. “It gives me the feeling that I have a larger capacity for creativity, yet it doesn’t create a sense of restlessness about it, rather a sense of stability.”
Allen supplements with cordyceps for back and knee injuries he’s been healing from since playing college football. When dosed consistently, he says that cordyceps has also helped his libido and breath control during exercise. (In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cordyceps was used for energy and sexual vitality, as well as a lung tonic, among other things.)
Not all herbalists agree, however, on the best way to use cordyceps. Herbalist Mikaela de la Myco, behind the education brand MushWOMB Consciousness, only pulls cordyceps down from the medicine cabinet when inspiration strikes. “Cordyceps grants me tremendous energy, and I do not need to ingest it often,” she says. Everyone reacts differently to cordyceps depending on the reason of use, dosage, and delivery form. Below, we rounded up five cordyceps products to inspire your journey.
Best Cordyceps Supplement
Not sure what’s better: dried cordyceps, tinctures, or powders? Scroll through these hand-picked cordyceps supplements:
Herbalist’s Pick: Fat of the Land Woodland Cocoa
Fat of the Land invites you to imagine your bare feet on soft forest floor as you slowly ingest this multi-mushroom cocoa. It has extracts from cordyceps and five other medicinal mushrooms. Bruno recommends pairing the Woodland Cocoa with Fat of the Land’s mushroom maple syrup to bump up the medicinal magic. Fat of the Land makes their products in small batches seasonally.
Pro tip: Use half the cocoa dose to make your cordyceps supplement last twice as long—if you’re trying to stretch it.
DoubleBlind’s Pick: La Republica USDA Organic Cordyceps Powder
Cordyceps mushroom is the star ingredient in this organic mushroom powder from La Republica, a California brand gaining a lot of credibility on the medicinal mushroom scene. The cordyceps powder has parts from the whole fruiting body without myceliated fillers. We love that the product has 120 servings. It’s easy to add a ¼ tsp dose to hot water for a more potent dose. “Cordyceps is like drinking [yerba] mate, guarana, ginseng, or other ‘energy’ plants,” says James McConchie, mycologist and owner of Haight Street Shroom Shoppe. Unlike your typical caffeine “crash,” cordyceps shouldn’t overstimulate the body.
Pro tip: Toss the BPA-free jar into the recycling when you’re finished.
Those bold enough to cook with cordyceps will appreciate a dehydrated supplement, since fresh cordyceps are more difficult to find. Dried cordyceps from Far West Fungi come in 1 oz. and 8 oz. quantities, a decent amount if you want to experiment with sauces, broths, or risotto recipes. To fuel your body for a productive day, you might try sauteeing these cordyceps into a breakfast scramble.
Pro tip: Reconstitute the mushrooms with hot liquid, such as wine, cream, or broth, and soak them for 20 minutes. Keep the remaining liquid to drink as a mushroom shooter or for additional liquid in whatever recipe you’re cooking.
Convenient and fast-acting, this dual-extracted cordyceps tincture appeals to mushroom lovers of all levels. Nicole’s Apothecary is a woman-owned mushroom brand from Dr. Nicole Apelian, author, biologist, and two-time contestant on the History Channel’s survival series “Alone.” To make her cordyceps tinctures, she incorporates a unique third-step into her process called the Spagyric Extraction Method. In a few words, the method essentially locks in mineral ash made from the whole mushroom, which some would toss aside. Consider this one of the more nutrient-dense and potent mushroom products on the market.
Pro tip: Allen recommends 30 seconds of deep breathing before and after you take a mushroom tincture to add mindfulness to your ritual.
We know there are some people who would be open to microdosing fungi if it didn’t taste, well, so shroomy. With you in mind, we thought these cordyceps capsules from mycologist Paul Stamets were the perfect answer. They’re made with powdered cordyceps mycelium and myceliated brown rice. (You probably won’t pick up on the taste you if you take other daily supplements at the same time.)
Pro tip: Take these capsules on a full stomach 30 minutes before intensive physical or mental activity. Eating something with cordyceps helps you avoid gastrointestinal upset from mushrooms.