1.1 Definition of Cordyceps
Cordyceps is a medicinal fungus that is used as a supplement due to its variety of health benefits. Cordyceps has been used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine mainly for improved vitality and its anti-aging affects. It is also a very potent anti-inflammatory and has immune modulating properties which prevents various diseases and illnesses.
There are a variety of species of Cordyceps but Cordyceps sinensis which is also known by the name of caterpillar fungus is the most preferred choice to be used as a supplement.
1.2 Overview of Cancer and Its Impact
Cancer is the result of abnormal and uncontrolled growth of cells in the body. Cancer can impact any organ of the body and starts to spread uncontrollably. While some cancers are slow to spread there are other forms of this disease that are extremely aggressive and spread extremely rapidly.
As of now there are only a few forms of cancer that can be treated with curative intent and even today this disease is the leading cause of death around the world. Getting diagnosed with cancer not only affects a person physically but it is also mentally draining for the person.
The diagnosis of cancer itself, the treatment, and above all the prognosis all play through the mind of the person and his or her close ones and significantly impacts the quality of life.
1.3 Brief Overview of How Cordyceps May Impact Cancer
Cordyceps has been studied widely by many researchers due to its potential anti-cancer properties. It is well known that Cordyceps is an extremely effective immune modulator and an anti-inflammatory. However, it has also been observed in some studies that it has the potential to stop the growth of cancer cells and even kill cancer cells. Cordyceps has also been shown to decrease the side effects of chemotherapy.
How Cordyceps Impacts Cancer?
2.1 Cordyceps and Immune System Modulation
Cordyceps modulates the immune system by increasing the production of T cells and B cells which are vital for a healthy immune system. This in turn helps the body to fight against cancer cells.
2.2 Cordyceps and Anti-Tumor Activity
Cordyceps has compounds, including cordycepin, adenosine, and polysaccharides which are known to prevent growth and spread of cancer cells.
2.3 Cordyceps and Chemotherapy Side Effects
Chemotherapy can be quite taxing for patients. It induces severe fatigue along with nausea and vomiting. Cordyceps has elements in it that may help reduce these side effects. Cordyceps promote production of ATP which improves energy levels and lessens the fatigue component of chemotherapy side effect. Cordyceps also helps with nausea and vomiting and protects the healthy cells from getting affected by the chemotherapy regimen.
Scientific Evidence Supporting the Potential Cancer Benefits of Cordyceps
3.1 Studies on Cordyceps and Immune System Modulation
There have been several studies conducted with promising results on the immune modulation property of Cordyceps. This was especially seen in subjects where the immune system was either over or under reactive. Use of Cordyceps supplements in these subjects significantly regulated the immune system after using the supplement for about four weeks or so.
3.2 Studies on Cordyceps and Anti-Tumor Activity
There have also been various studies conducted on the anti-tumor effects of Cordyceps. It has been observed that the compounds present in Cordyceps have the potential to prevent the spread and growth of cancer cells in both humans and animals.
3.3 Studies on Cordyceps and Chemotherapy Side Effects
It has also been observed that when Cordyceps was introduced in some people with cancer who were undergoing chemotherapy that they tended to have fewer side effects of chemotherapy. These subjects were observed to have better quality of life with improved energy and had significantly less side effects of nausea and vomiting related to chemotherapy.
Other Potential Benefits of Cordyceps
4.1 Immune System Modulation
As mentioned above, Cordyceps is well known for its immunomodulatory effects. This makes an effective and safe immunity booster and a good alternative to medications that claim to boost immunity but are quite expensive and can even lead to side effects.
4.2 Sexual Health
Cordyceps is also quite known for the effect it has on people with reduced libido. In fact, Cordyceps has been used in traditional Chinese medicines to improve vitality especially in the aging population. Cordyceps not only improves vitality but also plays a part in treating other sexual dysfunction in both men and women like erectile dysfunction and pain with intercourse.
4.3 Athletic Performance
It has been observed that Cordyceps improves endurance and stamina which plays a vital role in the overall performance of athletes. Cordyceps also helps in reducing fatigue and thus athletes can put in more hours in training sessions without getting exhausted leading to better performance on the field.
It was observed that Cordyceps supplementation improved the ventilatory threshold which is the predictor of the endurance of a person and overall tolerance to high intensity exercises. It was also seen that Cordyceps supplementation decreased the levels of ammonia and lactate from the body which improves the overall stamina of a person.
How to Take Cordyceps?
There are different ways in which Cordyceps can be taken. These include:
This is the most preferred way of taking Cordyceps. These supplements are available in the form of a powder, capsules, and even liquid extract forms. How much supplement to take can be best dictated by a physician depending on the requirement and overall health status of the person.
5.2 Tea or Coffee:
Another convenient way of taking Cordyceps is to mix it in tea or coffee. It will not only enhance the taste of the drink but also provide the same benefits as provided by the oral supplements.
Potential Side Effects and Interactions
Cordyceps in majority of the cases are considered to be pretty safe for everyone. However, there are some scenarios where Cordyceps is contraindicated and people should be aware of these contraindications and avoid using these supplements. These contraindications include
6.1 Allergic Reactions
Some people may have an allergic reaction to Cordyceps. A person who is allergic will start complaining of itching or break out into hives after taking Cordyceps. In cases of a potentially serious allergic reaction the person may start having problems with breathing. This will necessitate an immediate visit to the emergency room for prompt treatment to avoid life-threatening complications.
6.2 Blood Thinners
Cordyceps supplement is contraindicated in people who are on blood thinners. This is because Cordyceps also has blood thinning properties and thus may interact with the blood thinners that the person might have been prescribed like warfarin or aspirin. Thus, it is better to speak to the healthcare provider in case if a person is on a blood thinner before taking Cordyceps.
6.3 Other Drug Interactions
Cordyceps also tends to interact with other medications especially certain medications used for treating diabetes and some immunosuppressants. It is best to consult with the healthcare provider and discuss all the pros and cons of Cordyceps before starting to take this supplement.
Aside from the various health benefits that Cordyceps provides, it is its potential to stop the progression and spread of cancer cells and reducing the side effects of chemotherapy that the researchers are currently focusing on.[4, 5, 6]
It is well known that Cordyceps is a very effective immunomodulator and anti-inflammatory. this helps in strengthening the immune system of the body. A person with a stronger immune system will have more chances of coping up with cancer and its treatment related side effects and complications.[4, 5, 6]
However, there is much that needs to be done in terms of research on the anti-cancer properties of Cordyceps. However, it is important to speak to the healthcare provider and discuss in detail about the pros and cons and potential contraindications before starting to take Cordyceps.