Throughout my long journey with Lyme disease, and over the years, I’ve taken hundreds of supplements. Too many, really. Out of all these, only a handful have become staples in my health protocol and only a few stand out as “stars” for me in the battle against Lyme and chronic fatigue.
Cordyceps mushroom has been one of these. I preface this by stating that there is no such thing as a “one size fits all” supplement that works for everyone when it comes to Lyme or chronic illness. That means that what has worked for me may not work for you, and vice versa. However, I am excited to share about cordyceps with you because I believe you may find it to be beneficial for you, too—as it has been powerful for many people with Lyme, chronic fatigue and related conditions.
While cordyceps is most often referred to as a mushroom, is really a fungus that grows on or inside of caterpillars and other arthropods. In a seemingly barbaric process, the fungus infects the caterpillar and takes over its central nervous system. As the caterpillar dies, the fungus produces a fruiting body, which may be cylindrical, branched, or of a complex shape. Cordyceps is therefore a parasite, but one with a multitude of nutritional benefits.
Cordyceps has been used and highly esteemed in Traditional Chinese and Tibetan Medicine for centuries. In recent years, it has become popular in the West, as well. Integrative doctors often recommend it to their patients with chronic fatigue, as they have found it to help increase their stamina and energy. Indeed, Himalayan mountain peoples, where cordyceps is grown, have long used cordyceps during strenuous‚ high altitude activities.
Cordyceps delivers its performance boosting results by increasing mitochondrial production of ATP.[i] ATP or adenosine triphosphate is a form of “cellular currency” or energy that is produced inside our mitochondria.
The main reason I used cordyceps was to improve my energy and increase my stamina. It helped me to get out of bed in the morning and get going, and to get more done throughout the day. I needed to do other things to improve my energy as well, such as balance my adrenal and thyroid gland function, but cordyceps helped—immensely.
Cordyceps is also widely regarded for promoting heart health and studies have shown that it decreases inflammation via its antioxidant properties.[ii] [iii] It is has been found to correct abnormal heart rhythms, to have anti-coagulant, or blood thinning properties, and to lower blood pressure[iv]—all of which may be beneficial for some people with Lyme and/or chronic fatigue.
Perhaps most amazing is one study’s observation that it can even improve symptoms such as dizziness and muscle weakness, which incidentally, are common in Lyme disease, as well. It protects the brain and neurological system, and according to research, may even promote a healthy mood and normal blood sugar levels.[v]
Further, cordyceps has a long history of use as a lung, liver and kidney tonic, and has long been used in Asia for the treatment of chronic bronchitis, asthma, tuberculosis and other diseases of the respiratory system.[vi] In Lyme, the lungs, liver and kidneys are often stressed, from the infections as well as from having to process so many toxins, so cordyceps may help to alleviate stress on these organs, too, in people with Lyme.
Cordyceps is remarkable in that it has a profound benefit on multiple aspects and areas of the body, especially the vital organs of the heart, liver, kidneys, lungs and brain.
Perhaps most importantly, cordyceps has been found in studies to have powerful immune modulating effects. Stephen Buhner describes these in his works on Lyme disease. However, if you battle an autoimmune disease along with Lyme disease, you may want to ask your doctor before taking it, as it may worsen autoimmune conditions.
For instance, several studies warn against taking it if you have multiple sclerosis. Many people with Lyme have an MS-like symptom presentation, so if this is you, it may be important to discover whether you have a true autoimmune process causing the symptoms, or if they are due to Lyme or mold illness (which is common) and are therefore reversible.
Some have suggested that Lyme is an autoimmune disease. From my research, I believe it can cause autoimmune-like processes, but it is not a true autoimmune disease.
Anyway, I have known many people with Lyme disease who have taken cordyceps safely (including myself) and with great benefit. Master herbalist Stephen Buhner and Bill Rawls, MD even recommend cordyceps as part of their Lyme disease protocols.
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Bill Rawls, MD says of cordyceps, “Cordyceps offers properties of immunomodulation and resistance to any type of stress. It protects mitochondria and is anti-fatigue. It is regularly used by Chinese and Russian athletes.” He also states that it has antimicrobial properties and can help to fight Bartonella and Mycoplasma.
Finally, studies in recent years have shown cordyceps to be a potent anti-cancer agent. In the lab, it has been shown to directly kill cancer kills, and inhibit their growth, division, and proliferation.[vii] People with Lyme who are also battling cancer may therefore want to speak with their doctors about including it in their protocols.
In summary, cordyceps is an amazing medicinal mushroom that has a multitude of health benefits. If your energy or organs need a boost, you have blood sugar regulation issues, or another condition for which it has been found to be beneficial, I encourage you to talk to your doctor about giving it a try!
[i] Song J1, Wang Y1, Teng M1, Cai G1, Xu H1, Guo H1, Liu Y1, Wang D1, Teng L1.
Studies on the Antifatigue Activities of Cordyceps militaris Fruit Body Extract in Mouse Model. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2015;2015:174616. doi: 10.1155/2015/174616. Epub 2015 Aug 17.
[ii] Wu C. Y., Chen R., Wang X. S., Shen B., Yue W., Wu Q. Antioxidant and anti-fatigue activities of phenolic extract from the seed coat of Euryale ferox Salisb. and identification of three phenolic compounds by LC-ESI-MS/MS. Molecules. 2013;18(9):11003–11021. doi: 10.3390/molecules180911003.
[iii] Dékány M., Nemeskéri V., Györe I., Harbula I., Malomsoki J., Pucsok J. Antioxidant status of interval-trained athletes in various sports. International Journal of Sports Medicine. 2006;27(2):112–116. doi: 10.1055/s-2005-865634.
[iv] Cordyceps Improves Cardiovascular Health. BrioClinic. June 10, 2014. Retrieved on Nov. 10, 2018 from: https://brioclinic.com/blogs/products/14445761-cordyceps-improves-cardiovascular-health.
[v] Sung-Hsun Yu, et al. Hypoglycemic Activity through a Novel Combination of Fruiting Body and Mycelia of Cordyceps militaris in High-Fat Diet-Induced Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus Mice. J Diabetes Res. 2015; 2015: 723190.
[vi] Hardeep S. Tuli, Sardul S. Sandhu, and A. K. Sharma Biotech. Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin. 3 Biotech.
2014 Feb; 4(1): 1–12. Published online 2013 Feb 19. doi: [10.1007/s13205-013-0121-9]
[vii] Guggenheim, ND, Alena G. Kirsten M. Wright, BS, and Heather L. Zwickey, PhD. Immune Modulation From Five Major Mushrooms: Application to Integrative Oncology. Integr Med (Encinitas). 2014 Feb; 13(1): 32–44.
Connie Strasheim is the author or co-author of 11 wellness books, including the recently released New Paradigms in Lyme Disease Treatment: 10 Top Doctors Real Healing Strategies that Work. (October, 2016) and Beyond a Glass of Milk and a Hot Bath: Advanced Sleep Solutions for People with Chronic Insomnia. (March, 2017). She is also a medical copywriter and an editor at ProHealth.com, as well as Editor of the Alternative Cancer Research Institute (ACRI). Her passion is to help people with complex chronic illnesses find freedom from disease and soul-spirit sickness using whole body medicine, and she collaborates with some of the world’s best integrative doctors to do this. In addition to Lyme disease and insomnia, Connie’s books focus on cancer, nutrition, detoxification and spiritual healing. To learn more about her work, see: www.ConnieStrasheim.org.