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The Therapeutic Efficacy of Medicinal Mushrooms: An In-Depth Exploration of the Top Five Varieties

The Therapeutic Efficacy of Medicinal Mushrooms: An In-Depth Exploration of the Top Five Varieties

Abstract

In recent years, the scientific community has displayed increasing interest in the medicinal properties of fungi, particularly mushrooms. Though these organisms have been utilized in traditional medicines for centuries, contemporary research is substantiating their therapeutic potential in multiple dimensions of human health. This article aims to provide an in-depth analysis of the top five medicinal mushrooms that have demonstrated noteworthy health benefits, supported by empirical evidence.

Introduction

Mushrooms, belonging to the kingdom Fungi, are a diverse group of organisms with a long history of medicinal use across various cultures. Though their culinary applications are globally acknowledged, their therapeutic utility has often been restricted to ethnobotanical practices. However, in the wake of increasing antibiotic resistance and the rising demand for holistic approaches to healthcare, medicinal mushrooms have become the subject of scientific scrutiny. This article elucidates the therapeutic benefits of five select varieties: Reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), Turkey Tail (Trametes versicolor), Chaga (Inonotus obliquus), Lion’s Mane (Hericium erinaceus), and Cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis).

Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi)

Immunomodulatory Effects

The Reishi mushroom, known as the “mushroom of immortality,” has shown considerable promise in modulating the immune system. β-glucans, found in the cell walls, serve as biological response modifiers that trigger a cascade of immune reactions, augmenting the activity of macrophages and natural killer cells [1]. Moreover, triterpenoids found in Reishi possess anti-inflammatory properties [2].

Anticancer Activity

Ganoderic acids, a family of triterpenoids, exhibit anti-cancer properties by promoting apoptosis and inhibiting angiogenesis [3]. Multiple in vitro and animal studies have revealed the potential utility of Reishi extracts against lung, prostate, and breast cancers [4].

Trametes versicolor (Turkey Tail)

Antioxidant Properties

Turkey Tail extracts are rich in polysaccharopeptides, which contribute to antioxidative activities. They neutralize reactive oxygen species, thereby reducing oxidative stress which is a precursor to chronic conditions like cancer and cardiovascular diseases [5].

Immunotherapeutic Efficacy in Cancer

Polysaccharide-K (PSK) and Polysaccharide-P (PSP), isolated from Turkey Tail, are clinically approved immunotherapeutic agents in certain countries. These compounds enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy and ameliorate side effects like immunosuppression [6].

Inonotus obliquus (Chaga)

Anti-inflammatory and Antiviral

Betulin and betulinic acid, found in Chaga mushrooms, demonstrate anti-inflammatory and antiviral activities. These compounds can down-regulate the expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines, effectively managing conditions like asthma and bronchitis [7].

Antidiabetic Effects

Studies on animal models have shown that Chaga extracts can reduce blood sugar levels by enhancing insulin sensitivity, thereby providing potential therapeutic utility in managing diabetes [8].

Hericium erinaceus (Lion’s Mane)

Neuroprotective and Nootropic Effects

Lion’s Mane has gained attention for its cognitive-enhancing capabilities. The mushroom contains hericenones and erinacines that stimulate the synthesis of nerve growth factor (NGF), thereby promoting neuronal health [9].

Antidepressant Properties

Lion’s Mane extracts have shown the ability to elevate mood by modulating neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, offering potential benefits in treating conditions like depression and anxiety [10].

Cordyceps sinensis (Cordyceps)

Adaptogenic Benefits

Cordyceps is revered for its adaptogenic properties. By modulating physiological responses to stress, Cordyceps can improve mental clarity and energy levels, thereby contributing to general well-being [11].

Cardiovascular Health

Cordycepin, an active compound in Cordyceps, has shown vasodilatory effects and the ability to improve myocardial function, which could contribute to managing cardiovascular diseases [12].

Conclusion

The potential health benefits of medicinal mushrooms are manifold and supported by a growing body of scientific evidence. From immunomodulation and anti-cancer properties to cognitive enhancement and metabolic regulation, these fungi are emerging as potent therapeutic agents in contemporary healthcare.

References

  1. Zhang, M., et al. “Antitumor Polysaccharides from Mushrooms: A Review on their Isolation Process, Structural Characteristics, and Antitumor Activity.” Trends in Food Science & Technology, 18(1), 2007, 4–19.
  2. Wachtel-Galor, S., et al. “Ganoderma lucidum (‘Lingzhi’), A Chinese Medicinal Mushroom: Biomarker Responses in a Controlled Human Supplementation Study.” British Journal of Nutrition, 91(2), 2004, 263–269.
  3. Sliva, D., et al. “Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi) in Cancer Treatment.” International Journal of Oncology, 21(4), 2002, 701–707.
  4. Wasser, S. P. “Medicinal Mushrooms as a Source of Antitumor and Immunomodulating Polysaccharides.” Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology, 60(3), 2002, 258–274.
  5. Jayachandran, M., et al. “A Critical Review on Health Promoting Benefits of Edible Mushrooms through Gut Microbiota.” International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 18(9), 2017, 1934.
  6. Standish, L. J., et al. “Trametes versicolor Mushroom Immune Therapy in Breast Cancer.” Journal of the Society for Integrative Oncology, 6(3), 2008, 122–128.
  7. Cui, Y., et al. “Antioxidant Effect of Inonotus obliquus.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 96(1–2), 2005, 79–85.
  8. Xu, H. Y., et al. “Anti-Diabetic Effects of Inonotus obliquus Polysaccharides.” Chinese Medicine, 9, 2014, 1–6.
  9. Mori, K., et al. “Nerve Growth Factor-Inducing Activity of Hericium erinaceus in 1321N1 Human Astrocytoma Cells.” Biological and Pharmaceutical Bulletin, 31(9), 2008, 1727–1732.
  10. Nagano, M., et al. “Reduction of Depression and Anxiety by 4 Weeks Hericium erinaceus Intake.” Biomedical Research, 31(4), 2010, 231–237.
  11. Hirsch, K. R., et al. “Cordyceps militaris Improves Tolerance to High-Intensity Exercise After Acute and Chronic Supplementation.” Journal of Dietary Supplements, 14(1), 2017, 42–53.
  12. Ko, W. S., et al. “Antiinflammatory and Related Pharmacological Activities of the n-Butanol Subfraction of Radix Arnebiae: Its Antiinflammatory Mechanism.” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, 83(1–2), 2002, 117–125.

Disclaimer: This article is not intended to serve as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

Can Vegetarians Eat The Yarsagumba Cordyceps Mushroom?

Can Vegetarians Eat The Yarsagumba Cordyceps Mushroom?

This question is very debatable. In the end, it depends on the individual vegetarian’s ethical views – do they think all killing of animals for food is unethical, or is it kosher when the humans are not the ones doing the killing?

Yarsagumba takes lives to grow and reproduce, so the question is if you see it as the same or similar thing as the Inuit people and their meat-only diet, or simple circle of life.

So, what’s up with the debate?

As mentioned in the intro, the Inuit population’s diet mostly consists of meat and fish. Their environment doesn’t really allow for growing crops. With all that being said, some vegetarians still consider their eating habits to be unethical and cruel to animals.

So, where does this leave our friend yarsagumba? It still kills animals to survive. One may argue that it has less choice since the gods of evolution made it that way (unlike the Inuit who can “simply move”).

And that’s where we get the other side of the coin. There is no choice in the way yarsagumba exists, just the way there is no choice in the anteater eating ants, or a bird eating a worm, or a lion eating an antelope.

We as humans can operate on a (slightly) higher intellectual level and can consider the ethics, economics, and environmental impact behind all of our choices. Therefore, we are automatically held to a higher standard than other creatures whose instincts and natures don’t allow them to change their behaviors willingly.

There really is nothing else that is comparable to this situation. There is no other veggie-friendly food that kills animals in this manner. So, as the situation is very unique, it’s up to the individual to decide where they stand.

The fact is that yarsagumba is not an animal even though it kills animals. It’s also a fact that it has no control over the evolutionary card it was dealt with, and neither is there a human hand in any of these things.

Where are the vegans in this conversation?<h3?

Probably in the same place, though some on the extreme side of the spectrum may argue that killing is killing, and it doesn’t matter if a “plant” is doing it.

Luckily, yarsagumba is not the only member of the cordyceps family, and it certainly isn’t the only one that has medicinal properties. If they have issues with the ones that grow on ants, they can always switch to the ones that grow on plants.

How does yarsagumba kill animals?

It starts with a single spore. It lands on a humble ant (in this example). The ant starts behaving strangely since they are in obvious pain and distress. The spore is growing and developing a system of roots in its tissue now. It takes only a couple of days for its body to be completely taken over.

Yarsagumba plugs into its brain and floods it with chemicals. Once in the driver’s seat, it leads the ant towards perfect conditions. There it parks itself and starts growing. The ant is dead the second it finished its role as a transportation vehicle.

Within 3 weeks, the yarsagumba is fully grown and ready to release a new batch of spores. Ready to infect more ants.

Can yarsagumba survive without doing all that?

No. Many of its cousins can, but it cannot.

This is just one of those weird quirks of evolution. We don’t even know for sure why it infects insects in the first place.

Some scientists propose that this ability is older than most of the species of insects in the first place, and quite possibly originates in the times before plants and animals branched out from each other.

But then again, there are multiple species of fungi that have no issue feeding off of decomposing animal flesh. It could be that yarsagumba at some point just couldn’t wait for the heartbeat to stop.

The species that kill animals

When you read articles or watch documentaries, the species that is always depicted is cordyceps unilateralis, or better known as yarsagumba, winter worm, or caterpillar fungus. For centuries, it used to be considered to be an actual parasitic worm since it both looks the part and acts like one.

Obviously, it’s not. It’s a parasitic mushroom, just like all other members of the cordyceps genus and numerous other species of fungi.

Yarsagumba is native to the Himalayas, but other species all over the world behave the same. It’s just that this particular one has a spotlight on it because it’s the one humans have known about the longest and have been making use of it. It’s cousins behave the same, just with slight differences in their preferred conditions for growing and releasing spores.

can i grow cordyceps at home

Does yarsagumba only kill ants or does it kill other animals as well?

As far as we know, yarsagumba only goes after worms and insects. To date, there was never a single legitimate case presented that it can infect mammals, birds, or fish.

There is also a possibility that it can’t infect anything larger in size. This conclusion mostly comes from the lack of cases where yarsagumba or any of its siblings have infected crabs or lobsters (which are in essence giant bugs).

All the confusion comes from entertainment and media, primarily the video game The Last of Us. The plot for it is a spin on the very popular zombie/post-apocalyptic genre in which cordyceps infect everything from humans to both wild and domesticated animals.

Believe it or not, several scientists actually had to come out and explain why these types of infections are improbable. It boils down to our central nervous systems being far more complex than the ones that exist in ants. Plus, our tissues are too good at protecting it.

If we get to see cordyceps jump from bugs to larger creatures, it would have to be the ones with a simpler nervous system (i.e., jellyfish).

The species that grow on plants

With about 600 species of cordyceps, you better believe that a vast majority of them grow on plants. The species that is most often farmed is called cordyceps militaries, and it’s probably the stuff you’ll get your hands on if you decide to give it a go yourself.

These species of cordyceps are still parasites and they are still bound to kill their host. However, they do in a very similar manner to any other parasitic mushroom – by slowly draining out the nutrients.

It’s argued that these types are a lot more destructive, considering that they are not as picky to what they like to latch on to. They have an almost identical life span to their ant-eating counterparts, therefore making a few errant spores capable of destroying an entire ecosystem.

So, if you’re dealing with these guys, still practice caution. Otherwise, you may have to say goodbye to your ficus, lawn, or that lavender meadow behind your house.

can i grow cordyceps at home

Know the difference when buying

The price tag is a decent indicator of what you’re getting. Cordyceps that prey on insects can be up to 160+ times more expensive than the stuff that can be cultivated on plants. This means if you see it going for $60, it’s the vegan-friendly stuff. But if the price tag goes into 4 or 5 digits, it may be the ant-killing kind.

There’s a quick visual indicator as well, but it’s not accurate all the time. The stuff that grows on plants tends to be brighter in color. Even when dried, the species that grew by hijacking insects lean more towards brown, while the veggie kind is a bit more orange.

It’s not a 100% clear indicator since there are quite a few plant-growing species that have a duller color, but it’s something to look for when someone is trying to sell you a “genuine article freshly harvested from the Himalayas”.

Finally, there’s the country of origin. All cordyceps that are farmed in the US are (currently) grown on plant-based substrates, The only “animal farmed” specimens could come from China where they grow them on maggots.

The stuff you’ve seen on the Discovery Channel should come from Tibet or Nepal. But note that the cordyceps from the last three countries rarely hits US shores, and when it does, it costs an arm and a leg.

Know the difference when growing

Make sure that you are working with the species called cordyceps militaries. It’s perfectly suited for growing on classic mushroom farming substrates, and most importantly, it won’t kill your friendly neighborhood ant colony.

They also look very different. While yarsagumba has a textured surface and looks like a caterpillar, these guys more resemble bloated orange enoki mushrooms. The outer skin is smooth and often bright tangerine color.

As of now, it’s difficult to get your hands on cordyceps unilateralis spores in the US (the Himalayan species that infects insects), so be very skeptical if someone is offering syringes with it for sale. Especially if they are doing so at a very attractive price.

can i grow cordyceps at home

Is there a difference in nutrition and medical properties between different species of cordyceps?

Yes, but it’s so small it’s irrelevant. It would take hundreds of years of consumption to see a significant difference.

Species of cordyceps are just a smidgen more effective. That may be the case because of their ability to seek out the perfect growing conditions on their own.

Still, considering how much of this mushroom humans consume and how our digestive system works, you can ignore all of that since you’ll get the benefits either way. So, pick the species that aligns well with your ethics and your wallet.

Himalayan Caterpillar Fungus cordyceps gold viagara
Are Cordyceps Good for Heart Health and Liver?

Are Cordyceps Good for Heart Health and Liver?

An enhanced immune system, better stamina, disease toughness, Liver, and heart health are all guaranteed by cordyceps fungus. Cordyceps are processed into pills that can be swallowed or powder, which is taken with coffee or tea. The cordyceps medical history traces a century back in Tibetan and China, where it was used to cure headaches, coughs, diarrhea, heart disorders, and liver disease. Currently, it is cultivated in the Himalayan plateaus and other parts of the world.

What are cordyceps?

Cordyceps mushrooms are parasitic fungi found in the USA, India, China, Japan, and Peru. They comprise 400 species and typically use insects and arthropods as hosts. However, each species targets a specific host.

How does cordyceps grow?

Cordyceps grows inside arthropods and insects’ body whilst consumes them. Given that the conditions are favorable for the mushroom’s growth and the insect is fully consumed, a blade-like mushroom protrudes from the host’s head. Meanwhile, as they are still being hosted, they coerce the victim to relocate to trees and low lying plants to thrive.

When it comes to the mushroom medication, the prevalent species are the cordyceps sinesis and Cordyceps militaris. However, sinesis is expensive due to the difficulties that arise when culturing. As a result, it does not make up the Cordyceps supplement’s constituents. It costs up to $20000 Per kg and is sold in Asia and North American markets.

Health benefits of cordyceps on heart

With the advanced research on cordyceps effect on the heart, the benefits are becoming more lucid. For instance, cordyceps has been medically approved in china as a treatment for arrhythmia. Arrhythmia affects the heart by elevating and lowering the heartbeat. In other words, it causes irregular cardiac frequency.

Analysis from research studies has also outlined cordyceps as an effective remedy in reducing heart injuries. Therefore, it’s effective in persons with chronic kidney disorders. Chronic kidney disorders can aggravate the risk of heart failure. Prevention and alleviation of these injuries can help with the outcome evasion.

Furthermore, cordyceps have traces of adenosine, which is an existing natural compound that has heart-protective properties. Should you choose to use cordyceps as a regular dose, you will realize the positive effects in no time.

Apart from cordyceps being able to protect the heart by preventing injuries, it also affects cholesterol levels by reducing their arteries’ build-up. Consequently, it enhances proper blood circulation. Moreover, it makes the heart-beating process easy and non-strenuous.

To some extent, research has also elucidated the cordyceps effect on triglycerides. Tryglecirdes fall under the category of fats that are found within the blood. These fats pose a significant threat to the heart functions, and they may reduce the heartbeat, eventually causing heart failure. However, with cordyceps, the risk issue can be addressed.

can i grow cordyceps at home

Health benefits of cordyceps on the Liver

Since Cordyceps prevent and reduce inflammation, they turn out to be beneficial to the Liver. Inflammation in low quantities can be right. However, to the Liver, it poses a significant risk of Hepatitis B disease. Moreover, it may cause cancer and even heart disease.

According to research, human cells with proteins that increase inflammation can get suppressed if exposed to cordyceps. In light of this research, cordyceps can be attributed to the reduction of inflammation in the body. Undoubtedly if your Liver has the potential of inflammation, cordyceps will outdo it. Moreover, taking cordyceps orally can help victims of hepatitis B.

Hepatitis B, if prolonged, can result in liver cancer. In that case, Cordyceps will help cure the Hepatitis and counteract its effects in its early stages. Nonetheless, in victims with prolonged Hepatitis, liver cancer can be investable. In such an incident, should you choose cordyceps to combat the situation, its anti-tumor properties will prevent the tumor cells from developing and kill cancerous cells.

Cordyceps can also fight inflammation on mouthparts and skin. It can, therefore, be used in asthma therapy. Furthermore, it can be applied on top of the skin to reduce inflammation.

can i grow cordyceps at home

What are the other health benefits of cordyceps?

· Decreases the rate of aging

Cordyceps are rich with antioxidants, and that explains their anti-aging induced mechanisms on individuals. Oxidants and radicals formed within the body are responsible for cell-damaging, resulting in rapid aging and disease. Oxidation and radicals can also cause stress on the skin, and it can be presented as skin sagging and wrinkles.

If cordyceps were to be taken to suppress the aging process, their antioxidants would antagonize any oxidation activity. The antioxidants are also capable of reversing the aging process if already started. Cordyceps also prevent radicals that are capable of rapid aging from entering the skin.

According to tests that were conducted on mice and fruit flies, the subjects treated with cordyceps lived longer than those that were not. With all things considered, cordyceps does not only prevent and reduce aging but can also increase life expectancy. The study again proved that cordyceps antioxidants contain cell regenerative properties.

· It has anti-tumor properties.

In recent years the cordyceps potential for regressive tumor growth has generated various follow-ups. Due to that, multiple types of research have been done on the fungus using different tumor cells. The results show that the anti-tumor properties are exerted in specific ways depending on the tumor type.

In consideration of test-tube studies that have been contacted, cordyceps have been found to inhibit various cancer growth types. The tests have been efficacious on lung cancer, colon cancer, liver cancer, and sarcoma. Additionally, cordyceps have positive effects on lymphoma and melanoma.

On the other hand, cordyceps has also been proven to reverse various forms of cancer therapy effects. However, the studies were conducted on mice with cancer; thus, it’s not yet ascertained on humans. The results proved that the fungi suppressed the radiation from the therapy and treatments of taxol.

can i grow cordyceps at home

· Help in the treatment of type 2 diabetes

Cordyceps constitutes a particular type of sugar that treats diabetes in their makeup. Diabetes is a condition in which the body fails to produce or respond to insulin. Given that your body fails to produce enough insulin or even react to it, glucose will not enter the cells. Consequently, it remains in the blood and builds up with time, causing diabetic health concerns. Keeping blood sugars well controlled is vital, and in this case, cordyceps can mimic the actions of insulin.

To some extent, other evidence suggests that cordyceps mushrooms can prevent kidney diseases and any diabetic disorder. Further study tests have been done on 1,746 subjects with aliments from chronic conditions of the kidney. According to the results, victims who were cordyceps supplements realized better kidney functioning.

· Cordyceps can boost exercise performance.

Cordyceps are attributed to the increment of adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the boy. They also contain adenosine on their own accord. The combination of these chemicals results in extreme energy delivery to the muscles. In return, the oxygen usage in the body, mostly during exercises, is improved hence performance.

This evidence is backed up with a study on the exercise effects of cordyceps. The research was done on thirty healthy adults using a mounted bike. Test subjects were given 3 shots of synthetic cordyceps and other placebo shots for six weeks. The result unraveled that exercise performance was boosted by 7 % in individuals given cordyceps shots. On the other hand, placebo individuals’ conditions remained still.

can i grow cordyceps at home

Side effects of cordyceps

· Induces coagulopathy

This is a condition in which the ability of blood to clot is impaired. Cordyceps have the properties that cause the blood to thin. The effects of thinning consequently lengthen the time for a blood clot to form. Life hazards, in this case, are always excessive bleeding during surgeries and other cuts.

· Induces autoimmune disease

If taken orally, cordyceps will trigger the immune system to become more active. In return, there will be elevated signs of autoimmune diseases. Provided that you have immune conditions, it will be wise to refrain from the use of cordyceps.

Verdict on Cordyceps dosage

When it comes to dosing, the right dose shall depend on various factors such as the user’s health, age, and other apparent conditions. However, there is no substantial scientific evidence that acts as a guide towards the right cordyceps dosage. You should also be aware that natural meds are not always safe, and the correct dosages are essential.

With all things considered, it will be a wise move if you follow directions that are pertinent to the dose label on the product. It would be best to communicate with your physicians or any other healthcare personnel before commencing their use.

Bottom line

Cordyceps are prominent Chinese traditional medicines that have been used for decades to cure ailments. Though the fungi are still going through tests and researches, they are becoming more promising in medical fields.

The fungi are being portrayed as an essential cure for diabetes, lung cancer, and aging with advancing research. Moreover, it perfectly enhances exercise performance. On the other hand, its effect on the Liver and heart’s health is effective in positive ways. For the general body, Liver, and heart health, you should consider using cordyceps supplements.

can i grow cordyceps at home
How Do I Grow Cordyceps At Home?

How Do I Grow Cordyceps At Home?

The name cordyceps refers to a genus of mushrooms that, for the most part, have a somewhat gruesome growing cycle that involves infecting and killing a host insect. Though there are many species of Cordyceps (around four hundred, in fact), the most well known in the world of medicinal mushrooms is Cordyceps Sinensis, known colloquially as the Caterpillar Fungus. Indeed, many people use the term genus name when they mean that specific species.

For the rest of this post, when we say “Cordyceps,” we are referring specifically to the Caterpillar Fungus variety unless otherwise stated. This particular fungus is highly sought after and, due to the scarcity of it, costs tens of thousands of dollars per pound. For anyone reading this post who is not familiar with the fungus, this should go a long way to explaining why people are so keen to grow Cordyceps at home.

If you want the fungus for personal use, it could save you a lot of money to grow at home rather than buy it, and if you are planning to grow them to become a seller yourself, well: tens of thousands of dollars per pound pretty much speaks for itself.

Unfortunately, this is a notoriously difficult fungus to get hold of due to the way it grows, not to mention where it grows. However, methods of cultivating this highly sought-after fungus are becoming more and more reliable, and you can now grow Cordyceps at home. Want to know more? Keep reading.

Why is Cordyceps So Hard to Get?

They are dispersed throughout the world from varied environments including rain forests. The natural habitat of Yarsagumba cordyceps is in the Himalayan Mountains—specifically the Tibetan Plateau—which presents a rather obvious barrier to just heading out and picking your own batch like you would with a more common mushroom.

Further complicating matters is the legality and licensing around picking Cordyceps. Even if you lived in a region where a trip to the Tibetan Plateau for a spot of Cordyceps-picking was feasible, you would need to pay for the right to do so, with Cordyceps being responsible for a substantial portion of the local economies and very closely regulated as a result. 

In other parts of the world, especially rain forests, they are predominantly found turning insects into zombies and almost impossible to harvest.

Unfortunately, these mushrooms in the wild are all but impossible and impractical to collect.

And, until recently, home cultivation was not an option.

How Do I Grow Cordyceps At Home?

So, that’s enough background; how do you go about growing Cordyceps at home? There are two main strategies for approaching this challenge; home-inoculation and grow kits.

Even with these options, there are some hurdles to getting a good Cordyceps crop at home. The first of which is the substrate; Cordyceps grows inside caterpillars naturally. It is possible to get them to grow without an insect host, but it is much easier if you can let them grow as naturally as possible. Beyond their living host, there are also environmental conditions to worry about.

One of the natural regions that Cordyceps grow in, as we’ve mentioned, is high up in the Himalayan Mountains, which are not only colder than many parts of the world but also have a thinner atmospheric pressure due to the higher altitude. This is relevant because the way fungi determine when it is right to sprout a fruiting body (the mushroom part) is through exposure to the outside world. The mycelium—the main part of the fungus that you don’t usually see—grows away from things like air and sunlight, underground, in trees, or, yes, inside insects.

Therefore it treats sudden exposure to conditions that suggest the outside world as a sign that it has reached the surface and can begin sprouting a fruiting body that can shed spores and perpetuate the fungi lifecycle. This is a problem because the Cordyceps’ mycelium is looking for certain conditions before it will sprout a fruiting body, and those conditions are difficult to replicate in a small homegrown setup. Assuming that homegrown setup isn’t up a mountain somewhere.

So let’s take a look at these two methods a little more closely.

Inoculating Grains

You can purchase inoculating fluid online, which contains spores that are ready for planting, though it is not always easy to find. You will need a substrate for your inoculating fluid to be mixed in with. Brown rice is considered particularly useful for this, though things like German millet and barley also work.

Get an appropriate container—mason jars are popular—and add around 2oz of your substrate with a further 2oz of distilled water. Cover your container and give it a good shake to thoroughly mix up the water and rice. The fact that we said distilled water is important because you don’t want chemicals and impurities in the water impeding the Cordyceps’ growth, and that should also explain why the next part is necessary.

Empty your substrate out onto a baking tray and place in a preheated oven of around 250 degrees Fahrenheit in order to sterilize it. If you went with our suggestion of using a mason jar, it is important that you don’t use the jar for baking in as the glass will almost certainly not be suitable for cooking in. Let your substrate bake for around twenty minutes, then pull it out and let it cool for at least an hour.

Once it has cooled, it’s time to transfer it back into your container. You may want to use a sterile spoon to avoid contaminating your freshly sterilized substrate.

For the next step, consult the information that came with your inoculating fluid on how it should be used. And, carefully following those instructions, add it to your substrate. Once done, seal your container and give it another thorough shaking.

Now, you could take your chances here and see if your spores will grow in the substrate alone, though you will have much lower chances of success. The best bet is to add a few hosts for your fungus to infect. Ghost moth larva is a popular option for this, though caterpillars also work. You can also use ground up silkworm pupa in your substrate to encourage the fungus to take hold without a living host present.

can i grow cordyceps at home

Grow Kits

By far an easier option, grow kits come with everything you need to get started. The instructions may vary from grow kit to grow kit but should mostly involve pouring the pre-prepared substrate into a container and adding the inoculating fluid. Be sure to follow the instructions carefully to avoid mishaps.

Tending to Your Cordyceps

There are a few things you want to try and maintain as far as environmental conditions go to give you the best chance of a successful yield. Firstly, keep the humidity between 70-80%. You will also want to keep the temperature nice and level at around 68 degrees Fahrenheit. Failing to meet these conditions could result in stunted growth—or no growth at all! It’s also worth mentioning that some experts recommend alternating between light and darkness to simulate the day and night cycle the fungi would experience in nature.

Once you’ve got all of this in place, settle in for a long wait. You should know within two weeks whether or not your Cordyceps has taken hold and has sprouted, but it will take at least sixty days for them to fully grow.

Growing Cordyceps for my Own Use

Growing Cordyceps for your own use is something of a double-edged sword in terms of the advantages and disadvantages it provides. On the one hand, you do not need as much equipment to grow a small amount of fungus as you would if you were growing it to sell as part of a business, but you do need some equipment, and it can feel like a much more significant investment when there is no financial return on the horizon. If you happen to live in an area where the climate is right, or you already have the equipment to hand, growing for your own use can be a very rewarding venture.

Growing Them as a Business

Growing for purposes of selling as part of a business can be a very lucrative venture if you are prepared to invest in the necessary equipment to grow the fungi on a larger scale. You will need to be able to regulate the climate of a much larger area to get a good yield from each batch of spores, which means additional costs in both upfront equipment purchases and long-term running costs. As with growing for home-use, if you already have the equipment—perhaps from a previous mushroom growing venture, you are well on your way to making a profitable operation selling Cordyceps.

can i grow cordyceps at home

The Best Way to Package Them For Sale

As with most perishable substances, environmental factors like humidity are the enemy. The best way to package Cordyceps—particularly if you expect to be shipping your product over long distances—is in airtight containers that can be sealed in a dry, cool environment. Plastic bottles and bags are often used for this purpose.

How Long do They Last Before They go Bad?

If stored in a cool, dry place, Cordyceps can be kept for an impressively long time while still maintaining all of the nutrients they are so desired for. Of course, there is no hard rule for how long any given fungus will keep, but as a general rule, you can expect to keep your Cordyceps for up to two years before you need to worry about it no longer being useable.

How do I Preserve Cordyceps?

Like most mushrooms, Cordyceps can be preserved through dehydration. Drying them out will remove the water content from the fungus and allow it to be stored for much longer without decomposing. Drying out Cordyceps is a practice used liberally when harvested in the wild due to the fact that it perishes quickly once removed, and demand for this fungus across the world means it may not always be heading for a quick sale.

Is a Cordyceps a Worm, Caterpillar, or a Mushroom?

Cordyceps is a genus of fungi that consists of around four hundred different species. The mushroom is actually the fruiting body of the fungi and is grown so that spores can be released to take root elsewhere and continue the lifecycle of the fungus. The body of the fungus—the mycelium—primarily lives in the substrate that the fungus takes up root in and is rarely visible above it, but when the mycelium encounters increased levels of oxygen, light, and temperature changes, it knows it has reached the surface of whatever substrate it is rooted in and may sprout a fruiting body—a mushroom.

Cordyceps is notable for the fact that it takes up root in a living insect, rather than soil or plants, like many other fungi.

can i grow cordyceps at home

Why the Confusion?

As mentioned above, Cordyceps tends to grow inside of a living host—insects in particular—and this is the first point of confusion. In the case of the Caterpillar Fungus that we have been discussing, the insect of choice is a caterpillar, which is why Cordyceps is sometimes mistakenly believed to be that insect.

The next point of confusion stems from the fact that Cordyceps—which have been a popular folk medicine around the regions where it grows for centuries—was once thought to be a kind of worm. When something is thought to be a particular kind of thing for hundreds of years, it can be difficult to shake that notion.

As we’ve stated, however, Cordyceps is, in fact, a fungus. It just happens to be a fungus that grows inside of a caterpillar and looks a little bit like a worm.

Final Thoughts

Growing Cordyceps from home is far from the easiest venture in terms of home fungi cultivation, though it is no longer impossible. The important thing is to have a clear idea of what you are doing it for.

If you want to make a business out of it, you need to be prepared to invest in the necessary equipment. On the other hand, if you are just growing for your own use, it is worth weighing up the costs of growing your own—factoring in your own time and effort—against the expense of just buying it.

can i grow cordyceps at home
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