(Cordyceps and Testosterone, written by David Jaynes)
Whaddayaget when you cross a fungus with
Cordyceps. This is not a joke…
Traditional healers have used it to treat everything from energy and stamina, to libido, to appetite, to sleep problems.
Don’t let its nickname “killer fungus” fool you. It only slowly kills and turns into zombies when in an insect host.
Recent research has sought to find out how much of the traditional advice is up to modern standards. Like so many traditional remedies, the results are positive….
Cordyceps can help with testostosterone in two (and a half) different ways.
If you’ve been reading this blog with any kind of regularity, you know how destructive cortisol is to testosterone. If not, here’s the short version:
• Stress stimulates your body to produce adrenaline and cortisol
• Cortisol stimulates your body to store more fat in the abdomen
• Abdominal fat produces extra aromatase
• Aromatase turns your testosterone into estrogen
So yeah, it’s bad news from a testosterone standpoint.
In 2005, a team of researchers at the National Laboratory Animal Breeding and Research Center in Taiwan investigated the impact of cordyceps on cortisol by giving rats the fungus and measuring levels of cortisol in the blood (source).
They gave different groups of rats different concentrations of cordyceps, finding that blood cortisol reduced in proportion to the amount of cordyceps given the subject mice.
They strictly controlled for confounding variables like changes to adrenal gland function, and linked the drop conclusively to the impact of cordyceps.
This isn’t the same as saying cordyceps boosts testosterone production. But if your body is converting less testosterone into estrogen, you end up with more testosterone to use for your sexual health.
The result is the same, even if the cause is different.
The direct relationship between cordyceps and testosterone is less robust or conclusive, with results depending on what kind of research is being done.
When finding out what impact a substance might have on biology, researchers primarily use three different methods (in order).
• Cell culture studies, where they harvest animal cells and put them in a petri dish with the substance
• Animal studies, where they put the substance inside a living animal
• Human studies, where they put the substance inside a living human being
In cell culture studies, where Leydig cells from mice were exposed to the active ingredient in cordyceps sinensis (one species from the cordyceps family), it looked like cordyceps would actually reduce testosterone.
The stuff suppressed conversion of cholesterol into one of the more important compounds for creating T.
On the other hand, studies where live rodents were fed cordyceps generally showed an increase in testosterone (source).
The increase was both significant and dose-dependent (meaning the more cordyceps the mice got, the higher the increase in testosterone).
A few studies found no significant increase in testosterone after orally administering cordyceps to rodents, but most did show the increase. Further, injecting cordyceps stimulate a massive testosterone boost — nearly 300% in some subjects.
I am not saying you should inject yourself with cordyceps fungus. Seriously, don’t do that.
But I am saying research suggests at least some positive relationship between cordyceps and testosterone.
Better still, some research from a medical college in Taiwan finds cordyceps not only helps with testosterone, but definitely improves performance on one of testosterone’s most important jobs: sperm quality.
The study, conducted in 2008, gave 90 rats extract of cordyceps laced into their food for six weeks. Each of three groups of 30 were given different doses of cordyceps.
They found a significant increase in both sperm count and sperm health when the rats were given cordyceps, and that the increase remained for about two weeks after the dosing stopped.
They also found the increase was greater in the groups who received the highest doses.
Like I said at the beginning of this article, cordyceps (especially cordyceps sinensis) has been used for centuries for all kinds of health benefits. A variety of studies over the past two decades have confirmed these traditional beliefs.
Improved kidney health. Studies conducted in 2011 and 2014 found that treatment with cordyceps inhibited the development of renal fibrosis by shutting down how inflammation in the kidneys created fibrous scar tissues.
Better adrenal health. Building on Russian research from the 1940s, studies in 2003 and 2014 marked an increase in adrenal efficiency in rats exposed to cordyceps sinensis. Better adrenal efficiency reduces adrenal fatigue since your body gets more benefit from less of the hormone.
Improved hormone health. A study conducted in 1998 found a positive correlation between between cordyceps sinensis dosing and production of various hormones, including those associated with libido and stress reduction.
Reduced chances of diabetes. Insulin resistance is the first step in developing type II diabetes. A 1999 study found cordyceps sinensis enabled subjects to stabilize blood sugar levels faster and more efficiently, placing less stress on the pancreas and reducing the likelihood of developing insulin resistance.
Better brain health. A variety of studies in the 2010s suggest cordyceps sinensis can reduce the impact of chronic stress on the brain, thus improving thinking speed, judgment, and mood. It’s possible it can even reduce risk of diseases like dementia and Parkinson’s.
That’s where we get the “and a half” from the two and a half ways cordyceps helps testosterone.
These other benefits of cordyceps don’t directly impact testosterone production and sexual health, but all of them impact systems that, themselves impact testosterone. These kinds of indirect benefits are hard to measure, but still important and powerful factors in all facets of health.
There’s a lot of evidence that cordyceps can directly and indirectly boost testosterone, but there’s enough evidence to the contrary that I took it on myself to do some human research.
When I take cordyceps, I experience a moderate libido boost. This can indicate testosterone increases when I take the supplement. That said, I experience a greater boost with herbs like tongkat ali and pine pollen.
On the other hand, the wider health benefits of cordyceps aren’t to something you can dismiss. Overall, I recommend the stuff for people with moderate testosterone deficiencies…though the boost might not be sufficient for people with severe shortages.