From your local juice bar to your Insta feed, adaptogens seem to be popping up everywhere—but what the heck are they (and which one should you try)? In short, they’re a special group of plants that are used to help the body handle stress. But some—like cordyceps—go beyond that to help fight fatigue and boost stamina. Here’s what you need to know.
What is cordyceps? A cordyceps is a mushroom—but not the kind you’re likely to see on your weekend hiking trip. These fungi are not easily harvested, partly because they’re found in high-up mountain regions of China, and partly because they’re, erm, grown on the backs of caterpillars. (Don’t Google it. Trust us on this one.)
And how can it help me work out? “Cordyceps reduce the amount of oxygen the body needs when exercising, thus improving endurance and decreasing the time to fatigue,” explains holistic nutritionist Lorraine Kearney. Exactly how this works is not yet fully understood, she adds. However research has been ongoing since the 1993 Olympics, when three Chinese runners broke five world records and credited the mushrooms for their success. A UCLA study suggested that the fungi improves exercise performance while another study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition found that it could reduce fatigue.
Are there any other benefits of cordyceps? According to Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Research Center, these “magic mushrooms” may also help stimulate the immune system and aid liver function. They’re also being studied for their potential anti-inflammatory benefits.
So, how should I take it? Cordyceps is typically taken in tablet form. “Recent studies show that in order for cordyceps to be effective, daily supplementation of 4 grams for at least 21 days is required,” says Kearney. But remember to check with your healthcare provider before taking any supplement or adaptogen, as some can react negatively with certain medications or health conditions.