Cordyceps, A Health Hero and its Portrayal in “The Last of Us”
Cordyceps has been revered for centuries as a regenerative tonic supporting energy reserves and enhancing performance. It's recently been the subject of much fascination and speculation for a different reason, after its depiction in the popular HBO series "The Last of Us."
The program depicts Cordyceps as infecting humans, turning them into zombie-like creatures, and sending the internet into a flurry; could this scenario really play out in real life?
In this Journal entry, we'll explore the truth behind Cordyceps and the Last of Us and the possibility of Cordyceps infecting humans. Spoiler alert, it’s a work of pure fiction – phew!
What is Wild Cordyceps?
First, let's understand what Cordyceps is and how it behaves. In the wild, Cordyceps is a type of parasitic fungus that primarily affects insects, typically ghost moth caterpillars that are found in the mountainous regions of Tibet, China and Nepal. The spores of the Cordyceps fungus infect the caterpillar during the summer months when it’s burrowed beneath the ground. It progressively penetrates the caterpillar’s body over autumn and winter until it’s fully consumed, eventually killing the insect. By the time spring arrives, Cordyceps forces the body of the caterpillar closer to the surface and the fruiting body of the mushroom as we know it emerges. For this reason, Cordyceps also goes by the name yartsa gunbu, the Tibetan phrase for winter worm, summer grass.
A purely parasitic relationship exists between wild Cordyceps and its host. There’s no sugar-coating it, the process is pretty brutal. But never fear, our Inner Atlas Cordyceps extracts are the cultivated kind and are completely vegan with no insects being harmed in the process!
Could Cordyceps Ever Infect Humans?
While Cordyceps is a formidable predator to insects, there is absolutely no evidence to suggest that it could infect humans in the same way. The idea that Cordyceps could infect humans and turn them into zombies is purely a work of fiction. There is no scientific evidence to suggest that Cordyceps could affect human behaviour or alter human physiology in any way that would resemble the zombies depicted in the HBO series "The Last of Us." While there are many real-world threats to human health and safety, Cordyceps is not one of them.
The Benefits of Cordyceps for Our Health
Cordyceps is one of our favourite life-potentiating medicinal mushrooms when it comes to its benefits for our health. Cordyceps has been revered in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 1,400 years with its first noted use dating back to the golden age of the Tang Dynasty in AD 620. This prized medicinal mushroom was reserved for the Emperor’s Court and Chinese nobility, used as a lung and kidney tonic for respiratory conditions, to ease physical fatigue, boost libido, and administered to those deemed to have a generally weak constitution.
Cordyceps ~Energy and Athletic Performance
We refer to Cordyceps as a deep energy awakener. It’s used by athletes as a natural remedy to support their physical performance, those recovering from illness or long periods of stress, as well as anyone looking to support their day-to-day energy reserves. Cordyceps has been studied for its potential ability to help support the production of mitochondrial ATP ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is our body's main energy supply source and is required to fuel our muscles and keep us moving. By boosting our mitochondria's capacity to produce ATP we're more likely to find ourselves with optimal and consistent levels of energy.
Cordyceps ~ Libido, Sexual Function and Fertility
Cordyceps is the ultimate shroom to get the inner fire burning and sexual energy flowing. It has been used by herbals of the East for thousands of years to enhance libido, support sexual health, and promote fertility. Research has shown Cordyceps to improve sexual desire by 64.5% in those with a low sexual appetite, with further studies suggesting that Cordyceps' libido-enhancing effects and potential to support fertility may come from its hormone-regulating ability in both men and women.
Cordyceps ~ Immune Support
While Cordyceps is a prime medicinal mushroom to work with after periods of illness, it’s a great tonic to regulate and balance our immunity and keep colds and flu at bay.
Cordyceps is noted to be able to upregulate or downregulate the response of the innate and adaptive immune system to intelligently meet the needs of the body at any given time. For more on how medicinal mushrooms function as adaptogens head over to our Journal entry on the topic.
Cordyceps ~ Healthy Ageing and Longevity
We mentioned earlier that Cordyceps is a hero when it comes to supporting our health; it really is one of our favourite life-enhancing medicinal mushrooms. Cordyceps has been used in traditional Chinese medicine to support overall body vitality and healthy ageing and it’s often used as a tonic for the elderly to stimulate active energy and warmth.
Not just a powerful mushroom for the later stages of life, Cordyceps is a nourishing staple for those in their prime. The process of ageing is taking place in our cells moment by moment with the body replacing old cells with new ones to combat the free radicals that occur as a result of a range of factors like stress, pollution, sun exposure, inflammatory foods and exhaustion. Cordyceps has been studied for its ability to help combat the proliferation of free radicals by supporting the production of potent antioxidant superoxide dismutase (SOD) and cell turn-over earning its place as an abundant anti-ageing adaptogen.
The Type of Cordyceps We Use ~ Don’t Worry it’s Vegan!
We work with Cordyceps Militaris, the only kind of cultivated Cordyceps that produces a fruiting body, and is completely vegan and insect free. Cordyceps Militaris a species that has the closest related benefits and activity to wild Cordyceps according to chemical and pharmacological analysis.
You might have come across Cordyceps in your local health food store that lists Cs-4 in the ingredients. Cs-4 is properly named Paecilomyces Hepiali and is widely sold and marketed as Cordyceps even though in reality it’s not. This fungus is grown in liquid fermentation tanks and the latest DNA research shows Cs-4 is likely only a minor part of wild Cordyceps. While it’s considered to be an inferior product Cs-4 is popular worldwide due to its lower production cost.
Our Potent Cordyceps Extract
We are one of the few companies that test our mushies for beta-D-glucans with the Megazyme testing method. As a result, we can guarantee that our Cordyceps extract contains greater than 30% beta-D-glucans so you can be confident your mushies are active and potent!