Cordyceps is a medicinal mushroom with a long history in traditional Chinese medicine, known for its diverse bioactive compounds and potent health benefits. In recent years, the potential role of cordyceps mushrooms in treating ovarian cancer has garnered much deserved attention.
Evidence points to the ability of cordyceps to help fight cancer: inducing cancer cell death (apoptosis), inhibiting tumor growth, and modulating signaling pathways involved in cancer progression. According to a 2015 study, “treatment with the [cordyceps] extract decreased cellular proliferation, induced cell cycle arrest… and increased apoptosis.”
Cordyceps is an adaptogenic superfood with compelling antitumor effects. Let’s explore the potential therapeutic application of cordyceps in ovarian cancer treatment.
Are you new to the magical world of cordyceps? Order our exotic cordyceps tea with matcha and invigorate your day.
Kicking cancer’s butt is not the only thing cordyceps is good at. Take a look at our list of cordyceps benefits.
What is Ovarian Cancer?
Ovarian cancer is a type of cancer that originates in the female reproductive organs (ovaries), where eggs and hormones are produced. It occurs when abnormal cells in the ovaries or fallopian tubes grow and multiply uncontrollably.
Ovarian cancer, an ovary, and the fallopian tube. Source:
Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths in women around the world. According to the National Cancer Institute, an estimated 236,511 women were diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the United States in 2020. Ovarian cancer can be difficult to identify because symptoms generally don’t appear until the disease has progressed.
Symptoms and Causes of Ovarian Cancer
Ovarian cancer can develop and spread throughout the abdomen without causing any noticeable symptoms. This is why this type of cancer is called the “silent killer”: it is often diagnosed at an advanced stage, when it has already metastasized and spread beyond the ovaries.
Symptoms of advanced ovarian cancer may include:
- Abdominal or pelvic pain
- Bloating and digestive discomfort
- Persistent indigestion
- Changes in your eating habits: feeling full early, loss of appetite
- Changes in your bowel habits: frequent urination, diarrhea, or constipation
- Vaginal discharge or bleeding outside of the typical menstrual cycle or after menopause
- Chronic fatigue
- Weight loss
The exact causes of ovarian cancer are still unknown, but the following factors seem to increase one’s risk profile.
- Family history of ovarian or breast cancer.
- Inherited gene mutations.
- Women who have never been pregnant have an increased risk of developing ovarian cancer.
- Early menstruation (before age 12).
- Late menopause (after age 55).
- Fertility treatments and the use of fertility drugs.
- History of breast, colon, or rectal cancer.
How is Ovarian Cancer Treated?
Treatment for ovarian cancer usually involves a combination of surgery, chemotherapy, and, in some cases, radiation therapy. The cancer stage, the location of the cancer, the patient's general health, and their desire for future fertility all have an impact on the specific cancer treatment.
Treatment options for ovarian cancer may involve the removal of the ovaries or other reproductive organs, which can significantly impact a woman's ability to conceive children in the future.
- Surgery is the primary treatment for ovarian cancer. It seeks to remove as much of the tumor as possible.
- Chemotherapy is often used after surgery to target any remaining cancer cells and lower the chance of recurrence.
- Radiation therapy is less commonly used to treat ovarian cancer, but it may be advised in some cases to target and eliminate ovarian cancer cells using high-energy X-rays.
Cordyceps militaris has gained attention as a potential complementary treatment for ovarian cancer, offering several benefits over traditional approaches that can be aggressive and have serious adverse effects. Regular use of cordyceps supplements may even alleviate many chemotherapy-induced side effects like anxiety, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and loss of appetite.
Anticancer Effects of Cordyceps Mushrooms
Recent studies reveal the extraordinary antitumor potential of Cordyceps militaris. These mushrooms contain bioactive compounds like cordycepin, adenosine, and polysaccharides that have demonstrated various mechanisms of action against tumors.
- Cordyceps shows an anticancer effect by inhibiting cancer cell proliferation and suppressing tumor angiogenesis. Angiogenesis is the process by which new blood vessels form, and tumors need blood and oxygen to thrive. Cordyceps extracts have been found to inhibit the proliferation of different cancer cell lines, including lung cancer, colon cancer, breast cancer, and ovarian cancer cells.
- Studies have shown that Cordyceps militaris extract induces apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells through various signaling pathways.
- Cordyceps enhances antitumor immunological response and propels our own immune system to fight cancer cells more effectively. Chinese researchers explained that, by boosting the body’s immune system, “Cordyceps can inhibit the growth and metastasis of tumor cells by death (including apoptosis and autophagy) induction, cell-cycle arrest, and angiogenesis inhibition."
- Cordyceps has also been shown to enhance the efficacy of chemotherapy drugs in ovarian cancer treatment, potentially reducing drug resistance and improving treatment outcomes.
Cordyceps interacting with cancer. Source: https://www.mdpi.com/1420-3049/27/19/6576
Now that you’re familiar with the potent antitumor activity of cordyceps, let’s see what science has to say about using cordyceps mushrooms to treat ovarian cancer.
What Research is Available on Cordyceps and Ovarian Cancer?
We dug deep to unearth the research on Cordyceps militaris and its role in combating ovarian cancer. Here’s our overview of its anticancer mechanisms of action.
Cordyceps militaris Exerts Antitumor Effect on Carboplatin-Resistant Ovarian Cancer via Activation of ATF3/TP53 Signaling In Vitro and In Vivo
This 2020 study by Korean researchers Eunbi Jo, Hyun-Jin Jang, and Soo Jung Park investigated the effects of Cordyceps militaris extract on carboplatin-resistant SKOV-3 ovarian cancer cells. Carboplatin is a type of chemotherapy drug used to treat various types of carcinoma, and some types of ovarian cancer don’t respond to it as well as others.
Cordyceps reduced cell viability and caused changes in the appearance of the carboplatin-resistant cancer cells. By conducting a gene ontology analysis, researchers revealed that cordyceps activated specific genes and transcription factors that induce cancer cell apoptosis and inhibit ovarian cancer cell proliferation.
C. militaris alone was able to inhibit tumor growth, with a slowdown in tumor growth. The combination of carboplatin and C. militaris triggered a strong tumor growth inhibition with slowing of tumor growth and an apparent decrease in tumor weight.
The results indicate that cordyceps “plays an antitumor role and an assistance therapeutic anticancer medicine for carboplatin-based chemotherapy in carboplatin-resistant ovarian adenocarcinoma.”
Cordyceps Militaris Induces Apoptosis in Ovarian Cancer Cells Through TNF-α/TNFR1-Mediated Inhibition of NF-κB Phosphorylation
Here’s another study on ovarian cancer and cordyceps conducted by Eunbi Jo, Hyun-Jin Jang, Soo Jung Park, and other researchers. This time, they investigated the effects of Cordyceps militaris extract (CME) on human ovarian cancer cells and found that:
- CME reduced ovarian cancer cell viability. To put it more simply, cordyceps hindered or inhibited the growth and survival of ovarian cancer cells.
- Cordyceps caused changes in cell morphology. Cell morphology refers to the physical appearance and structure of cells (shape, size, and organization of cellular components). CME-induced changes in the shape of cancer cells could make abnormal cancer cells change their structure in ways that would hinder their growth and survival.
- CME also promoted apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells by activating a specific signaling pathway involving tumor necrosis factor receptor 1 (TNFR1) and nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB). TNF-α, a protein involved in cell survival and apoptosis, binds to TNFR1, leading to the activation of NF-κB. Activation of NF-κB allows it to enter the cell nucleus and regulate gene expression. Cordyceps was found to inhibit the translocation of NF-κB induced by interleukin (IL-1β), preventing its activation in the nucleus. This inhibition resulted in decreased levels of anti-apoptotic proteins Bcl-xL and Bcl-2, ultimately leading to increased apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells. According to the researchers, “CME negatively modulated NF-κB activation via TNFR expression, suggestive of the activation of the extrinsic apoptotic pathway.”
Cordycepin Induces Apoptosis of Human Ovarian Cancer Cells by Inhibiting CCL5-Mediated Akt/Nf-κB Signaling Pathway
We mentioned cordycepin earlier as one of the main bioactive compounds in cordyceps mushrooms. Cordycepin seems to possess anticancer effects, in addition to its other therapeutic properties. It has been studied for its ability to inhibit cancer cell growth, induce cell death, and modulate signaling pathways involved in cancer development and progression.
Soo Jung Park and Eunbi Jo teamed up with Ik-Soon Jang to explain another mechanism of action by which Cordyceps militaris induces apoptosis of human ovarian cancer cells.
The 2018 study focused on the apoptotic effect of cordycepin and found that this bioactive compound inhibits the activation of a signaling pathway called Akt/NF-κB, which is important for cancer cell survival.
Through its inhibition and the activation of caspases (proteins involved in apoptosis), cordycepin induced apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells. Cordycepin also prevented the increase of a chemokine protein called CCL5 that’s associated with immune cell recruitment in tumors.
Here are the study’s conclusions:
Cordycepin inhibits cancer cell viability and changes cancer cell morphology.
The morphology of SKOV-3, MDAH-2774, and OVCAR-3 cells changed drastically after 60 μg/mL cordycepin treatment for 48 h. Multiple cells began to detach from the surface of the culture plate and appeared buoyant. Moreover, the cells appeared to be shrunken, resulting in reduced cell volume.
Cordycepin induces apoptotic changes in ovarian cancer cells by downregulating akt/Nf-κb signaling pathway and upregulating cleaved caspase-3
…cordycepin blocked the inflammation-related signaling pathway such as CCL5, Akt/NF-κB, c-FLIPL, and upregulated caspase-3 activation. The expression levels of inflammation-related proteins in SKOV-3 cells treated by TNF-α and cordycepin were determined by using western blotting assay. TNF-α is a cytokine that induces inflammation in ovarian cancer cells… Inflammation-related proteins such as Akt, IκBα, nuclear NF-κB, and c-FLIPL were activated by TNF-α in SKOV-3 cells, while effectively downregulated by cordycepin in TNF-α treated SKOV-3 cells… These results indicate that cordycepin downregulated the TNF-α-mediated Akt/NF-κB/ c-FLIPL signaling pathway in ovarian cancer cells.
This makes cordycepin-rich cordyceps a powerful weapon against inflammation.
A gene expression microarray analysis identified genes involved in cordycepin-induced anti-tumor activity in ovarian cancer cells. Cordycepin seems to inhibit the Akt/NF-κB signaling pathway through CCL5 and reduce cancer cell migration.
The treatment of cordycepin significantly suppressed the cell migration in both CCL5-overexpressed and control vector-transfected cancer cells in a dose-dependent manner at 48 h. These results indicate that cordycepin attenuates CCL5-mediated Akt/NF-κB phosphorylation to downregulate SKOV-3 cell migration.
As you can see, cordyceps shows great potential for treating ovarian cancer by employing various molecular mechanisms. Further research is needed to fully understand its therapeutic and medical applications and explore its potential as an adjuvant treatment for ovarian cancer.
How to Consume Cordyceps
There are different ways to consume cordyceps mushrooms. One way to take them is in the form of a capsule or tablet as a food supplement. That's easy, but have you ever tasted a capsule? We have a better way, and it’s delicious.
Our favorite way to consume cordyceps happens to be the healthiest: there’s nothing better than indulging yourself with a cup of warm (or cold) cordyceps tea made with all natural and organic ingredients. Our cordyceps and matcha tea contains all the bioactive compounds with extraordinary antitumor effects to kick cancer right where it hurts.
As you sip your tea, read all about the health benefits of matcha.
Feeling nervous? Cordyceps mushrooms can help you de-stress. Cordyceps has anxiolytic properties and helps alleviate symptoms of anxiety and stress, which often follow a cancer diagnosis. Our tea contains matcha, and matcha is packed with L-theanine, an amino acid that promotes relaxation and mental clarity.
Read more about the adaptogenic properties of cordyceps and matcha that help your body cope with day-to-day pressure and reach mental relaxation in stressful situations.
Can I Take Cordyceps Every Day?
Cordyceps is completely safe to consume every day. A small number of people might experience some milder side effects when consuming cordyceps for the first time. These might include:
- Upset stomach
In fact,the side effects of consuming cordyceps mushrooms for the first time aren’t that different from consuming any other mushroom, spice, or herb for the first time. These subside quickly, but if discomfort persists after a day or two, stop using the mushroom products and consult with a healthcare professional.
Whether you’re consuming the goodness of cordyceps for the first time or not, be mindful of the amount you’re ingesting. We recommend starting with lower doses, between 1 and 3 grams of powder per day. See how you feel after two to three weeks of regular consumption, and feel free to increase the dosage if you experience nothing but improvement in your overall health.
If you’re pregnant, breastfeeding, or planning to get pregnant, speak with your doctor before adding cordyceps to your diet.
Should I Take Cordyceps With or Without Food?
Cordyceps mushrooms can be taken with or without food, depending on your personal preferences and desired goals.
If you’re consuming raw cordyceps mushrooms, feel free to add them to your omelet or savory oatmeal, or prepare a delicious lunch with a pinch of cordyceps powder. Some people prefer cordyceps capsules, which they drink with a glass of water or milk with their breakfast. Others mix a few drops of cordyceps tincture into their porridge, smoothie, or soup.
The best time of day to consume cordyceps is in the morning or early afternoon, so pairing a nice cup of cordyceps tea with breakfast sounds like a perfect start to your day. Our mushroom matcha tea packets are perfect for a boost of energy early in the morning.
Cordyceps for Ovarian Cancer FAQ
Will cordyceps make me sleepy?
Cordyceps doesn’t typically make people feel sleepy. In fact, it has the opposite effect. Research suggests that cordyceps boosts energy levels and improves athletic performance and endurance. The findings revealed that “acute supplementation with a Cordyceps militaris containing mushroom blend may improve tolerance to high intensity exercise; greater benefits may be elicited with consistent chronic supplementation.”
Some people who take cordyceps may feel more energized or stimulated instead of sleepy, so it may not be a good idea to take cordyceps mushroom extract before bed.
Is cordyceps a natural Viagra?
Consuming Cordyceps militaris has been linked to improved sexual function in men by raising testosterone levels. Testosterone is a hormone that regulates male sexual health, such as libido, sperm production, and erectile function. Higher testosterone is correlated with higher bone density and muscle strength, healthy sexual and reproductive function, and an overall sense of well-being.
According to research, Cordyceps militaris can increase sexual desire and activity and boost physical performance.
These results provide new information on the pharmacological properties of CM in ameliorating testicular damage due to oxidative stress and improving sexual performance in diabetic male rats.
This is why cordyceps mushrooms are often associated with greater libido in men and women.
How does cordyceps make you feel?
One of the key effects of cordyceps is boosting energy and promoting mood. Cordyceps is packed with adenosine, cordycepin, and beta-glucans, substances that help maintain healthy energy levels. Together, they help the body utilize oxygen in the most optimal way and promote circulation, which can further improve both physical and mental energy levels.
Cordyceps also has mood-enhancing properties. It can help alleviate symptoms of stress, anxiety, and depression. The presence of cordycepin, which has been shown in animal studies to have anti-anxiety and antidepressant characteristics, is one possible reason for this effect.
Is it OK to take cordyceps at night?
Taking cordyceps at night is considered safe, but depending on your needs, nighttime might not be the best time to consume cordyceps. As already mentioned, cordyceps doesn’t make you sleepy and can even make you feel more energized.
If you're taking cordyceps for energy and physical endurance, it might be better to take it during the day or before hitting the gym.
Does cordyceps contain caffeine?
Cordyceps mushrooms do not contain caffeine. They are known to boost energy levels and help your body use oxygen more efficiently, thus improving blood flow, but the stimulating effect of cordyceps does not come from caffeine.
However, caffeine is one of the major components of matcha. When it comes to our magical jar of mushroom matcha powder, we say a sprinkle of caffeine goes a long way. This invigorating blend of cordyceps and the healthiest ceremonial matcha contains low amounts of caffeine that will help you start your day with a kick.
Is cordyceps a parasite?
Cordyceps mushrooms are endoparasitoids, which means they live as parasites on insects (typically moth larvae). They eventually kill their hosts and grow fruiting bodies out of their heads. As only insects can be hosts, there’s nothing to worry about. You can consume cordyceps mushrooms, even raw, and not turn into a frenzy zombie.
While Cordyceps militaris is a parasite in nature, commercially cultivated species of Cordyceps militaris grow in labs, and no insects are killed in their production. It typically grows in a culture containing wheat, oats, and rice.
Can cordyceps be used as a weight loss supplement?
Some people believe that consuming Cordyceps militaris will help them shave off excess fat quickly. But there is currently no evidence to support the claim that cordyceps mushrooms can help individuals lose weight.
Research suggests that cordyceps may in fact improve overall health by reducing liver weight and fat deposition and improving lipid levels. While these techniques aren’t exactly weight management, they are a step in the right direction to keep your body healthy and maintain a healthy weight.
Does cordyceps make you jittery?
Jitters are not a common side effect of cordyceps mushrooms. Cordyceps is generally considered safe for use, but it is always best to contact a healthcare practitioner before starting any new supplement, especially if you have any underlying medical concerns or are taking any medication.
When you consume cordyceps mushrooms, you'll likely feel more alert and focused, as they can have stimulating effects similar to coffee. However, unlike coffee, cordyceps mushrooms won't make you jittery or anxious.
Cordyceps militaris (L.) Link Fruiting Body Reduces the Growth of a Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer Cell Line by Increasing Cellular Levels of p53 and p21 - PubMed. (2015, July 31). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules200813927
Cancer of the Ovary - Cancer Stat Facts. (n.d.). SEER. https://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/ovary.html
Liu, Y., Guo, Z. J., & Zhou, X. W. (2022, October 4).Chinese Cordyceps: Bioactive Components, Antitumor Effects and Underlying Mechanism A Review. MDPI. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules27196576
Jo, E., Jang, H. J., Yang, K. E., Jang, M. S., Huh, Y. H., Yoo, H. S., Park, J., Jang, I. S., & Park, S. J. (2020, January). Cordyceps militaris Exerts Antitumor Effect on Carboplatin-Resistant Ovarian Cancer via Activation of ATF3/TP53 Signaling In Vitro and In Vivo.Natural Product Communications,15(1), 1934578X2090255. https://doi.org/10.1177/1934578x20902558
Cordyceps militaris induces apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells through TNF-α/TNFR1-mediated inhibition of NF-κB phosphorylation - PubMed. (2020, January 13). PubMed. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-019-2780-5
Cui, Z. Y., Park, S. J., Jo, E., Hwang, I. H., Lee, K. B., Kim, S. W., Kim, D. J., Joo, J. C., Hong, S. H., Lee, M. G., & Jang, I. S. (2018, May 23).Cordycepin induces apoptosis of human ovarian cancer cells by inhibiting CCL5-mediated Akt/NF-κB signaling pathway - Cell Death Discovery. Nature. https://doi.org/10.1038/s41420-018-0063-4
Hirsch, K. R., Smith-Ryan, A. E., Roelofs, E. J., Trexler, E. T., & Mock, M. G. (2016, July 13).Cordyceps militaris improves tolerance to high intensity exercise after acute and chronic supplementation. PubMed Central (PMC). https://doi.org/10.1080/19390211.2016.1203386
Nguyen, T. V., Chumnanpuen, P., Parunyakul, K., Srisuksai, K., & Fungfuang, W. (2021, February 27).A study of the aphrodisiac properties of Cordyceps militaris in streptozotocin-induced diabetic male rats. PubMed Central (PMC). https://doi.org/10.14202/vetworld.2021.537-544
Huang, H. S., Wu, H. Y., Chang, W. T., Lin, Y. E., Huang, Y. J., Lu, K. H., Lu, Y. S., Chen, M. H., & Sheen, L. Y. (2020, May 29).The Antidepressive and Anxiolytic Effects of Formula Consisted of Poria cocos and Cordyceps militaris Waster Medium Extract in Unpredictable Chronic Mild Stress Animal Model. PubMed Central (PMC). https://doi.org/10.1093/cdn/nzaa057_028
Jang, D., Lee, E., Lee, S., Kwon, Y., Kang, K. S., Kim, C. E., & Kim, D. (2022, May 12).System-level investigation of anti-obesity effects and the potential pathways of Cordyceps militaris in ovariectomized rats - BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies. BioMed Central. https://doi.org/10.1186/s12906-022-03608-y
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