Cordyceps for Diabetes
Are you tired of being held hostage by your diabetes? If so, meet cordyceps mushrooms. These strange fungi are a great way to improve blood sugar levels and a natural ally in the fight against diabetes.
Cordyceps mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. Recent research seems to confirm that cordyceps can help people with diabetes by managing blood sugar levels, boosting insulin sensitivity, and generally making life simpler for diabetic patients.
Read on to explore how cordyceps can potentially play a role in the management of diabetes and its symptoms.
What is Diabetes?
Diabetes mellitus is a chronic disease that impairs your body's capacity to convert food (particularly carbohydrates and sugars) into energy.
A healthy individual’s body breaks down carbohydrates into sugars, which are then released into the bloodstream. The pancreas then secretes insulin, a peptide hormone that permits cells to absorb and use sugar to create energy.
Diabetic patients either do not make enough insulin or can’t use it adequately. As a result, the sugars cannot enter the cells and offer energy to the body.
Symptoms of Diabetes
Diabetes symptoms might include:
- Increased thirst and hunger
- Frequent urination
- Blurred eyesight
- Poor wound healing
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
If left untreated, diabetes can lead to a variety of health conditions, including heart disease, stroke, kidney damage, nerve damage, and blindness.
Diabetes patients must frequently monitor their blood sugar levels, take prescription medications, and watch their diet in order to avoid complications and enhance their overall health.
Types of Diabetes
Diabetes mellitus is classified into three types: type 1, type 2, and gestational diabetes.
Type 1 Diabetes
Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune illness in which the body attacks and destroys insulin-producing cells in the pancreas, resulting in an inability to produce insulin.
Type 1 diabetes is typically inherited and manifests itself earlier in life, in infancy or early adolescence. People with this kind of diabetes do not have the ability to produce insulin. As a result, they require daily insulin injections in order for their bodies to convert food into energy.
Type 1 diabetes is less common than type 2.
Type 2 Diabetes
“Diabetes can be prevented by lifestyle change.”—Walker, et. al.
Type 2 diabetes is the most common form of diabetes. It is a lifestyle disease that occurs when the body develops resistance to the effects of insulin or produces insufficient insulin to maintain normal blood sugar levels.
People with this type have poor insulin sensitivity (they don't respond well to insulin) or produce less insulin than they should.
Type 2 diabetes is treated with oral medications, insulin, or a combination of the two. A nutritious diet low in sugar and carbohydrates and high in fiber, as well as frequent exercise, can help regulate blood sugar levels.
As we’ll see, non-pharmaceutical interventions such as cordyceps show promise in treating type 2 diabetes.
Gestational diabetes is characterized by elevated blood sugar levels that develop during pregnancy, usually in the second or third trimester. Gestational diabetes occurs when the mother’s body is unable to produce enough insulin to meet the increased demands of the mother and the fetus.
If not adequately treated during pregnancy, this type of diabetes can have long-term consequences for both the mother and the baby. Pregnancy issues such as pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy), premature birth, and cesarean delivery can all be exacerbated by high blood sugar levels.
After delivery, gestational diabetes usually goes away, but it is important for both the mother and the baby to get regular check-ups and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Is There a Cure for Diabetes?
There is currently no cure for any type of diabetes. Diabetes can be managed through medication and lifestyle changes, and many diabetics often opt for alternative therapies—including cordyceps.
Cordyceps mushrooms have been used in traditional Chinese medicine for more than 2,000 years. Keep reading to find out why they’re called adaptogenic superfoods.
What is Cordyceps Militaris?
Cordyceps militaris is one of the most dominant species in a fungus genus with over 600 species. The majority of cordyceps mushrooms are endoparasitoids: they consume insect larvae and live as parasites on certain types of moths and caterpillars.
Today, you can find Cordyceps militaris anywhere in the world because it is commercially cultivated in labs. C. militaris is often referred to as the “cultured cordyceps” so as to make a distinction between C. militaris and C. sinensis, another popular type of cordyceps mushroom. Cordyceps sinensis is an endangered species in China—overharvesting has pushed this superfood to the brink of extinction.
Cordyceps mushrooms are adaptogenic: they contain active compounds that help our bodies cope with stress and boost resilience in stressful situations. These bioactive compounds found in cordyceps mushrooms have many therapeutic and medical properties.
While cordyceps mushrooms can be used to boost exercise performance, reduce stress and anxiety, improve cognitive function, and boost the immune system, today we’re more interested in their anti-diabetic effect. Recent studies have shown the ability of Cordyceps militaris to improve insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism, both of which are important in the development and control of diabetes.
Let’s dig deeper into the effect of Cordyceps militaris on diabetes.
Can Cordyceps Militaris Treat Diabetes?
“Cordycepin has been found to suppress the expression of diabetes-regulating genes through the inactivation of NF-κb-dependent inflammatory responses.” (Ashraf, et. al.)
Cordyceps and diabetes. Source: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7356751/
Many diabetic patients have reported positive outcomes after including cordyceps in their diet. Cordyceps has been shown to increase glucose metabolism, reduce oxidative stress, and boost immunological function, all of which benefit people with diabetes.
Cordyceps militaris water extract (CMW) induced the uptake of glucose into HepG2 cells, as well, it induced metabolism of the absorbed glucose. It is concluded that CMW is a candidate or potential use in diabetes prevention and treatment.
Interestingly, multiple experiments in diabetic mice showed that cordyceps may be able to maintain healthy blood sugar levels by imitating the effect of insulin. Insulin carries glucose from the blood to the cells, where it is converted into energy. Without this activity, glucose remains in the blood and causes diabetes. That’s why it’s critical for diabetics to keep their blood sugar levels under control.
Cordyceps Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
An animal study on diabetes mellitus indicates that cordyceps has “strong anticholesterolemic and anti-hypertriglyceridemic actions.” The results indicate that cordyceps mushrooms lower blood glucose levels and increase insulin sensitivity. The diabetic rats in the study showed that protein expression in skeletal muscle and adipose tissues was significantly increased, which was a strong indication that insulin signaling was restored.
When insulin signaling is restored, the body's cells can use glucose from the blood. This helps manage blood sugar levels and avoid the negative effects of high blood sugar, such as nerve, kidney, and eye damage. Restoring insulin signaling in the body can also help reduce inflammation and oxidative stress, which can be associated with diabetes.
Another study looked into the ability of cordyceps mushrooms to help with high blood sugar levels. Rats given cordyceps fruit body gained more weight, drank less water, and had lower blood sugar levels than other rats in the study.
Our results revealed that fruiting body, not carcass, of Cordyceps attenuated the diabetes-induced weight loss, polydipsia and hyperglycemia, and these improvements suggest that fruiting body of Cordyceps has a potential to be the functional food for diabetes.
While more research is needed to confirm these findings, it is clear that, due to its anti-hypoglycemic activity, Cordyceps militaris has the potential to be used as a potential treatment of diabetes.
Anti-Diabetic Properties of Cordycepin
A 2023 Chinese study examined one of cordyceps’ main bioactive compounds, cordycepin, which had beneficial effects on the symptoms of type 2 diabetes.
The study found “evidence that C. militaris can be used as a food supplement to relieve” type 2 diabetes mellitus, adding to the growing body of scientific research that supports cordyceps’ anti-diabetic properties.
Cordycepin is a naturally occurring nucleoside in Cordyceps militaris and Cordyceps sinensis. This bioactive compound has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and it has also been shown to lower blood sugar levels.
The Chinese research article revealed that cordycepin from Cordyceps militaris improved glucose and lipid metabolic indices and lowered oxidative stress indicators in type 2 diabetic mice. Here are the effects of cordycepin and Cordyceps militaris extracts on fasting blood glucose and body weight in mice:
After 4 weeks of intragastric administration, compared to the first week, the level of fasting blood glucose was increased, and the model control group showed obvious emaciation, uneven coat color, and weight loss, urine output and water intake were elevated, as in previous studies. After 4 weeks of gavage, the fasting blood glucose gain induced by the model control group was lower when cordycepin and cordyceps extracts were administered (p < 0.01).
In addition to its anti-diabetic effects, cordycepin had positive effects on the mice’s gut microbiota. Based on the 16S rRNA gene sequencing and metabolomics analyses, cordyceps extract and cordycepin were able to improve the symptoms of type 2 diabetes by modulating the gut microbiota and metabolites.
Here’s how cordyceps extracts and cordycepin improved the composition of gut microbiota in diabetic mice:
Firmicutesis a common indicator of gut microbiota balance, and bacteria of the phyla Firmicutesand Bacteroideteswere dominant in each group...Remarkably, the relative abundance of Firmicutesincreased in each treatment group compared with the model control group. We can see the relative abundance (%) of Firmicutes, Bacteroidetesand the ratio of Firmicutes/Bacteroidetes in each group...It was found that both Cordyceps militaris extracts and cordycepin improved the gut microbiota and gut microbiome community structure in type 2 diabetes mellitus.
A 2015 study looked into the effects of cordycepin on alloxan-induced diabetic mice. After a two-week treatment, the results showed that cordycepin was able to:
- Increase hepatic glycogen content
- Enhance oral glucose tolerance
- Lower blood sugar levels
- Protect against diabetes-related kidney and spleen damage
The study concluded that because of its positive effect on diabetes, cordycepin from Cordyceps militaris might be a promising therapeutic agent for treating and preventing symptoms of diabetes and treating diabetes-related complications.
Cordyceps Mushrooms and Diabetic Nephropathy
Diabetic nephropathy is a diabetes complication that causes kidney damage, resulting in proteinuria (the presence of protein in the urine), high blood pressure, and impaired kidney function, including potential renal failure. Diabetic nephropathy and related renal failure are serious health problems for people with diabetes. If you’re diabetic, cordyceps supplements may lower your risk of developing kidney problems.
Cordyceps fungi are well-researched for their ability to treat diabetic nephropathy. It seems that cordyceps can improve kidney function by delaying chronic renal failure. Scientific reports revealed that cordyceps mushrooms could alleviate renal anemia and treat lipid metabolic imbalances that arise from Moyamoya disease, a rare cerebrovascular disorder that typically manifests in patients with type 1 diabetes.
A 2016 animal study confirms that cordyceps mushrooms can help with kidney problems. Obese mice in the study were given different amounts of the mushroom every day for four weeks, while their blood sugar and body weights were checked regularly. The mice showed increased sugar levels and improved cholesterol levels at the end of the experiment, but even more significantly, cordyceps mushrooms lowered inflammation and improved renal function in the mice.
Remember our anti-diabetic hero, cordycepin? You’re going to love it even more when you hear all about its anti-inflammatory and antioxidative properties for renal function.
Cordycepin Protects Against Kidney Failure
According to research, cordycepin from Cordyceps militaris seems to affect TLR4/NF-κB pathways. TLR4 and NF-κB play an important role in the immune response, the inflammatory signaling response, and the growth, survival, and development of cells. By affecting the TLR4/NF-κB lipid signaling pathway, cordycepin protects against chronic kidney disease.
The anti-inflammatory effects of cordycepin might be its most powerful weapon against chronic kidney disease. Inflammation is a major cause of diabetic nephropathy, and lowering inflammation can help slow the disease’s progression. Cordycepin and other bioactive compounds in cordyceps mushrooms prevent oxidative stress, which seems to aid renal failure and support the disease’s development.
Polysaccharides and Diabetic Nephropathy
Polysaccharides are another major group of compounds found in C. militaris. These complex biomolecules are vital sources of energy in our body. They are powerful antioxidants and help lower oxidative stress and inflammation—all the things that diabetes feeds on.
But did you know polysaccharides can also protect against diabetic nephropathy?
Scientific evidence shows that polysaccharides found in cordyceps mushrooms seem to lower blood sugar and improve insulin resistance. An aqueous extract of Cordyceps militaris fruit body was given to rats for four weeks. Researchers monitored body weight, plasma glucose, fasting blood glucose, food and water intake, lipid profile, urine output, and kidney function. The results showed that polysaccharides in cordyceps could lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels and protect the kidneys by inhibiting albuminuria, creatinine, and urea nitrogen. (High levels of albumin, creatinine, and urea nitrogen in your urine are a sign your kidneys aren’t working properly.)
Since taking cordyceps mushrooms doesn't have any negative effects on our health, they might be a natural therapeutic solution and a complementary remedy to diabetes medication.
Side Effects of Cordyceps
Cordyceps mushrooms are generally safe to consume. If you're allergic to yeast, mold, or other types of fungi, you might be sensitive to cordyceps as well.
The best way to take cordyceps, especially if it’s your first time, is in moderation. First-time users might experience minor discomfort, such as diarrhea or an upset stomach, so it’s important to start small. Introduce a small amount of cordyceps mushrooms (1-3 grams) to your daily routine and gradually raise the dosage until you feel comfortable.
How to Consume Cordyceps Mushrooms
There are many ways you can consume cordyceps, but our cordyceps matcha tea is unmatched in flavor and quality. Drinking cordyceps tea is one of the oldest and most traditional ways to ingest mushrooms as herbal medicine. The Chinese have been doing it for the past two millennia; why shouldn’t you?
The rich combination of antioxidants, amino acids, and other healthy ingredients has been shown to improve muscle strength, reduce inflammation, and increase insulin levels. Paired with superb matcha, another adaptogenic superfood known for its energizing properties, this cordyceps tea is nothing like you’ve ever tasted before. You can sip on it in the morning or early afternoon and feel energized, refreshed, and ready to take on the day.
Cordyceps for Diabetes FAQ
Can cordyceps mushrooms cure diabetes?
There is currently no cure for diabetes. Diabetic patients can resort to medications, different types of therapies, and alternative medicines to keep the condition under control.
Cordyceps mushrooms might help treat and prevent metabolic diseases like diabetes and metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome is a group of health problems (high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and too much body fat) that raise the chance of heart disease, stroke, and other health conditions. Cordyceps may help improve blood sugar control, insulin sensitivity, and lipid metabolism, among other metabolism parameters. The mushrooms also have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties, which could help lower the chance of diabetes complications.
Even though cordyceps mushrooms haven't been shown to cure diabetes, they are a great natural way to treat symptoms and prevent health complications.
Who should not take cordyceps?
Cordyceps mushrooms are generally considered safe for most people. If you have allergies, especially to mold, yeast, or other fungi, use cordyceps with caution. If you see any signs of an adverse reaction, stop consuming the mushroom immediately and consult a healthcare professional.
Is it safe to take cordyceps every day?
Taking cordyceps on a daily basis is absolutely safe and can only benefit your health. Most people prefer taking the mushrooms in the morning. Get yourself a packet of our mushroom matcha tea and enjoy it as a warm beverage every morning to kick off the day with a boost of energy and deliciousness.
Does cordyceps lower testosterone?
Cordyceps militaris increases testosterone levels in animal models. Though additional human research is needed to examine the way it can affect human testosterone levels, it is safe to assume that cordyceps fungi can help with the production of testosterone and maintain healthy testosterone levels.
Does cordyceps affect the brain?
According to research, Cordyceps militaris may be good for the brain and nervous system. Its potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties can help regulate brain function. Cordyceps mushrooms can also stimulate the activity of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and glutamate, which is critical for maintaining optimal brain function and boosting memory and learning.
Scientific reports have shown that cordyceps may improve learning and memory by reducing oxidative damage and protecting the nervous system from free radicals. Getting oxygen to the brain is one of the most important things for keeping it working properly. Cordyceps does just that: it provides your brain cells with oxygen and the nutrients they need.
Does cordyceps affect the liver?
Cordyceps mushrooms might be beneficial for the liver. Remember polysaccharides? The results of a study on liver damage in mice showed that these powerful biomolecules found in cordyceps mushrooms have a protective effect on chemically-induced liver damage.
When is the best time to take cordyceps?
Depending on your needs and preferences, the best time to take cordyceps mushrooms can vary. In the morning, you can consume cordyceps to give you more energy and help you stay focused all day. You can take cordyceps at night for a good night's sleep.
If you are taking cordyceps to boost your athletic performance, you may want to take it before the workout or other physical exercise to help improve your endurance and oxygen intake.
It's best to take cordyceps supplements with food to help your body absorb them better and avoid the risk of an upset stomach.
Can cordyceps mushrooms help me lose weight?
Research shows that cordyceps mushrooms may have some anti-obesity properties. It seems that cordyceps can aid weight loss by increasing the levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a key component in energy production.
Cordyceps also promotes gut health and improves digestive function, which may be another way cordyceps mushrooms aid weight management and immune functioning.
Can cordyceps infect humans in the future?
There is currently no science-backed evidence that cordyceps mushrooms can infect people in the same way they infect insects in their natural habitats. Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris are the two most popular types of cordyceps as a food supplement. While C. sinensis grows in the wild regions of the Himalayas, C. militaris is cultivated commercially in laboratories under strict conditions.
Sleep tight—there’s no way cordyceps can turn you into a zombie.
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Ashraf SA, Elkhalifa AEO, Siddiqui AJ, Patel M, Awadelkareem AM, Snoussi M, Ashraf MS, Adnan M, Hadi S. Cordycepin for Health and Wellbeing: A Potent Bioactive Metabolite of an Entomopathogenic Cordyceps Medicinal Fungus and Its Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Potential. Molecules. 2020 Jun 12;25(12):2735. doi: 10.3390/molecules25122735.
Kim DJ, Kang YH, Kim KK, Kim TW, Park JB, Choe M. Increased glucose metabolism and alpha-glucosidase inhibition in Cordyceps militaris water extract-treated HepG2 cells. Nutr Res Pract. 2017 Jun;11(3):180-189. doi: 10.4162/nrp.2017.11.3.180. Epub 2017 May 22.
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Liu, Xinyuan, et al. “Cordyceps Militaris Extracts and Cordycepin Ameliorate Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus by Modulating the Gut Microbiota and Metabolites.” Frontiers, 8 Feb. 2023, https://doi.org/10.3389/fphar.2023.1134429.
“Cordycepin From Cordyceps Militaris Prevents Hyperglycemia in Alloxan-induced Diabetic Mice.” Cordycepin From Cordyceps Militaris Prevents Hyperglycemia in Alloxan-induced Diabetic Mice - ScienceDirect, 18 Apr. 2015, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.nutres.2015.04.011.
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