Can Cordyceps fungus turn people into zombies? Does it actually help athletic performance? |Move don1don

There is a plot in the recent album “The Last of Us”, where Cordyceps will invade the brain and turn people into zombies, and the remaining human beings must fight against these zombies in order to survive. In the real world, Cordyceps has existed for a long time, but there has not been any case showing that it can invade the human brain, so there is little need to worry about Cordyceps infecting humans.

There is a plot in the album “The Last of Us”, where Cordyceps will invade the brain and turn people into zombies.Image Source

The Cordyceps we are most familiar with is Cordyceps sinensis. In fact Cordyceps belongs to the genus of fungi (scientific name: Cordyceps) which includes about 600 species. Most of these 600 species are endoparasitoids, mainly parasitic on insects or arthropods; a few are parasitic on other fungal species.

There is a kind of Cordyceps that parasitizes the body of large ants. The parasitic ants will lose their autonomy and will not move on flat ground. They will climb to the leaves of plants about 25 cm high. Finally, the Cordyceps will pass through the ant body, attach to the leaves and release spores, which will infect more people. Many ants. The fungus Cordyceps does not directly invade the ant’s brain, but it can form a grass-like string in the ant’s body. Scientists believe that it may secrete some substances to control the ant’s brain.

The fungal name of Cordyceps sinensis is Cordyceps sinensis. Why is there such a thing as “Cordyceps sinensis”? The main reason is that the mycelium of Cordyceps invades the larvae of bat moths that live in the soil, and continues to grow in the larvae during the cold winter, slowly causing the moths to dry up and die, leaving only a shell (winter worm). The filaments pass through the worm body to grow on the ground, and the appearance is like new grass (summer grass).

Cordyceps sinensis is not recorded in “Compendium of Materia Medica”, until “Materia Medica Congxin” began to have relevant content. Cordyceps sinensis has the effects of protecting the lungs and kidneys, stopping bleeding and reducing phlegm, and curing cough. It is mentioned in “Dictionary of Chinese Medicine” that its Sweet and sour in taste, flat in nature, fragrant in smell, enters the two meridians of lung and kidney, can strengthen, benefit lung and kidney, tonify deficiency and damage, benefit essence and qi, detoxify, stop bleeding and resolve phlegm.

The extract of Cordyceps sinensis has been confirmed by empirical medical research to have two-way regulation function on cellular immunity and humoral immunity. It inhibits the rejection of organ transplants or skin transplants in mice, and it also inhibits the proliferation of tumor cells in mice. Experiments have confirmed that it can be used in combination with peach kernels to prevent post-hepatitis cirrhosis.

In addition, using alcohol to extract Cordyceps sinensis, the purified product has the effects of regulating arrhythmia, enhancing heart contraction, inhibiting platelet aggregation, and preventing thrombosis. It also helps prevent the side effects of nephrotoxic antibiotics.

The extract of Cordyceps sinensis has been confirmed by empirical medical research to have two-way regulation function on cellular immunity and humoral immunity.Image Source
The extract of Cordyceps sinensis has been confirmed by empirical medical research to have two-way regulation function on cellular immunity and humoral immunity.Image Source

As for whether taking Cordyceps extract can enhance sports performance? This should be an issue that our endurance athletes are more concerned about.In a Chinese experiment, Cordyceps was used on mice, and it was found that it could increase their forced swimming time. After exercise, the blood lactic acid, urea nitrogen, creatine kinase and other enzymes related to exercise metabolism were lower. It is inferred that it can enhance their fatigue resistance . Japan is a big country with scientific Chinese medicine. As early as 2006, it studied the effect of Cordyceps sinensis on the human body. The subjects were 36 young people who did not exercise regularly. The experiment showed that the VO2max of those who supplemented the extract was better. However, these people have poor physical fitness and cannot be inferred as athletes.

A 2020 UCLA study on 20 elderly people concluded that Cordyceps can enhance their endurance. In 2017, the University of North Carolina recruited 35 young college students for research, and the remaining 28 completed the experiment. Conclusions It is proposed that there is no difference in VO2max between one week of Cordyceps supplementation and the control group, but it can increase by about 5% after three weeks of supplementation. However, the above-mentioned studies are all pilot studies or small-scale studies, and the number of people in the experiment is not large enough to be inferred to the general population. Additionally, there is no evidence to support that Cordyceps can make professional athletes stronger.

In short, Cordyceps are fungal mushrooms, they have no cases of invading the human brain, so don’t worry about turning people into zombies. Cordyceps sinensis extract has various functions in medicine, and may have its health-preserving function, but it can only be classified as a nutritional food item. After taking it, everyone feels different effects like eating ginseng or ganoderma lucidum. Cordyceps is similar to drinking sour cherry juice or beetroot juice in terms of sports performance, and the effect is different. To enhance VO2max, periodic scientific training is king.
1. Syed Amir Ashraf, et al. Cordycepin for Health and Wellbeing: A Potent Bioactive Metabolite of an Entomopathogenic Medicinal Fungus Cordyceps with Its Nutraceutical and Therapeutic Potential. Molecules 2020
2. Hardeep S. Tuli, Sardul S. Sandhu, and A. K. Sharma. Pharmacological and therapeutic potential of Cordyceps with special reference to Cordycepin. 3 Biotec 2013
3. Gitishree Das, et al. Cordyceps spp.: A Review on Its Immune-Stimulatory and Other Biological Potentials. Front. Pharmacol., 2021 February
4. Steve Chen, et al. Effect of Cs-4® (Cordyceps sinensis) on Exercise Performance in Healthy Older Subjects: A Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial. J Altern Complement Med. 2010 May
5. Katie R. Hirsch, et al. Cordyceps militaris improves tolerance to high intensity exercise after acute and chronic supplementation. J Diet Suppl. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2018 Jan 13.
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