How (and why) cordyceps were mistaken for steroids

in the 1993 Olympic games

Mushrooms have been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) for centuries to treat various conditions like lung diseases, respiratory illness, and fatigue. The rest of the world was relatively unaware of the medicinal power of mushrooms until the 1993 Olympics, the female Chinese Olympic running team shattered records to the extent that they were accused of steroid use. 


In 1993, a Chinese Olympics female running team broke records for 1,500, 3,000 and 10,000 meters, stirring up curiosity and suspicion. They were suspected of using performance enhancing steroids, but the rumors were shot down by their coach when their drug tests reflected zero steroids. 

The coach revealed to the reporters that his team had been taking doses of cordyceps at his request after each training session. 


The medicinal mushroom cordyceps was used for its energizing properties that enhance the body’s metabolism and opened up the upper respiratory tract to enhance the athletes’ performance.


This event brought alternative medicine to the forefront of not only immune health, but also physical health. 

What are cordyceps mushrooms?

There are 2 kinds of cordyceps mushrooms, both of which are nearly identical:


Cordyceps sinensis is a wild, rare fungus that grows on larvae of butterflies and moths. Some strains of cordyceps grow like fungus out of the brains of insects! When Cordyceps sinensis was first discovered in ancient China, it was so rare that it was only allowed to be consumed by royalty.


Cordycepsmilitaris is easier to produce at a large scale, and has a compound that Cordyceps sinensis does not: Cordycepin.


This study compares Cordyceps sinensis and Cordyceps militaris side by side.


how are cordyceps beneficial for athletes?

Cordyceps are very popular among athletes, as these mushrooms aid in enhancing their performance and overcoming their general weakness. It also acts as a tonic for physical stamina and endurance. Cordyceps improve blood flow as well as the body’s ability to burn fat fast


The fungus increases the availability of a molecule called adenosine triphosphate (ATP) in the body. ATP plays an important role in supplying oxygen to body muscles. Muscles use this oxygen to produce energy. 


Cordyceps have proven to increase VO2 max. VO2 maxis defined as a measure of how fast the body delivers oxygen to muscles. Athletes or elite runners have double the VO2 max as a normal person. When the body consumes more oxygen, it also helps in combating fatigue.



what are the health benefits of cordyceps?

Other than their benefits for improving athletic performance, cordyceps mushrooms offer a range of health benefits:

Help anti-aging process: cordyceps are loaded with antioxidant that can slow down the aging process. The antioxidants in the body help eliminate free radicals that cause diseases and speeds up aging.


Manage type-2 diabetes: cordyceps contain certain sugar that mimics the action of insulin, which helps maintain sugar levels in the body.


Promote healthy heart function: due to its antioxidant nature, cordyceps help in preventing heart related problems like high blood pressure and helps in maintaining low cholesterol levels


Anti-tumor effects: cordyceps may inhibit the growth of cancer cells and exert anti-tumor effects in lung and livers.



taking cordyceps supplEments

More research is needed to understand the effects of cordyceps as most of the research is done on animals. These studies show that use of cordyceps helps in regulating blood sugar levels and also possess anti-tumor properties that help in killing cancer cells.


However, cordyceps are widely available in the form of supplements that can be taken orally or added in tea. It is also advised to consult the doctor before adding them to your routine. If you are looking to feel energized, then cordyceps are a great way to start along with a good diet and healthy lifestyle -- and of course, cordyceps are one of the 9 mushrooms in Mushroom Design’s Daily Vitamin & Mushroom blend! 


Experience the benefit of mushrooms in Mushroom Design’s daily supplement, which contains nine functional mushrooms plus nine essentially daily vitamins - cordyceps included!