Cordyceps Mushroom

BCCT plans to write a summary on cordyceps mushroom, one of several medicinal mushrooms. While our summary is in development, you can visit About Herbs: Cordyceps

Before using this therapy, consult your oncology team about interactions with other treatments and therapies. Also make sure this therapy is safe for use with any other medical conditions you may have.


In his Moss Reports (purchase required), Ralph Moss, PhD. discusses sources of cordyceps: Select from the list of cancers down the left side of the page for a report describing uses of conventional, complementary, alternative and integrative therapies related to that cancer. Ralph Moss is among the most knowledgeable and balanced researchers of integrative cancer therapies. The cost of his Moss Reports is not negligible, but many patients find them of considerable value. Moss is also available for consultations.


The About Herbs summary for cordyceps reports that in an animal study, this mushroom was associated with growth of progenitor red blood cells. They caution cordyceps shouldn’t be used in myelogenous types of cancers, such as myelogenous leukemia. Cordyceps is, however, used with other types of leukemia. However, Lemole, Mehta, and Mckee, in their book After Cancer Care, actually include cordyceps in their leukemia protocol and cite two studies of human leukemia cells, demonstrating that this fungus can actually induce apoptosis in human promyelocytic leukemia cells1 as well as suppress proliferation of leukemia stem cells associated with both acute myeloid leukemia (AML) and chronic myeloid leukemia (CML).2 Because this evidence is from cell studies, BCCT regards it as preliminary but promising. Please see Dwight McKee’s note  in the Commentary section below. 

Cordyceps has additive effects with hypoglycemics/insulin as well as anticoagulant/antiplatelet drugs. Consult with your physician and pharmacist before taking cordyceps.


BCCT does not recommend therapies or doses, but only provides information for patients and providers to consider as part of a complete treatment plan. Patients should discuss therapies with their physicians, as contraindications, interactions and side effects must be evaluated.

Dosage recommendations are available from Natural Medicines Database (requires purchase)

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Paul Stamets advises using mushroom products that contain both the water and alcohol extractions, since each contain different medicinally important compounds.5

Integrative oncologist and BCCT advisor Keith Block, MD, advises using extracts (rather than eating whole mushrooms) that are blends of several different medicinal mushrooms, including maitake (Grifola frondosa), agaricus (Agaricus blazeii), shiitake (Lentinula or Lentinus edodes), reishi (Ganoderma lucidum), turkey tail (Trametes or Coriolus versicolor), and caterpillar fungus or cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis).6

Integrative Oncologist and BCCT advisor Dwight McKee, MD, replied to BCCT’s query about the Memorial Sloan Kettering (MSK) About Herbs caution to not use cordyceps in myelogenous types of cancer. Cordyceps is actually included in the leukemia protocol in Dr. McKee’s book After Cancer Care. He replied: “Regarding MSK's cautionary advice in myelogenous leukemias . . . I think they're really over-reaching here. If animal studies showed that cordyceps actually increases the myelogenous cells or their precursors (non-red cell precursors), it would give me pause. In chronic myelogenous leukemia, Gleevec and its second and third generation meds are so effective, no supplement is going to override that. In acute myelogenous leukemia, current therapy is so poor, and considering that there are preclinical studies demonstrating anticancer effects of cordyceps in myelogenous leukemia cells, it is reasonable to consider using this supplement.”

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