Cordyceps Benefits For Skin

Many medicinal mushrooms these days are being included in supplements and wellness and beauty products because of their numerous positive effects on human health. Cordyceps is mostly known as a health enhancer, but some of its features are promising for cosmetically treating the skin as well and maintain it healthy, youthful and beautiful. Here’s what you should know about this rare and expensive fungus.

Cordyceps benefits for skin

What is Cordyceps?

Cordyceps is a fungus that grows on the larva of insects, particularly moths and arthropods. It is sometimes called the caterpillar fungus. There are many different Cordyceps-related species out there (between 350 and 400), but Chinese pharmacopoeia officially recognizes only Cordyceps sinensis as an herbal drug.

Though Cordyceps used to be harvested from natural sources, its ecosystem has been overexploited in the last several decades and the yield of natural C. sinensis is still decreasing. Because of this, cultured Cordyceps was developed and it is a common substitute for the natural Cordyceps fungi.

Today, you can find Cordyceps in a variety of forms, from supplements and tinctures to teas and instant powder. Beauty and skincare products based on this fungus are not that common, however, there are several lines that rely on its benefits for skin.

How Has Cordyceps Been Used Historically?

Cordyceps has been used in Chinese culture and folk medicine for more than 300 years. It has been hand-collected and dried before being used to revitalize the body and as a natural remedy for many conditions and diseases.

Cordyceps has primarily been used to improve energy levers, fight fatigue, reduce stress and enhance athletic performance. Most of these effects come from the Cordyceps’ ability to improve the way your body uses oxygen.

Cordyceps has potential anti-tumor effects and some cancer patients are being advised to consume this medicinal fungus as a side treatment, to aid in the recovery process. Cordyceps can also help you control your LDL cholesterol and blood sugar levels, protect the immune system, treat kidney failure and lung disorders and improve libido and sexual activity.

For skin, Cordyceps is mostly appreciated for its antioxidant, anti-aging and anti-inflammatory effects, as well as for its ability to encourage the skin cells to repair themselves.

What Are The Compounds Of Cordyceps That Make It So Beneficial For The Skin?

Out of many bioactive compounds that Cordyceps contains, these are the most important ones:

  • Cordycepin (or 3-deoxyadenosine) can mostly be found in cultured militaris. It is said to have powerful antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. It could potentially be used as an anti-aging agent, to prevent and treat signs of skin photo aging.


  • Polysaccharides are important for skin repair, as they enhance the skin’s natural renewal process. They are especially important in the treatment of dry and aging skin. Polysaccharides repair and reinforce the skin’s protective barrier and enhance the skin’s ability to retain moisture and stay hydrated for longer. A healthy skin’s barrier also means that the skin will be better protected against the negative environmental influences.


  • Ergosterol, as well as several other sterols, has been isolated from Cordyceps fungi. It enhances bone development in humans and may be a reason for several other therapeutic benefits of this fungus as well.


  • Out of 10 free fatty acids that can be found in natural Cordyceps sinensis, four are present in high amounts in both natural and cultured Cordyceps. These are: palmitic acid, linoleic acid, oleic acid and stearic acid. Fatty acids are important for a healthy, youthful skin because they can help soften dry patches, soothe skin irritations and decrease trans-epidermal water loss. They also help improve the function of the skin’s lipid barrier and have antimicrobial effect, so they help protect the skin against the elements and bacteria.


  • D-mannitol (also called cordycepic acid) is an important compound in both wild and cultured Cordyceps. Mannitol is a sugar alcohol that can help moisturize and condition the skin. In skincare, it is primarily used as a humectant and it especially works well when combined with other humectants, such as hyaluronic acid.


  • Other constituents found in Cordyceps include proteins, peptides and essential amino acids. They are all actually connected, as amino acids are the building blocks of peptides and proteins. Different types of amino acids have different roles in skincare. Some help in hydrating the skin, while others have antioxidant properties. All in all, they are crucial for maintaining the skin firm, supple and optimally hydrated and they give the skin that youthful, healthy glow.

What Are The Cordyceps Benefits For Skin?

These are the 4 main reasons why Cordyceps is starting to be included in topical skin treatments:

  • Due to its significant antioxidant activity, Cordyceps can help fight the formation of premature aging signs and reduce free radical and UVB damage.
  • Both ingested and topically applied, Cordyceps has an anti-inflammatory effect that can help soothe many skin conditions and enhance its healthy function.

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