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May 26, 2024 4 min read

Mushrooms have been used for thousands of years around the world for everything from cooking to medicine. There are approximately 14,000 species of mushrooms on the planet and they grow in the harshest of climates. Many contain adaptogens that target specific stressors in the body and as a result may help our bodies actually deal better with stress.

There is one specific mushroom that does this very well.

Cordyceps sinensis is a parasitic fungus that can survive at high altitudes and is known to induce pro-inflammatory response in vivo (i.e., within a living organism) and enhanced phagocytosis (i.e., ingestion of bacteria or other material).  

Cordyceps has been widely consumed by athletes and sport enthusiasts, but it is not clear whether pre-exercise Cordyceps supplementation influences recovery from muscle damage produced by high intensity exercise.

Muscle regeneration after injury requires inflammation(1). This wound healing program requires bone marrow stem cells to develop hematopoietic immune cells and descendants of stem cells called 'specialized progenitors'.

Both types of cells work in concert to clear unhealthy cells and repopulate the damaged/aging tissues into a relatively younger cell population, resulting in enhanced fitness of challenged tissues. CD34+ cells are a well-illustrated population of bone marrow-derived stem cells that have traditionally been used for cell regeneration in clinical practice(2).

In response to exercise, circulating CD34+ cells transiently increase and then quickly decrease.  A significant increase in CD34+ cells in human skeletal muscle is observed 24 hours after resistance exercise, suggesting bone marrow stem cell guiding/directing and expansion in challenged tissues. In mice, CD34+ bone marrow stem cell transplantation increased Pax7+ satellite cells in skeletal muscle, demonstrating the hematopoietic contribution to myogenesis, which is the development of muscle(3).  

Pax7+ satellite cells are myogenic stem cells that are located between the sarcolemma and basal lamina of skeletal muscle myofibers. There is no research that has directly validated the contribution of CD34+ cells to Pax7+ cells in injured human skeletal muscle.  

A recent study investigated dynamical changes of CD34+/Pax7+ cells in human skeletal muscle during a 24 hour recovery period following high-intensity interval exercise. Furthermore, the effect of Cordyceps supplementation on this exercise response was also assessed(4).


Study Design

This was a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study that recruited sedentary young men who were 23-30 years old with a body mass index ranging from 18-25 kg/m2.  

Participants performed high-intensity interval exercise in the morning and were given Cordyceps supplementation at 500mg/2x/day 11 hours pre-exercise and 1-hour pre-exercise (Dosage also included a total of 3.5 mg of adenosine and 40 mg of polysaccharide).

Key findings:

  • - CD34+ cells are highly concentrated in the damaged skeletal muscle and contribute to Pax7+ satellite cell concentrations.
  • - Cordyceps taken before exercise accelerated CD34+ cell build-up in damaged muscle tissue (increasing CD34+ and Pax7+ cells 4-fold at 3 hours post-exercise compared to placebo).
  • - Cordyceps supplementation accelerated the resolution of inflammation post-exercise compared to placebo.

Figure: Effect of pre-exercise Cordyceps supplementation on muscle necrosis after high-intensity interval exercise (HIIE). Representative HE stains images of necrotic cell infiltration in human vastus lateralis(4).

Past research demonstrated that Cordyceps increased the activity of the initial inflammation phase (i.e., phagocytosis of human monocytes) – which would precede regeneration on injured skeletal muscle(5).
A shortcoming of this research is that the results on young participants present a limitation for knowledge generalization to older population.

Higher age is generally associated with greater levels of body weight (high cell population) and basal inflammation. Elevated basal inflammation typically witnessed in overweight individuals can increase background demand for CD34+ cells to renew peripheral tissues of individuals with higher cell population.

Consequently, it is hard to predict whether pre-exercise Cordyceps supplementation can also accelerate resolution of muscle inflammation for elderly, particularly those with heavier weight.


The results of the study demonstrate the contributions of CD34+ bone marrow stem cells to satellite cells in damaged skeletal muscle after high intensity exercise. This research demonstrated a substantially shortened period of muscle inflammation after exercise concurrent with accelerated increases in CD34+/Pax7+ cells in muscle tissues after Cordyceps supplementation.

These findings indicate that the pro-inflammatory fungal-based supplement may potentiate immune response to protect muscle against damage induced by exercise.  For the first time in humans, research indicates supplementation with the popular mushroom, Cordyceps sinensis (500 mg/2x/day) accelerated stem cell recruitment in skeletal muscle after high intensity exercise.

If you'd like to take advantage of the power of Cordyceps mushrooms, then look no further than Immune-AF.

Immune-AF is our immune support formula that contains a comprehensive and potent blend of clinically dosed mushroom extracts including Cordyceps, Reishi, Turkey Tail and more, plus black elderberry, zinc, and andrographis. It's formulated to help optimize your mental and physical wellness in daily life and help build an immune system that can withstand the rigors of your daily routine.


  1. Tidball JG. Regulation of muscle growth and regeneration by the immune system. Nat Rev Immunol. 2017 Mar;17(3):165-178. Epub 2017 Feb 6.
  2. Schächinger V, Assmus B, Britten MB, Honold J, Lehmann R, Teupe C, Abolmaali ND, Vogl TJ, Hofmann WK, Martin H, Dimmeler S, Zeiher AM. Transplantation of progenitor cells and regeneration enhancement in acute myocardial infarction: final one-year results of the TOPCARE-AMI Trial. J Am Coll Cardiol. 2004 Oct 19;44(8):1690-9.
  3. Dreyfus PA, Chretien F, Chazaud B, Kirova Y, Caramelle P, Garcia L, Butler-Browne G, Gherardi RK. Adult bone marrow-derived stem cells in muscle connective tissue and satellite cell niches. Am J Pathol. 2004 Mar;164(3):773-9.
  4. Dewi L, Liao YC, Jean WH, Huang KC, Huang CY, Chen LK, Nicholls A, Lai LF, Kuo CH. Cordyceps sinensis accelerates stem cell recruitment to human skeletal muscle after exercise. Food Funct. 2024 Apr 22;15(8):4010-4020.
  5. Kuo CF, Chen CC, Lin CF, Jan MS, Huang RY, Luo YH, Chuang WJ, Sheu CC, Lin YS. Abrogation of streptococcal pyrogenic exotoxin B-mediated suppression of phagocytosis in U937 cells by Cordyceps sinensis mycelium via production of cytokines. Food Chem Toxicol. 2007 Feb;45(2):278-85. 



Dr. Paul Henning

About Dr. Paul

I'm currently an Army officer on active duty with over 15 years of experience and also run my own health and wellness business. The majority of my career in the military has focused on enhancing Warfighter health and performance. I am passionate about helping people enhance all aspects of their lives through health and wellness. Learn more about me