Picture this: A mushroom (well, really a fungus), grown on the backs of caterpillars, that not only improves mental energy but increases sexual vigor and athletic performance.
It may sound miraculous, yet practitioners of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) have long understood the benefits of cordyceps, also known as “vegetable caterpillar.” Taken topically or orally, the unique herb has been shown to increase oxygen intake, energy levels, and blood flow. It is a powerful antioxidant and immune system modulator. Traditionally found in the wilds of Tibet and Bhutan, cordyceps are now cultivated in other ares of the world for consistency and affordability.
A ‘shroom that comes in many forms, here are our top picks:
Intensive Skin Serum Foundation SPF 40, Bobbi Brown Cosmetics
“I learned about the energy and skin-enhancing qualities of the cordyceps mushroom with the help of a TCM practitioner in Shanghai,” says founder of the eponymous skincare line Bobbi Brown. Brown incorporates the ingredient into the lightweight Intensive Skin Serum Foundation, which, over time, energizes the skin and helps it look smoother, lifted, more even-toned, and radiant. bobbibrowncosmetics.com, 1 fl oz $62,
Mega-Mushroom Skin Relief Fask Mask, Dr. Andrew Weil for Origins
Harvard-trained pioneer of integrative medicine Dr. Andrew Weil recommends cordyceps for a natural energy boost. As an ingredient in his Mega-Mushroom skincare, it enhances the ability of mitochondria in the cells to produce the energy source called ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) which helps the skin function more effectively, particularly to assist the body’s protective barrier defend against environmental stressors. origins.com, 3.4 fl oz $38
Cordyceps Drink Mix, Four Sigma Foods
The Finish founder of Four Sigma Foods, Tero Isokauppila, says cordyceps can increase cellular ATP levels by up to 50%. The mushroom is also an adaptogen, making this instant Cordyceps (using cultivated Cs-4 strain) a welcome mid-afternoon addition to hot water or a smoothie. The taste? Pleasant, thanks to stevia and licorice root. foursigmafoods.com, 20 Packets $35
Munchable Cordyceps, Dragon Herbs
More chewy than crunchy, these edible strands are cultivated in a clean environment on organic brown rice with cultures from a high quality source. While it is less expensive than the wild source from Tibet or Bhutan, it contains an even richer concentration of the active ingredient cordycepin. Try adding a few strands to soup or tea to enhance overall energy and well-being. dragonherbs.com, $29
Z Peel at exhale, Santa Monica
Probably the loveliest peel in LA, this treatment uses a Japanese mushroom enzyme mask made by ActiFirm to dissolve dead skin cells while stimulating blood flow and natural detoxification. Therapist Nadia Lambert was super gentle with my extractions before applying a toning mask followed by a light moisturizer. Sixty minutes later, my clearer skin emitted a lovely glow. I’ve already booked my next appointment. -M.C., exhalespa.com, $200
Marina Chetner is a Los Angeles-based Australian freelance writer.