The Terrifying Existence of Cordyceps

The Terrifying Existence of Cordyceps


Cordyceps. A genus of parasitic fungi which is known all around due to the attention it has grabbed in the hit TV series and video game ‘The Last of Us’, showing audiences and gamers firsthand how dangerous this microscopic
creature is. What most people don’t know about Cordyceps is its potential health benefits and unique life cycle. They are known for their special technique of infection by killing their insect hosts and burrowing into their brains. Let’s
have a look at these fungi in more detail.

The Unique Life Cycle

The life cycle of Cordyceps is a unique one, however, extremely gruesome. These fungi begin their life as spores, which land on a host insect, usually caterpillars or ants. As the spores infiltrate the host’s body, they grow and spread, eventually taking over the insect’s central nervous system. The fungus then controls the insect to move to a location optimal for fungal growth before killing the host entirely
and sprouting from its body, releasing new spores, continuing the cycle.

Above shows an image of a ‘zombie ant’, one under the influence of the Cordyceps fungus. During this period of infection, the fungi needs food to grow and thrive, and it gets this food by devouring its host from within, slowly replacing it’s flesh with it’s own, and eventually, using the dead ant as a shell, almost like a puppet master.

Cordyceps doesn’t necessarily seek to kill its host, rather, it seeks to control its host, making this fungi even more terrifying.

Past Uses in Medicine

Cordyceps has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries, being prized for its supposed ability to enhance energy, stamina, and overall vitality. They were often prescribed for conditions such as fatigue, kidney
issues, and low libido.

Modern health benefits

In recent years, scientists have been exploring the potential health benefits of Cordyceps, revealing several promising properties of this fungi.

  1. Boosting Energy and Stamina
    Cordyceps are known to increase the production of
    adenosine triphosphate (ATP), essential for delivering
    energy to muscles. The exact pathway for this mechanism
    is still being studied, however, with this effect of Cordyceps
    on the body, exercise performance can be increased while
    simultaneously reducing fatigue.
  2. Enhancing Immune Function:
    Studies have shown that Cordyceps can be responsible for
    boosting the immune system by increasing the activity and
    concentration of T-Killer cells, which are responsible for
    defending the body against infections and tumours.
  3. Anti-inflammatory properties
    Cordyceps contain compounds that have potent anti-
    inflammatory effects, making them useful in managing
    inflammatory conditions such as arthritis.
  4. Antioxidant Effects
    The fungi are rich in antioxidants, which help neutralise
    harmful free radicals (molecules with unparied electrons)
    and protect cells from damage. This allows people to have
    greater overall health and longevity.
  5. Potential Anti-Cancer Activity
    Preliminary research indicated that Cordyceps may inhibit
    the growth of cancer cells and even induce apoptosis
    (programmed cell death) in certain types of cancer. This is
    a huge stride in the research of cancer

Forms and Usage

The Cordyceps fungi can be found in various forms, such as powders, capsules, and extracts, with them often being added to supplements, beverages, and foods.


With some of us having been introduced to the concept of Cordyceps in TV and video games, we sometimes overlook the usefulness of it in the real world context as our thoughts may become overshadowed by its potential to
destroy the world. Although a terrifying and gruesome organism, Cordyceps not only has the ability to prolong our seemingly short lives, but also the potential to save the world as we know it.