With the launch of our higher quality mushroom line comes some questions. One such question is what is the difference between Cordyceps militaries and the traditional Cordyceps sinensis, which we used to sell and is commonly sold in stores and marketed online.
These are two distinct species, with one being studied a bit more then the other for health benefits at this time. That being said, there is very little out there to confirm or deny that they both do the same thing endurance wise.
Cordyceps sinensis description is as follows:
Parasitizes larvae of ghost moths, sinensis consists of two parts,
a fungal endosclerotium (caterpillar) and stroma. The stroma is the upper fungal part and is dark brown or black, but can be a yellow color when fresh and, longer than the caterpillar itself, usually 4–10 cm. It grows singly from the larval head, and is clavate, sublanceolate or fusiform and distinct from the stipe. The stipe is slender, glabrous, and longitudinally furrowed or ridged 
Cordyceps militaries is described as:
Parasitic on buried larvae and pupae of insects (primarily moths and butterflies); growing alone or gregariously.2-8 cm long; up to about .5 cm wide; club-shaped, with the top wider than the base; the upper portion orange and pimply, the lower portion smooth and orange to pale orange, often curved; narrowing at the base and arising from the buried pupa or larva; flesh pale watery orange, with an outer cortex. 
This video shows militaries grown on a specially prepared rice substrate:
Both fungi look different which means they are made up of different components. Not surprisingly though, the same benefits that are oft touted in Traditional Chinese Medicine for sinensis and that research has been showing to be largely factual, is found in both mushroom species.
Both have the same bio-active compounds as each other and C. militaries has been shown to posses even higher amounts of some then that of C. sinensis.
A study titled, Chemical Composition and Nutritional and Medicinal Value of Fruit Bodies and Submerged Cultured Mycelia of Culinary-Medicinal Higher Basidiomycetes Mushrooms, was published in June 2014.
It found that militaries and sinensis of all mushrooms tested in the study possessed the highest amino acids (some of the others that were tested were Lion’s Mane, Turkey Tail, Reishi, Shaggy Ink Cap, Shiitake, and Oyster).
Bioactive components, were lovastatin, GABA, and ergothioneine, which are commonly found in most mushrooms. C. militaris (FB), Pleurotus ostreatus (FB), and Coprinus comatus (FB) were most abundant and contained a high amount of GABA and ergothioneine…In contrast to C. militaris (FB), cordycepin was not detected in O. sinensis (MB). The fruit body biomass of C. militaris cordycepin content reached 1.743 mg/g dry weight.
I should note that FB stands for fruiting bodies and MB stands for mycelium bodies.
This is really important because cordycepin, a main active ingredient in all cordyceps species was NOT found in the MB version of sinensis.
Does Cordyceps sinensis have more cordycepin in nature then that of militaris?
No one knows yet but I believe it will prove to be true. However, as over-harvesting of Tibetan cordyceps has made it an endangered commodity, militaris is a much more sustainable variety for getting this compound in the diet.
More research on militaris will be coming out in the future because of this. Already it has been used to create synthetic cordycepin that is being studied by the pharmaceutical industry in phase 1 trails for leukemia among other things (you can read more about cordycepin here).
Probably the biggest thing athletes might want to know about is the endurance factor. Militaris has been shown to have a anti-fatigue effect just like its cousin in Tibet. Animal studies, though not the best, have shown that both increase ATP, antioxidant activity and enhance lactate removal from muscles. 
The difference between the two at this point is minor. Since we all cannot be eating wild Tibetan cordyceps, perhaps it doesn’t matter what species you are consuming. As long as it is of a quality source that is sustainable and processed well, just eat more mushrooms regularly.
- Ophiocordyceps sinensis
- Cordyceps militaris
- Nachshol C., Jacob C., Mikheil D. A., Vinay K. V., Hui-Tzu Y., Yi-Chi Y., Yu-Hsuan L., Jeng-Leun M., Solomon P. W. (2014). Chemical Composition and Nutritional and Medicinal Value of Fruit Bodies and Submerged Cultured Mycelia of Culinary-Medicinal Higher Basidiomycetes Mushrooms.
- Jingjing S., Yingwu W., Meiyu T., Guangsheng C., Hongkai X., Hanxiao G., Yang L., Di W., and Lesheng T. (2015). Studies on the Antifatigue Activities of Cordyceps militaris Fruit Body Extract in Mouse Model.
- http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ecam/2015/174616/Ashok K. P. and Kailash C. S. (2011). Traditional Uses and Medicinal Potential of Cordyceps sinensis in Sikkim.