How to Grow Cordyceps Mushrooms at Home: A Step-by-Step Guide

May 7, 2024

Cordyceps mushrooms, specifically Cordyceps militaris, are a highly prized medicinal fungus used for centuries in traditional Chinese medicine. Known for their potential health benefits like boosting energy, reducing inflammation, and supporting the immune system, cordyceps have gained popularity as a supplement. Fortunately, it’s possible to grow this unique mushroom at home.

There are several potential benefits to growing cordyceps mushrooms at home:

1. Access to a potent medicinal mushroom

Cordyceps offers a range of health benefits, including anti-inflammatory, anti-aging, and anti-cancer properties. It may help boost energy levels, improve exercise performance, support heart health, and regulate blood sugar.

2. Cost savings

Wild cordyceps (Cordyceps sinensis) is extremely rare and expensive, costing thousands of dollars per pound. Growing cordyceps at home, especially the Cordyceps militaris species, is much more affordable and accessible.

3. Ensures quality and purity

When you grow your own cordyceps, you have control over the growing conditions and can ensure the mushrooms are high-quality and free from contaminants. Store-bought cordyceps supplements are not well regulated.

4. Nutritional benefits

Cordyceps contains beneficial compounds like cordycepin and is a good source of minerals such as potassium, calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc, and selenium.

5. Unique and rewarding hobby

Cultivating cordyceps can be an interesting and fulfilling hobby for mushroom enthusiasts. It allows you to witness the fascinating growth process of this unique fungus.

6. Potential for ongoing supply

By growing cordyceps at home, you can have a continuous supply of this medicinal mushroom for personal use or to share with others, rather than relying on expensive store-bought supplements.

Cordyceps cultivation

However, it’s important to note that while cordyceps shows promise in animal and lab studies, more human research is needed to fully understand its effects and safety. If you do decide to grow and consume cordyceps at home, be sure to follow proper cultivation techniques and consult with a healthcare professional, especially if you have any pre-existing health conditions.

How to Prepare Substrate for Growing Cordyceps Mushrooms at Home

The substrate provides the essential nutrients for the cordyceps mycelium to colonize and eventually produce fruiting bodies. A properly prepared substrate is critical for success in home cultivation of this medicinal mushroom. Follow these 5 steps to create an optimal medium.

Step 1: Choose Your Substrate Ingredients

how to grow cordyceps mushroom at home

Brown rice is the most commonly used base ingredient, but other grains like millet, rye, or barley can also work. Supplement the grain with a nutrient broth made from ingredients like:

  • Potato starch (8 g) or potato broth
  • Dextrose (15 g) or corn syrup
  • Nutritional yeast (5 g) or yeast extract
  • Gypsum (1 tsp) or azomite
  • Peptone (3 g) or soy peptone

Here are a couple proven substrate recipes:

Coconut Water Recipe (per 6 quart/5.7 liter batch):

  • 1000 mL coconut water
  • 15 g tapioca starch
  • 5 g nutritional yeast
  • 2 g gypsum
  • 1 g magnesium sulfate
  • 1 g kelp powder
  • 270 g brown rice

Distilled Water Recipe (per jar):

  • 80 mL distilled water
  • 1 Tbsp potato starch
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp gypsum
  • 45 g brown rice

Regular Recipe (per 6 quart/5.7 liter jars):

  • 8 g potato starch
  • 15 g dextrose
  • 5 g nutritional yeast
  • 1 tsp gypsum
  • 3 g soy peptone
  • 500 mL water (80 mL per jar)
  • 45 g brown rice in each jar

Egg-Based Recipe (per jar):

  • 1 egg
  • 1 Tbsp potato starch
  • 1 tsp nutritional yeast
  • 1/4 tsp gypsum
  • 1/4 tsp soy peptone
  • 80 mL water
  • 45 g brown rice

Step 2: Prepare the Grain

Rinse the brown rice thoroughly and soak it in water for 12-24 hours to soften the grains. Use a ratio of 1 part rice to 2 parts water.

After soaking, drain the rice. Add 1/4-1/2 cup (45-90 g) of rice to each pint (475 mL) or quart (950 mL) jar you plan to use for growing. The rice should fill the jars about 1/3 full.

Step 3: Prepare the Nutrient Broth

Combine your chosen nutrient ingredients in a pot with 4 cups (0.9 L) water per 6 jars. Bring to a boil, stirring well to dissolve.

Add 1/2 cup (120 mL) of the hot broth to each jar with rice. Stir gently to distribute. The moisture content should be enough that the grains are fully cooked and smash easily between your fingers.

Step 4: Sterilize the Substrate

Loosely cover the jars with lids that have an inoculation port and air exchange filter. Secure the lids with bands.

Place the covered jars in a pressure cooker to sterilize at 15 PSI for 60-90 minutes. This critical step kills any microorganisms that could contaminate your grow.

Allow the jars to cool completely to room temperature before inoculation. Do not unseal prematurely.

Step 5: Inoculate and Incubate

In a still-air or laminar flow environment, inoculate the cooled substrate jars with 10-12 mL of cordyceps liquid culture syringe per jar. Inject through the self-healing port, angling the needle to disperse the solution.

Incubate the inoculated jars in complete darkness at 60-70°F (15-21°C) for 10-14 days until the mycelium fully colonizes the substrate.

Maintain stable temperatures in this range and never exceed 70°F (21°C) to avoid stalling growth.

Some key tips:

  • Use high quality organic brown rice and filtered water for best results
  • Experiment with adding small amounts of other grains like millet, wheat bran, or oats for variety
  • Ensure the substrate mixture has enough moisture content but avoid pooling water
  • Always sterilize the substrate and use proper sterile technique during inoculation to avoid contamination

The grain and nutrient broth mixture provides the perfect balance of carbohydrates, protein, vitamins and minerals for optimal cordyceps growth.

Harvest and use your Cordyceps mushrooms

Cordyceps substrate

Cordyceps mushrooms can be harvested by twisting them off at the base. They can be used fresh in cooking for a mild mushroom flavor, or more commonly, dried in a dehydrator or air-dried and used to make medicinal teas and tinctures.

Tips for Success

  • Always practice sterile technique when inoculating to avoid contamination
  • Maintain stable temperatures between 60-70°F (15-21°C) during incubation and fruiting
  • Provide indirect light and humidity during fruiting
  • Dry cordyceps thoroughly and store in airtight containers to preserve potency

Growing cordyceps mushrooms at home requires some patience and attention to detail, but it can be a rewarding process. By following this guide and starting with a small batch, you’ll be able to cultivate this incredible medicinal mushroom and enjoy its benefits.

Types of cordyceps mushrooms

There are two main types of cordyceps mushrooms that can be grown at home:

Cordyceps militaris

  • Also known as Scarlet Club Fungus or Caterpillar Killer in the U.S.
  • Can be cultivated reliably and affordably, without the use of insects as hosts
  • Has a compound profile extremely similar to Cordyceps sinensis and has been used interchangeably in traditional Chinese medicine
  • Primarily cultivated species in North America, as it is less expensive than C. sinensis
  • Can be grown at home using substrate jars or bins with a nutrient-supplemented grain mixture

Cordyceps sinensis (Ophiocordyceps sinensis)

cordyceps sinensis

  • Commonly referred to as just “cordyceps” and is the most well-known species
  • Naturally found growing on caterpillars in high altitudes of Nepal, Tibet, India, Bhutan and China
  • Highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine but extremely rare and expensive
  • Fruiting body has evaded successful commercial cultivation so far
  • Claims of C. sinensis in supplements are likely not true due to high demand and limited supply

While there are over 400 species of cordyceps worldwide, C. militaris and C. sinensis are the main ones used in herbalism and supplements. However, C. militaris is much more practical for home cultivation, as it doesn’t require insect hosts and techniques have been developed to grow it in substrate jars or bins.

Risks and challenges to be aware of when growing cordyceps mushrooms at home:

1. Contamination risks

Mushroom substrates can easily become contaminated with unwanted bacteria, molds, or pests if proper sterile procedures are not followed.

Contamination is the leading cause of crop failure for mushroom growers. Signs include discoloration, foul odors, abnormal growth, visible mold, and insects.

2. Difficulty replicating natural growth conditions

Cordyceps naturally grow on insect hosts like caterpillars in very specific high-altitude regions of Asia.

Artificially replicating the ideal growth conditions, including temperature, humidity, light and host nutrients, can be challenging for home growers.

Achieving fruiting bodies as potent as wild Cordyceps sinensis is difficult. Most indoor growers produce the mycelium of Cordyceps militaris.

3. Spore and mold exposure risks

Mushrooms, including cordyceps, release spores that can cause allergic reactions or respiratory issues if inhaled in large quantities over time.

While not typically a major concern for small-scale home grows, heavy spore producers like oyster mushrooms could pose some risk with repeated exposure.

4. Complexity and learning curve

Cultivating cordyceps requires specific knowledge of mushroom growing techniques, substrate preparation, sterile procedures, and the mushroom’s growth cycle.

It can take practice, trial and error to master the process and achieve good yields, especially for beginners. Failed grows can be discouraging.

5. Lack of regulation and research on home grows

Most studies on cordyceps’ medicinal properties use standardized commercial extracts, not home-grown mushrooms which may vary in potency.

There is limited safety research on long-term consumption of home-grown cordyceps. Contaminants or improper growing/storage could pose risks.

Consulting a doctor before using home-grown cordyceps medicinally is advised, especially for those with pre-existing health conditions.

So in summary, while growing cordyceps at home is certainly possible with the right knowledge, equipment and precautions, it does require accepting some inherent risks and challenges. Careful research, planning and dedication to the process can help mitigate these issues for determined growers. But it may not be ideal for those highly sensitive to molds/spores or lacking the time to learn proper sterile cultivation techniques.

Floris - Author of Mushroology.com

Floris - Author of Mushroology.com

Passionate mushroom hunter and grower. I am fortunate to have learned from some of the best mushroom experts in the field! When I’m not writing mushroom articles, I can usually be found hiking and identifying native mushrooms in different parts of the world.

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Floris - Author of Mushroology.com

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Passionate mushroom hunter and grower. I am fortunate to have learned from some of the best mushroom experts in the field! When I’m not writing mushroom articles, I can usually be found hiking and identifying native mushrooms in different parts of the world.