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Yarsagumba – Himalayas Golden Crop of Parasitic Cordyceps

Yarsagumba – Himalayas Golden Crop of Parasitic Cordyceps

“Half Plant Half insect”, Yarsagumba is also known as Yarchagumba or Yarshagumba is widely known for its medicinal purposes worldwide. Originating from the Himalayan area of Nepal China, this Fungus is highly regarded as a symbol of power and wealth in China and has dramatically boosted its economy. It is the most expensive Fungus ever and is even said to be more costly than Gold; its price continues to rise due to the increase in its demand over the years.

So, what is Yarsagumba? Yarsagumba is a scarce and distinctive herb that is found in Himalaya Nepal. It is a unique Fungus that occurs when there is a fusion between a caterpillar and a fungus. This is where Ophiocordyceps sinensis (which is a parasitic mushroom spore) infects then mummifies a caterpillar larva that lives in the soil. Later on, a fungus will sprout from the dead larva host head.

The Fungus is usually between two to six centimetres in length, though it lies underneath and only shoots above the soil like a little finger-like sprout for harvesters to find. Due to its benefits, the world most expensive Fungus has experienced a rise in demand and unfortunately, it has started disappearing. So, here is a study of why it is disappearing.

Why is the world most expensive Fungus disappearing?

Even though Yarsagumba is the world most expensive Fungus and its price over the years have increased exponentially, still, it is high demand. Recently, it has been added to the Red List of World Threatened Species. You may wonder why because its harvesting has been through centuries. 

The primary reason why the world most expensive Fungi is disappearing is due to over-harvesting. Even though it was harvested in the past, its demand has never reached the current levels.

Another reason why Yarsagumba is disappearing is because of adverse climatic changes. During the dry season of the harvest, the grassland becomes dry, and there is less food available for the moths to feed on. So, due to the scarcity of food, the moth larvae chances of survival are meagre; thus they will be fewer. This also means that the number of the moth larvae available fusion with the parasitic mushroom will be less. This can be another reason why it is disappearing. 

The Fungi collectors or people living in those areas might also be the cause of its disappearance. This is because they might be cutting trees for domestic use and trashing the surroundings, thus making the environment unsuitable for the process of fusion or larva development. In, order for these rare, valuable species to last the collectors should be able to come up with sustainable harvesting measures.

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The Caterpillar Fungus Life Cycles

Ophiocordyceps Sinensis is divided into two major stages, teleomorphic and anamorphic. The teleomorphic is the first stage, and the anamorphic stage results from it. For the Fungus to enter the sexual or teleomorphic stage, it must infect the host larva. The host insect is a boring subterranean insect that dwells underground on the root at an altitude that ranges between 3000-5000m from Northern side of Nepal. 

The stalk-like dark brown or black mushroom will grow out of the head of the already dead caterpillar. It will sprout from the soil by early spring. In the late summers, the fruiting body releases spores. The caterpillars that are found underground are the most vulnerable to the Fungus, especially after they shade their skin in that season.

When the autumn season is close to an end, the chemicals that are found on the caterpillar skin will interact with the Fungi spores. In the process, Fungal mycelia will be released, this then infects the caterpillar. After a larva has been infected, it will remain underground lying vertical to the soil but with their heads up. This invasion by the Fungi eventually kills the host. Slowly by slowly, the host larvae will become rigid; this is due to the production of fungal sclerotia.

The Sclerotia are multihyphal structures which have the ability to remain dormant, germinate, mature then start producing spores. When winter starts the fungus rupture the host insect body to form a fruiting body; this is a sporulating structure that is sexual. It connects the larva head to the sclerotia underground and sprouts to emerge over the ground for the cycle to be complete. The caterpillar Fungus will grow at shallow temperatures (below 21 °C). This is a relevant factor for this species, and that is what distinguishes it from the other Fungus with close similarity.

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Can Cordesysis Sinensis be cultivated grown?

Recently, there has been a breakthrough in attempts to cultivate Cordesysis Sinensis. This is after several attempts of cultivating it, the larva host has been reared successfully in large scales, and the Fungus can successfully be grown on artificial substrates.

The Price of Yarsagumba in Nepal

Yarsagumba is the most expensive bio-resource in the world, currently, famous for it uses its demand has risen, and this has made this valuable “half insect half plant” species to be valued even more expensive than Gold even though it is collected in other countries, its large scale collection in the Nepal region. The price of this valuable Fungus as increased dramatically due to the rise of its popularity. As of 2018 a kilogram of Yarsagumba costs Rs 25000 in Nepal. The collectors pay the government a royalty of Rs 20,000. This is a local price it is entirely different in international markets where a kilogram of this Caterpillar Fungus costs a whopping $130,000 per kg as of 2018. This is a very high increase because in the 1990s a kilogram was valued at Rs 1800 0nly which was traded at approximately $3000 in international markets.

Yarsagumba in Nepal

Nepal is a significant region that produces Yarsagumba in large scale. Yarsagumba in Nepal is harvested from 12 districts which are:Dopla, Bajang, Darchula, Jumla, Rukum, Mugu, Manang, Myagdi, Gorkha, Manang, Rasuwa, Sankhuwasabha and Sindhupalchowk. 50% of the yearly supply of Yarsagumba comes from Dopla. It is then exported to other countries that have high demand like Korea, Mynamar, Thailand, Taiwan, Singapore, and Japan among others. 

The Caterpillar fungus grows above 3500 meters in the Meadows of the Himalayan region of Nepal. Each year, in May and June, more than 50,000 people from different villages in Nepal go the higher elevations to collect this rare, valuable Fungus. Initially, the selling and harvesting of Yarsagumba were banned, the ban was lifted in 2001. Following its popularity, the ban was lifted, and a royalty was imposed on the collection of Yarsagumba. Each kilogram has a royalty rate of Rs 20,000(approx. $280), 

During the season of harvesting the people of Nepal risk their lives to collect Yarsagumba, approximately one villager can earn Rs 2,500, which is $35 per day from the collection of Yarsagumba. This earning is more than the household income of a Nepalese household. In the recent years the collection of Yarsagumba has significantly reduced; this is due to the environmental changes which has adversely affected its growth. This is worrying because the Nepalese people depend on it for their livelihood.

Uses of Yarsagumba

To understand why Yarsagumba is very important and why it is that expensive, you have to know its uses. Mostly Yarsagumba is used for medicinal purpose, and that is the reason for its popularity. Some of them are:

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Used as an Antioxidant

Research done on Yarsagumba was found to possess antioxidant properties.

It is used as an Aphrodisiac

Traditional Chinese medicine has in the past claimed that when the Fungus is boiled and added to soup or tea it can function as an aphrodisiac.

It can be used to improve liver function

According to research and studies were done on the caterpillar fungus, it has been found out that it can be used to improve the functioning of the liver. This is by reducing liver inflation and fighting against hepatic fibrosis.

It can be used as an Anti-inflammatory and also possess Analgesic Properties

It contains cordymin (is a peptide that is purified from the medicinal part of Cordyceps Sinensis) which showed potent analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.

It can be used for anti-tumor activities

The cell wall polysaccharide obtained from mycelia indicated that it contains cordyglucans which is said to have potent anti-tumor activities.

It can be used for Anti-diabetic activities

The extracts of Cordyceps Sinensis have the potential of preserving β-cell function and also provide Reno protection. This can be used to fight Type 2 Diabetes

It possesses Anti-depressant and Hypoglycemic effects

Yarsagumba has a hypoglycemic effect that is beneficial for people who have insulin resistance problems. According to research, it has also been found to possess anti-depressants effects.

Himalayan Caterpillar Fungus cordyceps gold viagara

Can you grow or Yarsagumba?

The Caterpillar Fungus is originally found exclusively in Nepal and other regions like the Tibetan Plateau. The Artificial cultivation of the Fungus. Sinensis has been accomplished recently after many years of trails and attempts; it can be grown on artificial substrates and its host the ghost moth has been reared successfully on a large scale through artificial cultivation.

Research relating to its cultivation breakthrough includes the study of its living habitats, life history of the fungus, the fungal culture and isolation, its host insect larva, fruiting and body development among other vital processes were reviewed. Practical production of the Fungus through artificial cultivation as of 2014, 2015 and 2016 has yielded 2.5,5 and 10 tons respectively.

The good thing with the cultivation is that it is controlled and heavy metal contamination can be avoided, and this has resulted in high-quality produce. Successful cultivation is a good sign because it will assist in alleviating the demand and also protect natural resources, thus promoting sustainable utilization.

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Can cordyceps jump to humans?

Though this is a topic that is still untapped, it is difficult to say whether the cordyceps can jump to human. While some research has shown that the human body is better when it comes to defending itself from attacking pathogens than those of insects though this hasn’t been scientifically proven.

There have been a lot of theories of how the Fungus could jump and spread into the human body but nothing has been backed by sufficient evidence or research yet, so until it is, that remains to be a theory. 

How do you eat Yarsagumba?

Being used mostly for medicinal purposes, the consumption of Yarsagumba is taken in prescribed doses which are recommended by a health practitioner.

The dosage that is recommended for a healthy person though is 1.3-0.7g (that is or two pieces according to the size of Yarsagumba) daily. It can be consumed in its original form like a whole mushroom or boiled in water, and then the water is drunk after twenty minutes. In its powder form, it can be mixed in milk. The dose recommended is to continuously take for 3 to 4 days then stop for three days and then start again.

How do you eat Caterpillar Fungus?

The consumption of Caterpillar Fungus started years ago among the Chinese people. Then it was either grounded in powder form ten mixed with other tonics for consumption. Today the most common method of consuming the Caterpillar Fungi is by stuffing it into a duck and then boiling then drink the hot liquid.

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Yarsagumba can be taken in various forms. It has various medicinal uses that one can benefit from its intake. So here are the ways of how one can consume it:Yarsagumba can be taken in various forms. It has various medicinal uses that one can benefit from its intake. So here are the ways of how one can consume it:

Yarsagumba can be taken in hot water extract

This can be prepared through simmering the Yarsagumba plant in different temperatures for hours to bring out all the water-soluble components from it. It can then be nixed with tea, shakes, juices and coffee.

Yarsagumba can be taken in powder form.

Yarsagumba can be machine dried and then crushed into powder form. The powder can be added to liquids like shakes or milk for consumption.

Yarsagumba can be taken as a tincture

Extraction of Yarsagumba as a tincture makes use of a double extraction process. This is where antioxidants that are soluble in alcohol, and the polysaccharides that are soluble in water are extracted for wholesome benefits.

It can be taken in capsule form

This is where capsules that have been made from Yarsagumba are taken.

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Yarsagumba tea

 Drinking Yarsagumba tea is one of the oldest methods of taking it. It is boiled in various liquid bases and temperatures for different problems and diseases. 

How does Yarsagumba reproduce?

Just like the other Fungi species, the reproduction of Yarsagumba occurs in both sexual and asexual ways. Just like most other Fungi, mitosis starts in the hyphae. This helps the development of the asci, the female and male ascocarps will then meet, their nuclei will fuse in a process called Karyogamy.

Meiosis which is also the sexual reproduction process occurs when there is the production of four haploid ascospores, which will, in turn, lead to the final stage of mitosis where the haploid will subdivide into eight segments that will eventually be released into the environment.

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Is Yarsagumba banned in India?

The trade of Yarsagumba, also known as Keeda Jedi is banned in India, though not fully as the collectors are only allowed to sale the Fungus to the van panchayats (Forest Council who are managed by village communities), who are the only people allowed by the government to buy Yarsagumba in India. It is illegal to sale to buyers or consumers of other countries directly.

Is Keeda Jedi Illegal?

Trading of Keeda Jedi is illegal in India, the Nepali or Indian agents will sell their products to consumers and buyers in China through smuggling them across the border. They will use very far mountain hideouts routes to smuggle their merchandise across the border so as to avoid being caught by the state policemen or by the officials of the revenue department of Uttarakhand.

In a bid to regulate the illegal trade the Uttarakhand government-appointed Van panchayats, whose primary role was to grant Keeda Jedi picking licenses to the local villagers who were within the range of panchayats. Even though issued with the license, it was still illegal to sale the Fungus to other sellers other than the van panchayats. This policy didn’t succeed, and still, the trade of kedi Jedi is through illegal smuggling.

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What is Himalayan Viagra?

Cordyceps is a caterpillar fungus which is found in Alphine Pastures region of the Himalayas. Due to its Aphrodisiac value, the caterpillar Fungus is commonly referred to as the “Himalayas Viagra”. It has a lot of names, and its scientific term is Ophiocordyceps Sinensis, having an aphrodisiac value is just one of the uses of this unique herb. It has a lot of benefits as discussed on the above topics.

What is Himalaya Gold?

Ophiocordyceps Sinensis is a very valuable Fungus that has been said to be more expensive than Gold of the same weight. Its demand has led to the rise in the price of this unique herb. Found in the Himalaya region, it has attracted a lot of local collectors of Nepal to get into the business of trading it. Due to its value, it has been termed as the “Himalaya Gold”. It has raised the living standards of the people of Nepal Given that a kilogram of this Gold has a market value of approximately $130,000.

What is Caterpillar Fungus used for?

The Cater pillar Fungus has for a long time been used for medicinal purposes by the Chinese people.

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The caterpillar Fungus can also be used as a stress reliever.The caterpillar Fungus can also be used as a stress reliever. The caterpillar Fungus is used as an Aphrodisiac. The caterpillar fungus is used as a tonic for strength and rejuvenation The Caterpillar Fungus has anti-ageing benefits It can be used to cure tuberculosis, coughing and anaemia

What is the English name of Yarsagumba?

Yarsagumba is commonly known in English as the Caterpillar Fungus. It also has a lot of names according to different people in different countries. Other prominent names include:

Keeda Jadi,- According to the Burmese Language e.t.c Yasha-gumba or Yarcha-gumba- According to the Chinese people yartsa gunbu- Is a Tibetan name meaning” Summer grass, Winter worm.” Ophiocordyceps sinensis- this is its scientific name

What is Keeda Jaadi?

Ophiocordyceps Sinensis in India is known as Keeda Jaadi. Commonly known as Cater-pillar Fungus, it is the fusion of a parasitic mushroom fungus and a caterpillar larva which occurs when the larva is infected and mummified by the Fungi.

Where is keeda Jaadi found?

Keedi jaadi is found above 3500m of the Tibetan Plateaus which is located in the Himalayan Village of Nepal, Bhutan and Southwest of China.

What is the price of Keeda Jaadi?

In India, Keeda Jaadi price ranges between Rs 50000 to Rs. 12lakhs. This is depending on the quality and size of the product. It is a very lucrative business though illegal because even at its lowest price, the income is high for the families for some months. Indian or Nepali agent in bulk usually sells the product to consumers and buyers in China.

What is Zombie Fungus called?

Zombie Fungus is also scientifically called Ophiocordyceps unilateralis, and it infects ants which belong to the tribe Camponotini, with full pathogens altering their behavioural patterns. The ants that have been infected will then abandon their nests and their foraging trails and proceed to the forest floors, which are an area that is conducive for the Fungi growth. The mandibles of the ant are used to attach to the significant underside vein of the leaf where the hosting ant will remain till its death.

Is Cordyceps a worm?

Cordyceps is not a worm but a fungus, though in Tibet it is commonly known as a worm. It is referred to as “winter worm, summer grass”; the reason for this name is because it changes its appearances from one to another during seasons.

Are Cordyceps worms?

Cordyceps are not worms; they are fungi. They are fungi that feed on the larvae of caterpillars. Even though in some areas they are called worms with the collectors, especially in Tibetan regions they are not.

Do Cordyceps increase testosterone?

Cordyceps has been said to have a lot of benefits in the human body when taken. It has been said to be used as an aphrodisiac and to increase testosterone, and this is one of the reasons why it is a very expensive product. According to research, cordyceps in Mouse can stimulate the MA-10 cells to produce progesterone and increase the level of testosterone significantly, thus increasing sperm formation. Therefore through this research, it is assumed to perform the same functions in human.

Does Cordyceps boost the immune system?

According to research, cordyceps has been found to possess protective effects on the immune system of a person. It works bi-directionally in balancing the immune system, this means if it’s under-functioning, it will boost it, and if it is functioning too high, it will slow down its activity through the white cells.

It possesses Grifola frondosa, which is the most active immune component in D-Fraction which when injected or taken orally has shown to enhance the activity of the immune cells greatly and also makes the immune system more effective.

What are the side effects of Cordyceps?

Cordyceps is safe for most of its users when orally taken incorrect dosages and in a short period. Some side effects have arisen in some people due to the use of Cordyceps, and this includes:

It can cause bleeding disorders

Cordyceps can be a risk to people with bleeding disorders because it might slow down blood clotting, thus increasing the risk of over bleeding.

It can increase symptoms of “Auto-Immune diseases”.

Autoimmune diseases include lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis, among others: the use of cordyceps might increase the activeness of the immune system, thus increasing the symptoms of autoimmune diseases. People with these conditions are encouraged to avoid cordyceps.

When used by hyperlipidemic patients, they might experience side effects like drowsiness: diarrhoea, nausea, dry mouth and skin rash.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophiocordyceps_sinensis
https://www.altitudehimalaya.com/yarsagumba-in-nepal/
https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/ophiocordyceps-sinensis
https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31517384/
https://mycoforest.com/blog/five-effective-ways-to-consume-cordyceps-mushrooms/
https://ruralindiaonline.org/articles/a-fungus-is-financing-families-in-pithoragarh/
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ophiocordyceps_unilateralis
https://www.naturesgreengrocer.com/five-ways-to-support-immunity
https://herbarium.usu.edu/fun-with-fungi/caterpillar-fungus
https://www.forhims.com/blog/cordyceps-benefits-side-effects

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