Tuesday, 2 April 2013

Yarchagumba almost as good as Gold

"Every summer, Himalayan villages empty as locals rush to the mountains of northern Nepal to harvest yarchagumba, a high-altitude wild fungus that is prized for its aphrodisiac qualities.

In recent years, however, the yield has been severely depleted by over-picking and the probable effects of climate change prompting fears about the future of the "Himalayan Viagra" harvest.
This season's crop has been particularly poor, say the villagers who rely on the rare, parasitic fungus to earn money to feed their families.

Ophiocordyceps sinensis
"There are over 680 documented species of the sac fungus genus Ophiocordyceps, and one of the best known of these is Ophiocordyceps sinensis, colloquially known as caterpillar fungus. The fungus is known in Tibetan as yartsa gunbu or yatsa gunbu.

Caterpillar fungi are the result of a parasitic relationship between the fungus and the larva of the ghost moth genus Thitarodes, several species of which live on the Tibetan Plateau. The fungus germinates in living organisms (in some cases larvae), kills and mummifies the insect, and then the fungus grows from the body of the insect."

Year Price/kg (Yuan)
1980s 1,800
1997 8,400
2004 36,000
2005 40,00-60,000

Neighbouring China has a huge appetite for the fungus, pushing prices above $12,500 per pound (450 grams)
There has been a dramatic rises in Yarchagumba prices in both the national and international markets. In 2001, Dolpa harvesters sold the fungus for Rs 20-25 per piece but they received Rs 200-600 per piece in 2011, an increase of 900 to 2,300 per cent, according to the report. The annual production of Yarchagumba in the Himalayas and the Tibetan plateau is thought to be around 85-185 tonnes with a current total estimated global market value of $5-11 billion.

Yarchagumba is under severe threat in its natural habitat due to excessive and premature harvesting to meet growing demand and price surges both in the local and global trade regimes, warns the study.
On the good news front ... "Jesus Gabriel was born with a benign tumour that grew to cover the right side of his body from his armpit to his hip, the Associated Press reports.

At the time of surgery on June 14, the tumour weighed more than Jesus, who weighed just 12kg.
"Dr Hernandez said that the operation was the first time Mexican doctors have removed a tumour bigger than the person carrying it."