Technology

‘Himalayan Viagra’ is threatened by fervent Chinese demand and climate change

At the beginning of the Himalayan summer, when the snails begin to thaw, all schools are closed for the season and Nepalese parents and children are fed with enough food for a month-long trip looking for herbs to sleep. Go to the ground. .

To find yarsagumba, Families crawl through muddy fields hoping to spot a yellowish-green mummified caterpillar, an unevenly similar, dark-colored fungus outside the larva’s head. .

In Chinese, a creature with two mouths is called Dong Chong Xia Cao, Which translates as “winter worm, summer grass”. During the winter season, yarsagumba The worm resembles, but by summer, invaded by fungi, it looks like a plant.



Adult yarsagumba Similar to the project two to three centimeters above the ground in the Alpine plains of the Himalayas, nothing resembles a matchstick and thin.

(A) stroma and sclerotium section; (B, C) indicates mycelial cortices and attached soil particles as arrows outside the sclerotium.
Zhang et al, 2010, Author provided

Himalayan Viagra

For the locals, the hunt is worth it. Just one kilogram yarsagumba can do Get up to US $ 100,000. In rural Nepal, where Jobs are limitedMost people living in high altitude families as well as those living in neighboring areas gather and live this herb, making it the farthest. Valuable item all around.

Boo why is it so attractive? Name is a sign: yarsagumba Also known as “Himalayan Viagra” due to aphrodisiac medley of caterpillars and fungi.

It is believed that cattlemen first discovered the medicinal benefits of caterpillar-fungi over a thousand years ago, when their yaks became active by feeding herds.

Starting in the 1960s, people are making tea and soup from this mythical little plant, and filling the belly of a duck yarsagumba Herbs before roasting.

This magic fungus became widely popular in the 1990s, when A. Chinese runner The one who ate broke Two world records. Since then, research on caterpillar-fungi has intensified.

A market selling ‘Ayan Himalayan Viagra’ in Bhutan, and a close one to this complex Chimra.

Main Chemical components Among the 28 saturated and unsaturated fatty acids of natural cordyceps are palmitic acid, linoleic acid, oleic acid, stearic acid and ergo sterols. It also contains vitamins and inorganic ingredients.

Now chinese medicine Claims that That yarsagumba Can cure impotence, increase libido, and resolve joint pain, as well as treat cancer and obesity.

Some of these claims have been confirmed. according to a 2016 paper In the journal Pharmacognosy Review, the authors found evidence “e.g. O. Sinensis Can increase libido and sexual performance, and restore impaired reproductive functions, such as impotence or infertility, in both sexes. “

Fungus through visible glass

As Lewis Carroll writes in his book Through the glass, “It’s all going on, you can, to stay in one place”. Seems the perfect metaphor for this yarsagumba, A living relationship in which a host and a parasite are constantly involved in an arms race.

Biologically speaking, this complex chimera consists of ghost moth larvae (A) Thitarodes Species in the caterpillar stage) are infected by the parasitic entomogenous assomiset, Ophiocordyceps sinensis.

Ghost moths are relatively small large moths known for their diminished adult mouth parts and distinctive sub-aural larvae, which are root-eaters of the meadow, meaning that they can grow on any plant Can eat food on the part.

Caterpillars spend many years of their lives dormant in winter, and emerge as adults after feeding in the early summer. Then, alas, they die; Average adult age of Thitarodes Two to five days.

Thitarodes Host only O. Sinensis Parasites, and young caterpillars infected by fungi are destroyed before pupation, a wildly growing mycelium consuming the body of the larva.

After two to four weeks, a thin, sprouted body emerges from the back of the larva’s head. It is a terrible death to be sure.

Scientists do not fully understand this spectacular co-development process. Because the fungus is highly host-specific and it is very difficult to repel mites in laboratories, investigations of its infection pathway are still ongoing.

(A) Male adult insect; (B) Female adult insect; (C) Late-instar larvae; (D) Pupa.
Cannon et al., 2009

Man: The Final Threat

In this biotrophic system, in which the parasite must kill its host to survive, humans can be considered to have a third trophic level: we parasitize this parasitic complex.

Of medicinal importance of yarsagumba China’s mass consumer market is climbing for the product, raising its price and triggering gold boom in the Himalayan belt of Nepal.

But collecting these fungi before they mature prevents the spread, and availability, of their spores. yarsagumba Decreasing yearly From the peak of 2009 to 2011, Business fell Half per year. Due to the lack of proper regulation, over-harvesting is increasingly common.

Fungi are also vulnerable to climate change. As the global temperature rises and Snowfall decreases in the Himalayas, Their natural habitats have limited reproductive periods.

There is also a darker side to the fungal craze. Every year, families run the hills for their annual yarsagumba Search, some fungus hunters – both adults and school children – Lose their lives For turf wars and early, sorry mountains.

In June 2009, seven Nepali men who climbed mountains to climb yarsagumba He was attacked with sticks and knives and his body was thrown into deep ravines.

Local Buddhists, especially the older generation, believe that to choose yarsagumba is a sin, In keeping with the Buddha’s teaching that it is inherently a natural treasure, is indeed a curse. Chinese consumers do not feel like it.



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