Yarsagumba : Herb of Life

      It was while desceding on one of the ridges of Saath Kula during my trek to Dharansi pass in outer Nandadevi sanctuary I heard about this bug root by a localite who was searching for it. It was called Keeda jadi. Again during my sajourns in Adi kailash trek I was fortunate to see this with a tibetan llama at Gunji. Curiosity persuaded me to know more about this. It was Cordyceps and is sometimes known as the Chinese fungus called Cordyceps Sinesis ; or Caterpillar Fungus. It can also be considered to be the Yarchagumba Herb which grows in Himalayas at an alttude of 14,000ft, in the sub alpine pasture areas of that country. It is called Yarchagumba after the parasitic fungus that is valued for its tonic and aphrodisiacal properties in medicine. Some medical practitioners consider the Cordyceps sinesis very good for lessening phlegm, halting hemorrhage (otherwise called profuse bleeding), boosting your vitality and energy levels; and enhancing the resistance of your kidneys and lungs to disorders. 

     Other medical uses of Cordyceps sinesis is to relieve tinnitus, dizziness, sore knees and loins, emission, impotence, asthma and general shortness of breath. In some places in Bhutan and the Tibetan Highlands, it is possible to find a wild variety of the Cordyceps sinesis as well. Female Chinese athletes brought on the media spotlight on Cordyceps sinesis because these athletes broke so many world records in athletics while they were consuming this substance. According to the New York Journal of Medicine, Cordyceps sinesis is believed to be just as potent as Ginseng in treating people who were extremely exhausted or suffered from a protracted illness.

     Since the Cordyceps sinesis is a fungus, it can be gathered from the bodies of dead caterpillars that belong to the Hepilus fabricius moth species. It is believed the fungus starts growing on live caterpillars but then grows so fast and so expansively in the body of the caterpillar that the caterpillar eventually dies.

     Folk medicine practitioners process the Cordyceps sinesis by making it into a powder, and/or combining it with other tonics. But the most widely accepted use of Cordyceps sinesis is to take the infected moth pupae, stuff it into a raw duck, then boil all of the duck with the Cordyceps sinesis in it to make a broth. It is the broth which patients are instructed to drink to counter their ailments.

     Along the Roopkund trek one can notice local village frolicking on the steep slopes at Kalyu vinayak around 14,500ft altitude in month of May - June.It is locally known as keeda Jadi .Some medical practitioners call the Cordyceps sinesis to be a natural form of the anti-impotence remedy Viagra. It could also be called an Herbal Viagra. At present, villages or rural communities earn a living by venturing into the mountains so they can collect or harvest this fungus from such locations. The reason the trade in Cordyceps sinesis is so lucrative is that, with pay for gathering Cordyceps sinesis in a day estimated at around $35 per villager, villagers stand to earn much more this way than from the usual livelihood options. Dolpa region , Nepal is the main area where Cordyceps sinesis supplies are gathered from - it is believed that nearly 50% of the fungus supplies are derived from the Dolpa area alone.

     One reason Cordyceps sinesis came to the attention of folk medicine practitioners is that Tibetan Yaks (the animals bred by Tibetan herdsmen) ate the fungus, and showed heightened energy and tendencies to have sex than the other Yaks. So if a Yak can benefit, the folk medicine practitioners must have reasoned, maybe people could too. And that is why demand for Cordyceps sinesis must be growing - because people want the benefits attributed to the consumption of the fungus. It is said to cure all ailments.

     If you happen to be on Roopkund trail in May – June or any Himalayan trail watch for this and I am sure you will be awestruck and understand the wonders of nature..!


- Vishwanath. R. Dugganahalli
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