‘Drug War’ over caterpillar fungus

Bizarre ‘Drug War’ Erupts in Remote Nepal.

Yarsagumba is a fungus that grows into the mummified body of a bat moth caterpillar and is highly prized as aphrodisiac. This story is about the conviction of six men who murdered seven others over the “medicinal mushroom” treatment.

Every year hundreds of Tibetans cross the border into Nepal illegally to purchase Yarsagumba from local resident and re-sell it in China at a tremendous mark-up.

“The medical properties of Yarsagumba are numerous and many,” Carroll Dunham, a medical anthropologist told BBC.

“Yarsagumba is known as an immune booster. It’s also known as a great aphrodisiac. It works in a way similar to Viagra. It’s considered to be helpful for impotence in men and it’s considered to be a great stimulant.”

Credit: @Stevesilberman on Twitter

The caterpillar fungus, Ophiocordyceps sinensis, has long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and in Tibet. There have have been no clinical trials to show its effectiveness and it is promoted, as most TCM is, via anecdote. Wikipedia has interesting bits on the uses of this substance by athletes and the economic importance of this cash crop.