The medicine of hearsay has been known to come from some strange (and controversial) places. Powdered rhino horn and the like fetch a premium in the black market, and have a devastating effect on the ecology.

Similarly, another unexpected ‘wonder drug’ is yarsagumba, also known as Himalayan Viagra – Arguably the most expensive and coveted medicinal fungus in the world.

Yarsagumba, Himalayan Viagra, Caterpillar’s Head, More Expensive Than Gold, wonder drug

Yarsagumba is the product of a caterpillar that has been killed by a certain kind of fungus that grows out of its head and is found in the soil.

It is only found at a height of 3000 to 5000 metres in the Himalayan region of places such as Nepal, Bhutan, India and the Tibetan plateau.

A kilo of the stuff can fetch up to $100,000.

Yarsagumba, Himalayan Viagra, Caterpillar’s Head, More Expensive Than Gold, wonder drug

It is believed to cure impotence, asthma and cancer, which has led to a massive spurt in the fervent acquisition of the substance worldwide.

The people who collect yarsagumba risk their lives for a few months every year, as working in such high conditions exposes them to extreme cold, rain and even avalanches.

Yarsagumba, Himalayan Viagra, Caterpillar’s Head, More Expensive Than Gold, wonder drug

It is exported to international markets like China, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, US, UK, Japan and Korea.

Considering yarsagumba literally costs more than gold, people have also being harvesting it at an unsustainable level, leading to a steep decline in the production of the caterpillar-fungus hybrid, and tougher times for the harvesters.

Watch this video by BBC Earth about what’s going down.

Looking for 'Himalayan viagra'

A fungus kills a caterpillar and becomes 'Himalayan viagra', which is worth more than gold.BBC Money

Posted by BBC Earth on Wednesday, July 18, 2018