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lunes, 24 de enero de 2011

Yarsagumba: fungal worm as sex appetizer

A dried Yarsagumba, with the fungus sprout coming out of the larva's head. Posted on Flickr by ico_nico.
Some people will do anything to improve their sex lives. That includes, apparently, paying hundreds of euros for a handful of fungus-encrusted Tibetan worms.
 Tibet’s “herbal Viagra”is formed when a beige fungus, cordyceps sinensis, attacks the body of a moth larva that lives in the soil of Tibetan highlands, eventually killing and mummifying it. The sprouts that grow from it are collected on the Tibetan plateau each spring. Their name, Yarsagumba, roughly translates as “winter worm, summer plant”.
 An ounce [27 grams] of Yarsagumba can sell for up to 800 dollars [590 euros] in New York Chinese herbalist stores – barely less than its weight in gold.
 The yearly harvest is nearly the sole source of income for former Tibetan nomad populations forced to resettle in China’s Litang, Sichuan or Naqu counties. There are concerns that exploding demand will lead to overexploitation of the rare root and eventual exhaustion of supply, with serious consequences for local populations and ecosystems.
 Dried Yarsagumba can be brewed in an anti-impotence tea or ground into a powder which,some retailers promise,  will add extra pep to your love life if  you sprinkle on your breakfast cereal every day. But our Observer, a Chinese herbal pharmacist, warns it’s not quite the miracle herb it is made out to be.

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