There’s a gold rush in the Himalayas. Fortunes are being made – and lives are being ruined – not over gleaming metal nuggets, but in the reckless pursuit of yarsagumba. A rare hybrid of caterpillar and mushroom that grows only in the high alpine meadows of Tibet, Nepal and India. It has been prescribed by traditional healers in Asia for centuries to treat lung and kidney diseases, build up bone marrow and stop hemorrhaging, but it is prized above all for its reputation as a powerful aphrodisiac, earning it the nickname “Himalayan Viagra.”
The explosive growth in the yarsagumba market beggars the most extravagant superlatives: In 1992, a pound of the stuff sold for $3; today, the same quantity retails for around $9,400. Read more.