Saturday, June 26, 2010

Yartsa Guen Buep

How many of you know of an oddity called the Yartsa Guen Buep? I give you a hint: it is found at altitudes over 14,000 ft. above sea level; some think it is a caterpillar, while others think it is a mushroom. In truth, it is a bizarre cross between the two. Some consider it an elixir for longevity; while others swear that it can cure venereal warts and restore sexual potency. Whatever the truth, one thing is for sure - this crinkly yellowish amalgam has got to be the most expensive ingredient in the Traditional Chinese Medicine. It can cost upwards of Nu.400,000.00 per kilo in the international retail market.

The Western world knows them as Cordyceps synensis. It is a unique combination of a caterpillar larva of the Himalayan Bat Moth and ascomycetes fungi. Half of it - the caterpillar part - is embedded into the ground while the fungi sprouts out of it and is exposed above ground.As the fungi mature, the caterpillars underground become a mummified host to the grass/mushroom that sprout out of it. In essence, a fully grown fungi and a completely dead caterpillar is what comes to be known as the famous Yartsa Guen Buep. This means that, there is no such thing as a live Cordyceps.

On rare occasions one does see live Yartsa Guen Buep. They are basically caterpillars that have not been infected by the fungi. Perhaps they may qualify as half a Cordyceps since they do not have the grass or mushroom growing out of their heads. They wiggle and squirm like any live worm or caterpillar, unlike the Cordyceps which is completely lifeless.

The annual collection of Yartsa Guen Buep is emerging as a serious threat to the natural environment of our alpine regions. In addition to threatening the life style and livelihood of the traditional yak herders, it is causing a rift in the traditional bonds and relationships that existed between the highlanders and the people in the warmer southern regions. Age old customs and traditions and working relationships are being overridden and severed - yielding way to strange new attitudes and conduct. In their quest for a handful of the bizarre worm, human life and health is being put into jeopardy.

This is how a Cordyceps is seen to the bare eyes. The Cordyceps collectors must have keen and sharp eyes to notice them. The hunters of these worms spend months crouching on their four - in extreme weather conditions - looking for these camouflaged caterpillars sprouting mushrooms that look like grass.

This is how the worms are seen on the ground:

This is how the Cordyceps looks when plucked from the ground:


This is how a rarey seen "live" Cordyceps looks like:

This is how the worms look like when then are dired and ready for supply:


  1. Hi Dasho (Yeshey) so lets "Dasho" each other away! Canadian Dasho is doing well. V busy as usual.

    You are never too late. In fact the more bloggers we have the better. Do you have skype? Mine is Methokny, please send me yours so we can talk about this. It is too lengthy and tedious to explain what this whole platform is about by email.

    Good to hear from you!

  2. I am out of luck - I am not on Skype.

  3. Yeshey, its easy. Just download skype onto your computer and talk to friends around the world for free.

  4. Hi Anonymous,

    I know - but I do not have the patience for it. Not only that, I do not have headphone which means I have to go and get one - I can do without it :) Thanks.

  5. You don't need headphones Dasho! I am amazed that someone who is so tech savvy will dismiss skype so easily... I will try and call you one of these days.

    BW, I was the first EVER to write about the Yatsa Goenbup. I wrote about it in 1993/1992 for Kuensel. I have always been intrigued by this little being and I am with you that this is indeed a sad story. There is nothing medicinal or aphrodisiac about it. Even if it is there are now subs like viagra/ and multivitamens that should do the task.

    PLease check your email. I will be sending some links on the platform. You will have to follow instructions to join ok. That way you will be on the mailing list .
    Talk soon

  6. Ah Dasho, Can't find your email address. can you send me an email please.