Claim: Climate Threatens the Himalayan “Viagra Fungus”

Cordyceps sinensis (Himilayan Viagra Fungus). By L. Shyamal (User:Shyamal) (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0], via Wikimedia Commons

Guest essay by Eric Worrall

What could be worse than a climate threat to an endangered aphrodisiac fungus?

Climate threatens ‘Himalayan Viagra’ fungus, and a way of life

Published on 26/07/2017, 3:17am

A valuable fungus reputed to be an aphrodisiac has been disappearing from the mountains of Nepal, taking with it a valuable source of income

By Sameer Pokhrel

A Himalayan fungus used in Chinese medicine, which underpins the livelihoods of communities of harvesters in Nepal, is under the threat due to climate change.

Harvesting the Cordyceps sinensis fungus, called ‘yarsha gumba’ in Nepal, provides a livelihood for Himalayan dwellers. The fungus fetches up to Rs 2,800,000 (£20,000) per kg in raw form. During the peak season of yarsha collection, locals drop everything to pursue fungus hunting, including their usual profession. Even schools remain closed during yarsha collecting seasons.

Bibek Jhakri, who has also collected the fungus for eight years, said: “I used to find 50-60 yarshas a day during my earlier years, while now finding four to five per day is a matter of luck for me.” He said he was afraid his major source of income won’t last.

Most of the yarsha hunters in Thabang, the western district where Jhakri is from, are worried about their seasonal source of income. They could, a decade before, rely almost exclusively on income generated by yarsha collection. Collectors in hilly areas typically lack academic education and production from agricultural land in those areas is marginal.

Read more: http://www.climatechangenews.com/2017/07/26/climate-threatens-himalayan-viagra-fungus-way-life/

This ghastly little fungus is real – Ophiocordyceps sinensis infects living ghost moth caterpillars, eventually sprouting from their bodies.

The fungus is a health risk to whoever eats it. According to Wikipedia the fungus manages to concentrate so much arsenic and other toxic heavy metals that sales of the fungus are heavily regulated in China. But the fungus also contains Cordycepin, a powerful, fast acting antidepressant with possible anti-cancer properties.

The fungus is a major source of income for poor rural people living in the Himalayas – so much so, inter village feuds and skirmishes have occurred in some areas, over access to grasslands where the fungus is collected.

Over-exploitation, over zealous collection by villagers eager to earn some hard cash, is likely more of a threat than climate change.

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62 thoughts on “Claim: Climate Threatens the Himalayan “Viagra Fungus”

      • Cordycepin can now be produced synthetically anyway, so let the world continue to warm.

      • Try, try, again! Up from the ashes, up from the ashes, grow the roses of success! If it was easy, it would be doable by anyone and no profit in it. Synthesize cordysepin, Fill a greenhouse with ghost moths. People go to the Nepal and loose their brains from oxygen deprivation in the high altitude.

  1. So … something that grows wild in one of the worlds poorer regions and is worth TEN THOUSAND FREAKIN’ DOLLARS A POUND is disappearing? …

    Color me unsurprised …

    w.

    • Instead of blaming the real culprit, climate change, I suppose you’re going to blame the over harvesting of Rhino horns and tiger penises for those animals disappearing too, right? /Sarc

    • “Over-exploitation, over zealous collection by villagers eager to earn some hard cash, is likely more of a threat than climate change.”
      This was my immediate reaction as well. I liked GoatGuy’s suggestion to cultivate it.

      • The first few reactions parallel mine. Duhh! It is valuable, and perhaps a bit of effort to farm the fungus would pay off. Perhaps not, as truffles are still very hard to cultivate.

      • and this-

        Overgrazing
        Overgrazing by domestic animals like sheep, goats, cows, mules, horses and yaks has been responsible for large scale degradation of the vegetative cover in many parts of the Himalayas. Animal rearing is an important occupation in the mountains in areas where agriculture is difficult or not possible due to the environmental conditions. Moreover, there are many tribes like the Gujars and the Gaddis which make their living primarily by rearing animals.
        Domestic animals are reared for many purposes. Their milk is consumed directly or used to make milk products like butter and yogurt, which are sold in the markets. The meat is another item of consumption. The hide is also used, and in the case of the sheep, the wool is a commodity of great commercial value. Even the animal dung is useful as manure. And most importantly, the animals are beasts of burden and also used on the farms.

        Overgrazing by domestic animals has adverse effects on the vegetation — in the case of both alpine grasslands and forests. Due to this, the forests and the grasslands become bare and subsequently prone to soil erosion.

        The animals graze during spring, when the seedlings of various tree species, grasses and herbs are growing. This leads to the problems of regeneration as the future crop is adversely affected.

        Seedlings of various species can get crushed and trampled under the hooves of cattle. In some cases the roots of a tree species may be exposed by trampling. This results in the death of the desired species.

        Selective grazing tends to alter the composition of the forest or grassland ecosystem, causing an increase in the population of undesired species, which are not consumed by the animals.

        Indiscriminate grazing leads to the degradation of the soil. The soil becomes compact and the porosity is reduced. Soil aeration is also adversely affected. This in turn results in the seeds not germinating as they do not get sufficient air and water from the soil. Moreover, the hooves of the animals break down the soil aggregates, which gives a crumbly structure to the soil. Due to this, the soil loses its ability to absorb sufficient amounts of water. This translates into little percolation of rain water, most of which gets drained away. Since indiscriminate grazing leaves large parts of the land bare, the rainwater that gets drained away tends to erode the soil in its path. This degrades the soil further.

      • Richard. Planet Earth isn’t a refrigerated conservatory dedicated to plants, fungi, soil and fossils. Grass and weeds won’t run out even if the locals could turn vegans with them. They’re palatable only to sheep, goats, cows, mules, horses and yaks, which fertilise the soil in return. They also prevent the local ethnic minority from starving to death in cold. Try to get over it.

    • +10. When schools even close, there is certainly an incentive to harvest whatever you can find. Not good if you are the fungus.

  2. Once again the greenies, in love with their CAGW theory, and hating reality, completely miss the boat. Over harvesting is a much more obvious and immediate problem than global warming. The trouble is that this crap will make it into the literature and someone will use it to bolster the case for destroying western civilization.

    As Eric points out, it wasn’t called Viagra fungus before the drug became popular. That’s just someone’s witty description.

    • Defies economic logic. The supply is dropping sharply, yet the price is also dropping. The only explanation is that demand must be dropping faster than the reduction in supply.

      • Maybe all those Chinese who paid big bucks for this fungus decided to buy Viagra instead, much cheaper and not toxic…plus it can be bought online without a prescription….

        PMK

    • Wow, that is a good article on the situation. And no monition of CAGW. It appears that as recent as 2014 they had good harvests with good prices. A sudden 2 or 3 year trend does not suggest climate change. It suggests market pressures.

      • The excerpt above missed out the money quotes:
        “A 2016 study published in the journal Biological Conservation, found a combination of climate change and untimely and over harvesting were to blame for the previous falls. Whereas in future the range of the fungus would be reduced by up to a third because less snow would fall in the pastures and snow would melt earlier in spring.

        High mountains are experiencing a more rapid change in temperature than lower elevations. “There are strong theories that guide the expectation of climate change being comparatively higher in mountains than at sea level,” Nicholas Pepin, a geographer at the University of Portsmouth, told Climate Home.”

        So not such a good article Jeff.

      • There are two variables intertwined. There is no way to know if climate change had an effect unless you have a control period where climate was not changing and there was an over-harvesting period. The ASSUMPTION is that climate change contributes. That’s not science. You need evidence. Until you have a period of over-marketing without climate change to compare to, you cannot assign any value to either factor. Same for the over-harvesting. Unless you have a period where the climate was stable, you can’t know if this was responsible. Both may be, but unless they can be separated, there’s no telling which is contributing and how much. All we know is the supply is apparently diminishing. The cause remains unknown.

  3. So now instead of saving the climate for “the children”, it is for “4-hour erections”…lol…progress

    • From a pal-reviewed publication

      We conclude that penises are not best understood as the male sexual organ, or as a male reproductive organ, but instead as an enacted social construct that is both damaging and problematic for society and future generations. The conceptual penis presents significant problems for gender identity and reproductive identity within social and family dynamics, is exclusionary to disenfranchised communities based upon gender or reproductive identity, is an enduring source of abuse for women and other gender-marginalized groups and individuals, is the universal performative source of rape, and is the conceptual driver behind much of climate change.

      Therefore, we can conclude this fungi doesn’t suffer from climate change, but makes it worse.

  4. What an we do? Would cutting emissions help? Feel badly for this poor fungus. It was such a perfect world where no species ever became extinct. Then we came over from Mars and started burning fossil fuels. Now it’s all gone to hell.

  5. But atmospheric CO2 is increasing from burning fossil fuels. That must be the reason the fungus is disappearing.
    /sarc

    • How about this:
      CO2 fertilization has increased the health of plants in the region. This, in turn, has increased the health of the moths and they are better able to resist infection by the fungus. CO2 is good for everyone except evil poisonous fungi.

  6. I always wonder which particular Chinese person/people came to the decision that a rare bizarre toxic fungus from another remote part of the world was an aphrodisiac. There’s gotta be a curious chain of events in there somewhere.

    • The Chinese seem to be eating all the rhinoceros horn, bear penis bones, narwhale lances, caribou horn velvet, bamboo shoots and now aphrodite sapropytes. I never thought fertility was at risk in China.

    • It had to be the Yellow Emperor who also invented baseball around 4000 years ago. Baseball had deep spiritual significance because the bases, home plate, and the pitcher’s mound represented the four celestial directions and the center. The pitch and the strike with the bat represented yin and yang. A major difference was that with each pitch the direction around the bases would reverse to balance out yin and yang. The rules and lore of baseball would later be codified as the Dao De Jing and would become the basis of Daoism in its modern form.

      The Yellow Emperor was ignored and almost forgotten until the beginning of the twentieth century when the memory of his numerous and great accomplishments became part of the campaign to Make China Great Again.

    • “According to Wikipedia the fungus manages to concentrate so much arsenic and other toxic heavy metals that sales of the fungus are heavily regulated in China”

      I would surmise that if the Chinese are wary it has to be really bad.

  7. Well I resisted commenting on what I knew sceptics would immediately see as the real cause of the problem for the titillating toadstool. Sheesh, do you have to be a sceptic to see the obvious? Maybe there is something to the idea that 97% of climate scientists believe a dozen impossible things before breakfast, or whatever it is that locks them together with only one thought in their collectivist heads. Their concern suggests that 97%of climate scientists also suffer from erectile disfunction. I thought something like this when 97%of climate scientists were frightened to debate with the 3%sceptics.

    So not only have the mycoidal coital boosters become scarce but the price has dropped! Hmm.. at 20Gs a key initially, how could this happen? Well economics suggests that the harvesters went bananas and picked a 5yr supply – enough already! climateers can relax a bit on this score. The overcopulation overpopulation “blues” ♫ (maybe an ad jingle!) should become cheaper.

  8. A lot of uneducated people making lot’s of money off of killing the Ghost Moths Caterpillars over a decade, that cannot recover their population of Ghost Moths Caterpillars until they stop killing them…and Climate Change is what’s blamed…really?

  9. This has nothing to do with climate. And as always with very poor people, who can earn some extra income by digging up the infested caterpillars. We have seen how these poor people migrate with with their entire familiy to the mountains above 4000m, live under horrendous circumstances under plastic sheets and cook their rice on dung. Our hairs were black the next morning from the soot in the air within the sheet (still start coughing when I think of it). We bought one specimen, for 1 dollar. The environment is completely stripped after they leave. Are these people to blame? Certainly not. They are working their *ss off. But the decline in Cordyceps has nothing to do with climate change. Stupid research.

  10. Somehow, I don’t think “Stop global warming, save the boner fungus” is going to win any converts over…

    Although, I do like “Tell global warming to keep its hands off my erection!”

    Sense of humor= slightly better than a 5 year old’s.

  11. So this stuff has so much arsenic and heavy metals in it that even the Chinese heavily regulate it?

    I found this description in one of the links quite, well, ghostly!

    “O. sinensis parasitizes the moths of the Thitarodes genus in the ghost moth family, Hepialidae; specifically species from the Tibetan Plateau, and the Himalayas. The fungus germinates in the living larva, kills and mummifies it, and then a dark brown stalk-like fruiting body which is a few centimeters long emerges from the corpse and stands upright”

  12. Environmental humophobes should welcome the news that unmeasurable climate change will cause an epidemic of flacidity and catastrophic fall in birth rates (according to my computer model which I just wrote).

  13. Guys, you all know that that picture is of dried up Horn worms, right. I don’t know the variety, but it is definitely a horn worm, similar to the ones that attack your tomatoes. The Sphinx moths they produce tend to be very large and pretty.

    If the pic really is part of the story, I put this one under Hoax.

  14. Useful, but nasty — think Alien.
    https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924981/
    At $20,000 to $40,000/kilo I’d say overexploiting might be the main reason its “disappearance”.
    “During the peak season of yarsha collection, locals drop everything to pursue fungus hunting, including their usual profession”.
    Surely not, those Nepalese wouldn’t over exploit a resource [they’re not older anglo-celtic males so they are obviously eco-aware].

    There are similar fungi species all round the world.
    http://cordyceps.us/pages/biology
    “An amateur gather of mushrooms had guided us to a place in a park near Copenhagen where characteristic sporophores of Cordyceps militaris were growing on insect pupae.”
    from http://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/neuroscience/cordycepin

    And what effect is climate change, if any, having on the prevalence of the fungus or the moth?

  15. theres a few cordyceps and i doubt the useful properties are just in this one re cancer
    Paul Stamets has done work worth a Nobel(when the Nobel was Noble not trashed)
    Ive used his product for pets with cancer etc and as preventatives to it
    and i suspect its worked well due to unusual longevity in my present hound, really really wellpast even the longest die by limits for breed.

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