December 10, 2023, Sunday
Nepal 1:37:26 pm

Yarsagumba

The Nepal Weekly
September 26, 2023

By Reena Gumanju

Nepal, known as one of the richest country in terms of natural resources but, why is its economy low? Why is it regarded as developing country? Is it the myth that we are economically poor or is it the myth that we are naturally rich? If not then it’s time to think where we are lacking behind. Nepal is the 2nd richest country in terms of water resources still Nepalese are struggling for drinking water. Forest cover roughly 44% which sheltered numerous medicinal plants but still we import medicine even for minor diseases like fever and diarrhea. Isn’t it so embarrassing for we Nepalese whose ancestor defeat British and had constructed five-storied temple before Colombus found America?

Today we are in race to shift abroad as if we are unknown that how much valuable our natural resources actually are? Medicinal plants available in our country cost million dollars and have high demand in international market. Among these medicinal plants Yarsagumba also known as caterpiller fungus is regarded as most valuable medicine. Its market value is around Rs.2,50,000 to 25,00,000 in Nepal. This rate increases at international market and cost around $ 40,000 to $ 50,000. We are leaving these precious wealth behind and step forward in the queue to fly abroad with a dream to earn huge amount of money. Isn’t it possible to invest our skills and knowledge in our own country and earn money? For this, Yarsagumba could be the good choice.

Yarsagumba, found in the High altitudes, basically in the Himalayan region is considered as a biological gold because of its high demand and skyscraping price. In Nepal, caravans of people move to the higher elevations in the Himalayas in search of the gold rush. The lucrative hunt of Yarsagumba is a challenging task as many people from the rural villages climb to the mountains to find the Yarsagumba as it has huge economic benefits uplifting the lifestyle.

ECOLOGY

The fungus grows on the caterpillar during monsoon (rainy season). As the spores of the fungus Terminate and grow on a living, caterpillar. The caterpillar eventually dies. It takes five to seven years for the fungus to complete its life cycle and produce the natural product. The species grows only in the Himalayas. There the temperature is low year round. The high altitude limits the Oxygen available. These harsh conditions, which make life difficult even for most fungi, is perfect for growing Yarsagumba (Cordyceps sinensis). It is distributed in the alpine region of the Himalayas at the elevation of more than 4000m. It is mainly found above the snowline in Dolpa, Jumla, Humla, Kalikot, Baglung, Mustang, Manang, and Rasuwa districts of western and central Nepal. The Yarsagumba from Nepal is then exported to the high demand countries such as Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Myanmar, Thailand, Singapore, Japan, the UK and the US.

The associated plant species of this species are Kutki (Picrorhizas crophulariiflora), Jatamansi (Nardostachys grandiflora), Bukiphool (Anaphalis sp.) and other high altitude grasses.

MEDICINAL VALUE

Firstly, the medicinal properties of Yarsagumba were discovered in China around 2000 years ago.According to WebMD, Yarsagumba or Cordyceps is beneficial for Anemia, Breathing disorders, Lung infections (Bronchitis), Cough, Decreasing fatigue, Dizziness, Frequent urination at night, Heart arrhythmias, High cholesterol, Liver disorders, Promoting longevity, Ringing in the ears, Weakness etc. It also mentions that Yarsagumba can be beneficial for sexual problems that prevent satisfaction during sexual activity, a Kidney transplant. Also the Inflammation of the liver is caused by the Hepatitis B virus, Kidney damage caused by the drug cyclosporine.

Kidney damage caused by contrast dyes, Chronic Kidney diseases, Kidney injury caused by antibiotics etc. is also cured by Yarsagumba.

It also contributes to increased blood production and sperm production as well. Yarchagumba also helps to strengthen the immune system for tumour patients.Sometimes, for the patients who are receiving Radiotherapy, Chemotherapy and deficiency syndrome, it is used. It also helps to combat infertility in women and also cures erectile dysfunction in men.

Due to the herbs rarity, high efficacy, potency in curing various diseases and high prices associated with the wild collected varieties, different attempts have been made to cultivate Yarsagumba. Some of its chemical properties are still to be explored.

Current Processing

There is both neither processing nor any kind of value-additive works currently being done in Nepal except drying (sun drying) and grading (separation of products according to size). For storage purpose, Yarsagumba should get a treatment immediately after collection. This treatment does not require any sophistication but simply a fast drying process. If there is no sun, the fungus is heated over an open fire for 5 to 7 minutes.

PRESENT CONTEXT

Like other medicinal plants, this fungus is also exported raw to international market. They are then processed and refined as different valuable medicine which we import in very high cost. They are in search of the methods to cultivate this fungus by the application of the modern biotechnological based cultivation methods and extract huge economic benefits. On the other hand, we Nepalese are migrating to abroad in search of job and quality lifestyle. Foreigners are exploring our natural resources, investing in its research and moving forward. Cannot we create the platform to carry out research on medicinal plants available in our country, process available medicinal plants and manufacture our own medicine and export? This will definitely raise our economic standard. We can distribute medicine in reasonable price and Nepalese people should not lose their lives due to minor diseases.

We have to take immediate action for this before it become too late as different countries are further investigating for the chemical properties of Yarsagumba and the techniques to cultivate it artificially. They have almost succeeded to cultivate this fungus. The collection of Yarsagumba is decreasing year by year now because of overharvesting and environmental changes harming the sustainability of Yarsagumba in Nepal. In this situation, if they get succeed to cultivate Yarsagumba then, it will contribute to eliminate over-harvesting of this species and accessible to most of the people in reasonable price. On the other hand, this will stop export of Yarsagumba from Nepal and many Nepalese people who are dependent on this fungus for this livelihood have to lose their job and they won’t have any option except moving to abroad. Ultimately, our economic condition falls down. Therefore, it’s time to think and search opportunity in our own country. For this, Nepal government has to invest in research and technology, motivate youths with brilliant minds to invest their ideas in their own country, otherwise we do not have option to stop brain-drain. Our country will be full of old and child population in next 10 years.