Yarsagumba (Himalayan Aphrodisiac)

Yarsagumba Caravan north of Maikot. The Guerrilla Trek, Rukum, Nepal.

Yarsagumba Caravan north of Maikot. The Guerrilla Trek, Rukum, Nepal.

Yarsagumba is considered to be an aphrodisiac and hunted in caravans north of Maikot (and other high elevation areas of Nepal, Tibet, India and Bhutan). Local residents and people from surrounding regions travel to the highlands in large groups in the spring to forage for outgrowths. Yarsagumba is the larva of a Himalayan ghost moth that has been transformed by a fungus. The mushroom eventually sprouts from the ground in the spring similar in appearance to a grass bud. Yarsagumba is relished in China and commands a high price, and revenue from its harvest helped to fund Nepal’s Maoist insurgency. It is believed to enhance male virility among many other claims but most of these putative properties await conclusive research.

Recent article (in Nepali) about a yarsa caravan in Pupal Highlands of northern Rukum, Nepal. This story was published in the 10th May 2014 issue of  Kantipur, written by Surbindra Kumar Pun from Maikot, Rukum.

Journey to Yarsa (2011) — documentary film of a Yarsagumba caravan in Rukum by Dipendra Bhandari that “simultaneously reveals the struggle, hope, laughter, romance and resilience in the lives of the hill people who go to dig for survival in the High Himal.”

Himalayan Gold Rush (2012) — documentary film of a Yarsagumba caravan in Dolpo by Eric Valli