Cordyceps sinensis, a medicinal parasitic fungus that grows in the high altitudes of the Tibetan plateau (Tibet, Qinghai, West-Sichuan, SW-Gansu & NW Yunnan) and the Himalayas, also known as DONG CHONG XIA JAO in Chinese, has been commonly used as herbal medicine and a health supplement in China for over two thousand years , however it wasn't until recently that the increadibly high demand for this new traditional herbal medicine increased its price up to a level that it's difficult to believe nowadays. The price per gram payed for Cordyceps sinensis have reached amounts that double the price per gram of that payed for precious metals as gold, something that has indoubtebly forced local rural economies to move towards this new form of income. Image left: Cordyceps sinensis by kohei yamada under Creative Commons License (CC BY 2.0).
But there is something that makes this parasitic fungus diferent from others, the way it propagates. Cordyceps sinensis uses its spores to propagate, something that doesn't particularly make it any different from other types of fungi, however in the case of Cordyceps sinensis, known locally by Tibetans as yartsa gunbu or yatsa gunbu , this propagation occurs when the larva of the ghost moth from the Thitarodes genus is infected by the spores of Cordyceps sinensis, then kills the larva and mummifies the insect, growing then from the head of this one upwards to reach the light and continue its live cicle. The new cordyceps will then produce more spores that will infect other larva of the ghost moth and so on.
Common name: Yartsa gunbu, Xinganbao capsule, Ophiocordyceps sinensis.