Cordyceps was first recorded in 620 BCE in the Tang Dynasty as a mythical or magical creature that could transform from an animal to a plant throughout the different seasons. It mysteriously grows in the winter as a parasite feeding off caterpillars and in the summer as a plant through its emerging fruiting body. Cordyceps is therefore commonly referred to as “Chinese caterpillar fungus” or “winter-worm and summer-grass.”
Cordyceps is a fungus that usually infects its insect host, the Himalayan Bat Moth, or Hepialis armoricanus Oberthur, at the larval stage. By invading the digestive tract and germinating within the insect host, the fungus gains its nutrients from feeding on non-vital organs within the host’s body. While the insect host stays buried underground throughout the entire winter, the Cordyceps mycelia slowly takes over the host’s body, mummifying the insect host. In the spring, the fungus’ fruiting body emerges out of the head of the insect host and disperses its mature spores, which infect other larva, allowing the life cycle to regenerate.
The result? An extremely potent fungus that is used to treat a variety of ailments in Bhutanese Medicine while boosting overall stamina and vitality.