HANAH's hunt for Cordyceps sinensis in Bhutan
Cordyceps sinensis is a highly sought after Himalayan medicinal mushroom that grows in Bhutan at elevations above 14,000 feet. The spores of the mushroom attack the ghost moth caterpillar that lives underground, mummify the host, and grow dramatically out of its head. Due to its high demand and rarity, Cordyceps can cost up to $10,000 per pound.
HANAH was fortunate to get a unique chance to see first-hand how specialized and difficult the hunt for this rare caterpillar-fungus really is, and what lengths (and altitudes) the local Bhutanese Cordyceps collectors have to go to procure this rare medicinal mushroom. The trek alone is several days from the nearest road deep into the Himalayas. The air is so thin and the elements are so harsh at that altitude, that most Westerners never make it to this destination.
Bhutan implemented sustainable harvest guidelines several years ago to protect the environment, the sustainability of the Cordyceps and the collectors. Only skilled local villagers from the Cordyceps growing areas are permitted to collect this special fungus. Harvesting is limited to one month a year, timed at a specific point in the growing cycle to ensure maturity and sustainability, and is overseen by local leaders and forestry services, who also keep an eye out for poachers.
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