The 7.1 earthquake that hit China April 14 now has a rippling effect on the most famous of Chinese herbs, cordyceps. Families are depending on this acclaimed herb not just for their health but now, more than ever before, for income. Cordyceps is one of most sought after Chinese herbs which grows in the mountains near the region heavily hit by the quake.
The twig like fungus that grows from a caterpillar shell is found in the mountainous region near where the quake crumbled the regions small villages. Because of over harvesting today it’s found only at high altitudes. Families traditionally start to hunt in late May for this fungus which is known for its miraculous healing properties. More locals are hoping to recover some of their loses by digging and selling more cordyceps.
But the fungus has become more difficult to find and often the mountain slopes are steep. The plateau’s of Tibet can be a harsh environment for these families. Many pitch tents at high altitudes and live on the bluffs for a whole month. The fungus is more plentiful after a season of wet weather and this year has been noticeably drier which worries many who have come to depend on the harvesting of dong chong xia cao, as it’s known in Chinese. The literal translation is "winter worm, summer herb."
Cordyceps is known for it’s cancer fighting abilities and it’s ability to boost the immune system. The plant already faces extinction even as China produces 200 tons of fungi every year. 70% of dong chong xia cao is from the region of Qinghai, the hardest hit by the quake.
Wealthy Chinese consume cordyceps for their health while the impoverished farmers risk their health to harvest it. Sadly, many in the region now have no other choice but to dig for the fungus to rebuild their lives from the earthquake and hope for a good harvest.
To learn more about the miracle herb/fungus check out this article.