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New Yorkers paying $800 an ounce for “Himalayan Viagra”

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yarsagumba

The hottest new aphrodisiac looks like something from Fear Factor, and New Yorkers are paying a pretty penny for it. A fungus-encrusted silkworm known as "Himalayan Viagra" (with the undertone of him-a-layin') has New Yorkers eagerly paying eight-hundred dollars an ounce for a Cocoon-like burst of rejuvenation. The naturally occurring drug — also known as "yarsagumba" or "dong chong xia cao" — can also be brewed into an anti-impotence tea.

The insects hail from Nepal, where they're attacked by a beige fungus that kills and entombs them. "It's like the ultimate invasion of the body snatchers," said Thomas Leung, owner of the Chinese herbal pharmacy Kamwo. Leung said one serving would cost about two-hundred dollars. "It's hard to come by, and the demand for it is very high because of there's a lot of hype," he said.

The infected worms are picked by peasants in isolated villages during the summer, and schools even shut down so children can join in the hunt. The competition for the cash crop is fierce, with mobs murdering poachers. Leung thinks interest in the virility enhancer is based more on folklore than serious Eastern medicine. The sweet-tasting substance is a common ingredient in formulas used to treat chronic asthma and has been used as a remedy for lung and kidney health, according to Leung. "The kidneys are reponsible for sexual and reproductive functions, so people kind of stretch that and say, 'Well if you consume this, you'll have that,' " he said. "Very few people who sell this are going to tell you that, because they want to keep the hype up." Leung added that the ingredient is sold in cheaper supplements, and that the fungus has been synthetically duplicated. Caveat emptor.