The Yarsagumba Mushroom: The "Himalayan Viagra"

In traditional medicine, the yarsagumba mushroom is used to enhance sexual health. Other properties are also attributed to it, find out more about them!
The Yarsagumba Mushroom: The "Himalayan Viagra"
Franciele Rohor de Souza

Reviewed and approved by the pharmacist Franciele Rohor de Souza.

Last update: 28 September, 2022

The yarsagumba mushroom, scientific name Ophiocordyceps sinensis, is a species that grows parasitically on the larvae of some insects. It’s native to the mountainous regions of Tibet and Nepal, but has also gained popularity in traditional Chinese medicine.

According to popular literature, it’s effective as a sexual enhancer. In fact, some have given it the name “Himalayan Viagra” in reference to its supposed aphrodisiac properties. But what does the research say, and what are the risks of taking it? Below, we resolve these and other concerns.

What is the yarsagumba mushroom and what are its properties?

The yarsagumba mushroom is a type of eendoparasiticfungus, which means that it sprouts as a parasite on certain insects. It’s estimated that there are about 400 species of this type, but Ophiocordyceps sinensis (called in the past Cordyceps sinensis) is one of the most coveted and also the most researched for clinical purposes.

To be more precise, the fungus sprouts on a kind of worm that mummifies during the winter. Then, after spring arrives, the precious plant grows and is known by the popular name of “Himalayan viagra”.

In countries such as Nepal, Tibet, Bhutan and India, entire families work in the search and collection of this fungus to make a living. The drawback is that overexploitation has created a considerable shortage.

In turn, this has inflated its price beyond belief. In China, for example, some pay up to 100,000 euros for 1 kilo of the product. It’s estimated to bring in almost 8 billion euros a year.

Himalayas, home of the yarsagumba.
The Himalayas are a region of mountaineering, traditional medicines, and have a rich culture.

Properties of yarsagumba mushroom

A comprehensive scientific review reported through Pharmacognosy Reviews details that yarsagumba mushroom has been used as an immunomodulator, anti-inflammatory, antitumor, antioxidant, antimicrobial, and sexual enhancer.

In particular, supplements derived from this mushroom have been found to increase sexual desire in both men and women, as well as to stimulate testosterone production, reduce sperm malformation, and increase the number of motile sperm cells.

While the researchers note the importance of obtaining more direct evidence, for now the findings suggest that Ophiocordyceps sinensis has potential as an adjuvant in the treatment of sexual dysfunction, particularly in males.

However, consumption of yarsagumba mushroom supplements is also linked to improved physical performance. It’s believed to increase the production of the molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP), which is involved in muscle energy mechanisms.

These effects don’t only mean better performance in sports, but also at a sexual level. However, more conclusive research is needed.

Other possible uses

  • Research shared through Alternative Therapies In Health And Medicine suggests that Ophiocordyceps sinensis has protective effects against premature aging. This is due to its abundant antioxidant content, which would protect against oxidative stress and cell damage.
  • In traditional Chinese medicine, the yarsagumba mushroom is considered an antitumor. However, it isn’t an anti-cancer treatment. For now, it’s a subject of study. Evidence suggests that it has potential against lung, colon, skin, and liver cancers.
  • Some studies postulate that this species of fungus has anti-diabetic properties. However, it isn’t a first-choice treatment for diabetes. Evidence points to it helping to regulate blood glucose levels.

Safety and possible side effects of yarsagumba mushroom

At present, there are no studies on the safety of yarsagumba mushrooms in humans. Its high price and scarcity limit research. However, according to anecdotal evidence, it’s a well-tolerated product in healthy adults.

Because it’s so difficult to acquire in its natural state, a synthetic form has been developed, called Cordyceps CS-4. This is considered a natural drug. It’s used in clinical settings, in doses ranging from 1000 mg to 3000 mg.

A man having erection problems.
Sexual dysfunction problems are always studied by laboratories. Finding a drug that improves this aspect would mean a breakthrough for any pharmaceutical company.

What to remember?

The yarsagumba mushroom is known as the Himalayan Viagra, due to its effects on sexual health. Studies indicate that it improves sperm quality and sexual desire. However, more solid evidence is needed.

Research has also found other effects of supplementation with this mushroom, such as prevention of premature aging, control of high blood glucose, and anti-tumor potential. But due to its scarcity and high cost, evidence remains insufficient.

Right now, access to supplements of this mushroom – or to its natural source – is a matter of privilege. Its high cost makes it accessible only to a select few.

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