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FW: Winter Worm, Summer Grass..... | by brentolson
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FW: Winter Worm, Summer Grass.....

My friend Namgyal just returned from the northern border region of Bhutan

(next to Tibet). He went there to do some healthcare and to supervise the

census. He was given these rare and very expensive traditional medicine

called: "winter worm, summer grass". He made a drink of hot ara (homemade

grain alcohol) with these half catepillar/half fungus that had been fried in

butter ----definitely one of the strangest cocktails I have had in a while!

Here's some info from the web about it -- it is also known as cordyseps



Chinese Caterpillar Fungus


The Chinese caterpillar fungus, also known as Cordyceps sinesis, is a unique

creature indigenous to the grassy marshland in China's Qinghai-Tibet

Plateau. It is regarded as one of the 3 top tonics in traditional natural

medicine, along with ginseng and pilose deer-horn. In summer, it resembles a

worm and in winter a grass. Hence the name in Chinese pinyin ³Dongcong

Xiacao², which means literally ³Winter-worm & Summer-grass².


The growth of the caterpillar fungus is really amazing. In winter when an

insect (in its larva form) hibernates, the fungus spores sprout up and

intrude into its circulatory system. The hyphae of the fungus grow so

rapidly after absorbing nutrition from the larva that they eventually form a

tough shell covering the whole thing. Then the insect dies because of this

and becomes a firm and full hyphal body. The external part remains the same,

which makes it look like a worm still. When summer comes around next year,

the top part of the worm sprouts out from the earth and looks just like a

grass. Mr. Pu Songling, a renowned Qing dynasty writer, has described this

wonderful change as following: ³The name Dongcong Xiacao accords with the

reality, and the transformation happens smoothly. One thing can be both

animal and plant, and the innate laws of things are mysterious indeed.²


Owing to its unique properties, the Chinese caterpillar fungus is rare in

the wild and so very difficult to collect. As a valuable medicinal herb, it

is as precious as ³gold² in Chinese natural medicine.


The caterpillar fungus is also associated with something that happened in

ancient China. The story goes that about 1000 years ago, during the late

Southern Song Dynasty, a vast land stretching from Asia to Europe came under

the rule of Genghis Khan's Mongol Empire. In order to conquer the entire

country, the nomads started an invasion into where is now southwest China.

To their great surprise, their attack was repeatedly repulsed by the

resistance of the local people, who were very tough and strong and were able

to hold back the Mongol cavalrymen's onslaught. So the Mongol had to send

more troops to occupy this place.The Mongol monarch then ordered a probe; it

turned out that the local people used the caterpillar fungus a lot in their

food and that had helped to build up their strong physique.


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Taken on June 5, 2005