New Yorkers Paying $800 an ounce for worms that promise sexual powers!
It’s a stiff price to pay for a fungus-encrusted silkworm.
But New Yorkers are gladly shelling out $800 an ounce for these dried dead bodies — and the sexual prowess they promise.
The vile virility remedy known as “Himalayan Viagra” works a little differently from the blue pill. There’s no immediate reaction, but sprinkle them on your corn flakes every morning and users swear it’ll make your bedsprings bounce.
The wonder drug — called “yarsagumba” or “dong chong xia cao” — can also be brewed into an anti-impotence tea.
The insects come from the highlands of Nepal, where they are attacked by a beige fungus, cordyceps sinensis, that kills and entombs them.
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“It’s like the ultimate invasion of the body snatchers,” said Thomas Leung, owner of Kamwo, a Chinese herbal pharmacy on Grand Street.
Hoping to resurrect their love lives, older men are blowing wads of cash on the creepy caterpillar cocktails.
“It would cost you about $200 per serving,” Leung said.
Leung remembers the ingredient selling for a mere $6.50 decades ago, but the price has rocketed to half the price of gold in recent years.
“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 during the summer in isolated villages along the Annapurna trail. Schools shut down for the lucrative picking season so children can join the hunt for the expensive aphrodisiac.
But where there’s sex and money, violence can’t be far behind. Competition for the cash crop between remote mountain towns has turned bloody, with mobs murdering poachers.
In June 2009, a mob of 65 villagers from the Menang clan in Nar bludgeoned seven poachers from a neighboring Gorkha tribe. The Nar men — one from each household — first slew two rivals with primitive tools and tossed their bodies into a crevasse. Then the gang ripped another five encroachers to pieces and cold-heartedly discarded them. Next month a verdict is expected to come down for 35 men charged in the crime.
Leung believes local interest in the mystical worm is based more on folklore than on serious Eastern medicine.
The sweet-tasting substance is commonly used in formulas to treat chronic asthma and is a centuries-old remedy for lung and kidney health, he said.
“The kidneys are responsible 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,” he added.
Leung said the ingredient is peddled in cheaper supplements and the fungus has been synthetically duplicated.
But he’s no snake-oil salesman.
“People always ask, ‘Is it really that good?’ ” he said. “And I say, ‘It’s not $800 good.’ ”