In the global market, Keeda Jadi worth Rs 18 lakh per kilogram. It is illegal in India to trade it. Unnatural practices to produce it are affecting the Himalayan region.
Himalaya is the place of medical plants which cannot be found anywhere else. Their rarity and remarkable healing power makes them expensive in the global market. One such rich biological resource is Cordyceps Sinensis which is locally known as Keeda Jadi. It can cure a variety of ailments from such as fatigue and cancer and to cure impotency. It is also known as Caterpillar fungus (English) and Yartsa Gungu (Tibetan).
Keeda Jadi is basically a fungus which grows as a parasite on the larvae of a particular kind of caterpillar. The fungus evolves in the living larva, which kills and mummifies the larva and then develops as a stalk-like fruiting figure. Caterpillars take 5 years to grow underground in Alpine grass and shrub lands before finally pupating (from larva) and are attacked by the fungus while feeding on roots. It finally takes the shape of 5-15 centimeter columnar mushroom out of the forehead of the caterpillar. It is mostly found in Darchula in Mahakali zone in the Nepal and India. As per Indian government rules, locals are allowed to gather Keeda Jadi, but not to trade it outside India.
In the global market, Keeda Jadi is worth Rs 18 lakh for a kilogram which is around 3500 and 4500 pieces of fungus. But in reality, the locals get only Rs 1 or 2 lakh for collecting and selling them. In India, every year families in some regions of rural Kumaon along with their children plod up in hills of Himalayas at the altitude of 3500 to 5000 meters to collect the Keeda Jadi. In India, it is found in Chamoli, Uttarakhand and hilly areas of Himachal Pradesh.
Their high value also leads to the conflict among villages and illegal trade as in India it is not legalized. This rare fungus is only found when summer sets in and snow (glacier) melts at higher altitudes of Kumaon region and exposes mummified caterpillars. People have started using uneven means to collect Keeda Jadi. Sometimes, forests are put on fire to melt the snow. Such unnatural practices are causing damage to the environment and precious species also. The government should take necessary steps to preserve these endangered caterpillar fungi. There are some incidents where police of Uttarakhand arrested the people carrying Herbal Viagra for trade purposes.
It has great demand in China where it is used for medical purposes since the 14th century. It is only found in the Himalayas and the areas of Tibetan Plateau. Bhutan government legalized its sale in 2001 and collects its revenue share from it. Because of overharvesting and over exploitation, it is one of the endangered species in China. It is in demand for its energy booster and aphrodisiac qualities. In the 1990s, some Chinese athletes gave credit of their success to Keeda Jadi which increased its demand in the Chinese market.
We all agree that we share the treasure nature has given us for medical purposes, but that does not justify the use of uneven means for any selfish motives. Situations like this also highlight the rural life of people of Uttarakhand who take up uneven means for their sustenance.