We live in an era when sex always sells and private details about intimacy issues can draw public attention. If we needed further evidence of this, it came recently in the form of the much-talked about leaked audio clip believed to contain a conversation between former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra and Deputy Defence Minister Gen Yuthasak Sasiprapa. (When the clip came out, Gen Yuthasak denied it was his voice.) Aside from the politics, the clip has raised eyebrows because the voice that was not Thaksin's mentioned that he was being kept "strong" by taking thang chao. Because of this, national interest in the claimed aphrodisiac benefits of the mushroom has once again been, er, roused.
Thang chao, aka chong cao or caterpillar fungus, is a type of ophiocordyceps fungus that germinates in the larvae of highland ghost moths commonly found on the Tibetan Plateau. During the snow season when the caterpillar hibernates underground, the fungus acts as a parasite, killing and mummifying the larva before sprouting a stalk-like mushroom out of the caterpillar's head. The dark-brown body emerges from underground in summer among alpine grass.
Caterpillar mushrooms are usually found on the Tibetan Plateau. PHOTO © GETTYIMAGES/THINKSTOCK
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