Kira Jari: The Fungal Viagra Making Bank in the Himalayas .

Forget the wonders of modern chemistry. You don’t need to talk to your doctor about Viagra or Cialis. All you need is a traditional fungus used both as an aphrodisiac and a performance-enhancing drug. The best part? You’ll be helping out developing economies that are thriving on a thirst for the fungus, known as kira jari.

The fungus is rare and used for another purpose: A natural pesticide. It works by mummifying caterpillars, then growing the fungus out the top of their heads. Creepy? Sure, but some of us are kind of into that sort of thing.

Over the last five years or so, Himalayan villagers have become wise to the commercial potential of kira jari. They harvest it, then sell it to local merchants. These merchants then feed the growing demand in Asia’s fast-growing urban centers, as well as that of the west. A single fungus sells for about five bucks. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s more than the average daily wage for a manual laborer in the region. Some villagers can scavenge as many as 40 of these per day, making it a new gold rush for the Himalayas.

Getting the fungus isn’t easy. According to a report on the BBC’s website, some climb as high as 5,000 meters to obtain the rare fungus. Much like gold, it is worth a lot but the work required to obtain kira jari isn’t for the meek. In addition to having to brave harsh climates to find kira jari, it’s rarity means that there are no guarantees that a hunter will find anything at all.

To obtain the fungus, men must crawl around on their hands and knees in the snow. Joint pain, trouble breathing and snow blindness are among the health risks associated with finding the fungus.

Unsurprisingly, the competition is fierce. Many men carry guns while searching to protect themselves from bandits on their way down the mountain. Entire villages battle one another for the right to collect kira jari in certain areas.

All in all, the whole thing is shaping up a bit like the Mexican drug trade. Especially considering that while it’s legal to collect the fungus, it is not legal to sell it. In fact, the village of Bemni was scammed a couple years ago when a trickster showed up and offered a good price for a large crop. He disappeared with the fungus, leaving the village with nothing. Police have confiscated crops as well, though it’s hard to imagine that at least some of them aren’t getting rich off the labor of others.

However, many men are abandoning the cities they once left home for and returning to the countryside to make their living finding the ultimate natural Viagra. One intrepid kira jari collector found 200 and was able to build an impressive two-story home with his earnings.

To collect kira jari one must risk health, wealth and even one’s life to obtain it. However, for many men in one of the poorest parts of the world, it’s a viable option that outweighs any risk.