You hear a lot about places and countries with populations of people over 100 years of age. One of the most famous examples is Okinawa boasting 51 people still living at 100 years of age, but you never hear about this harsh desert in the northwest of China. Amazingly in an oasis town there lives over 183 people thriving in one of the harshest deserts in the world. That Taklamakan and the oasis region they live in is Hotan.
This incredibly large aged population makes it the region one boasting the 4th highest life expectancy rates in the world according to Mr. Keiichi Morishita. What makes this even more extraordinary is the fact that the other countries are in the famous “Blue Zones” famous for their welcoming and Utopian climates. So what is the secret of the Hotan people?
The Taklamakan Desert’s Secret of Longevity
Anyone who has studied longevity for long has learned that routine is the fountain of youth. The super elderly claim sometimes the craziest things as their secret, even a cigarette a day. But the routine these elderly men and woman share is a cultural one centered around a desert plant, they drink tea.
When I first read about this it took a good bit of digging to find the details about it because the tea they popularly drink, Cistanche, has the misfortune (In my opinion) of being marketed by companies who sell it as a remedy for ED. So naturally everything you can find on the plant is about it’s how it is an incredible libido boosting supertonic. The evidence on this effect are incredibly limited and as usually for such claims are little more than hype. However, it turns out that this desert parasite is an amazing longevity tonic the people of Taklamakan drink it daily as a tea and add to their food as a cooking ingredient.
Hotan started as an oasis in the Taklamakan desert the second largest desert in the world but during the era of the Silk Road, it developed into the thriving trade town that still exists to this day. Like most of the harsh deserts in the local inhabitants developed the tradition of sharing hot sweet teas to keep their body’s hydrated and essentially wet in the dry climate.
The most popular form of tea in this particular region is surprisingly a member of the Cistanche family, Cistanche deserticola. The parasitic plant grows on the roots of the Haloxylon Ammodendron trees; The local people like to harvest these trees for firewood as they burn with a charcoal like flame. So while they are collecting firewood they harvest the Cistanche plants and dry them for tea and as a cooking spice. Amazingly something that developed as a convenience turned into an amazing secret of longevity.
Unfortunately due to the harvesting of the Haloxylon trees (more like shrubs honestly) the host of the Cistanche deserticola plant the wild form of Cistanche is near to being eradicated. Although the plant is not totally banned, yet, the plant is heavily at risk and is listed in the second appendix of CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species). Sustainable ways of farming the plant are in need of development but in the mean time it’s near-identical cousin Cistanche Tubulosa is thriving in sustainable farms and readily available.
If you choose to try your luck with a regular routine of cistanche tea, don’t be too frugal. These people are known to use a whopping 10 grams of cistanche in the tea they share. Even for personal use a minimum of 3-5g would need to be taken to match their consumption of this incredible, super plant.
Hope you found this article interesting, Cheers!