In August 1993, the Chinese women’s team dominated the long-distance running event at the world track and field championships in Germany, obliterating three world records and sweeping the podium in the 3,000 meters. Of course, the anti-doping powers-that-be immediately demanded urine samples, but they all came back negative for banned substances.

What was their winning secret? According to the Chinese team coach Ma Junren, his athletes regularly enjoyed an elixir of caterpillar fungus and soft-shell turtle soup.

Once the world stopped gagging, they became curious — turtle soup aside, what exactly is caterpillar fungus? Before we take that deep dive into the intricacies of Chinese medicine, let’s rewind a little.