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Kenyans Reportedly Chewing “Potency” Herb into Extinction

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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Add another species to the long list of plants and animals being eaten out of existence so men can try to get it up in the bedroom.

This time, instead of medically useless tiger penises or sea turtle eggs, it’s an African plant called White’s ginger (Mondia whitei ), often wrongly referred to as “white ginger.” It goes by many names in Africa, most notably mukombero in Kenya, where it is said that chewing the root of the plant or drinking it in tea form can boost virility and stamina in the bedroom

“It never disappoints, my wife is one happy woman,” one Kenyan man told Radio Netherlands Worldwide . “Mukombero allows me to go the extra mile and be naughty with other women as well, it has guaranteed results.

According to Radio Netherlands, mukombero is available in Kenyan markets for as little as one euro, making it much cheaper than Viagra or other pharmaceuticals, which are too expensive for most users in Kenya.

M. whitei was used as a virility aid in Africa for centuries, but modern times saw it being overharvested in the wild. A study in 1998 (cited by Infonet-biovision ) found that the plant had disappeared from South Africa and central Kenya

Now, according to the very people who are harvesting it in the wild, it is getting rarer still. “I am overwhelmed by the demand,” a man who collects and sells mukombero told Radio Netherlands. “Even in the forest where I get it from, I have to go in much deeper to get a mature plant. It is running out.” Another vendor told Kenya’s Daily Nation that he has to walk deeper and deeper into the forest to find the precious plant: “These days, it takes many hours of painstaking searching to get a mature plant.

Even as the plant is disappearing from the wild, foreigners are studying it and, if you believe the hype, preparing to sell it back to Kenyans. Kavaka Mukonyi Watai, head of bioprospecting for the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), told the Daily Nation newspaper that mukombero is being grown as a ” cash crop ” in Florida and China. He did not identify any actual companies growing the plant to back up his claims. “The Chinese must have obtained it from the region without informing communities that they could benefit from commercialization of their natural resource,” he said. The KWS itself runs a small factory to commercialize the plant.

Now here’s the unexpected part of the story: Unlike tiger penises and sea turtle eggs and so many other species used for so-called traditional medicine, there might actually be a grain of truth to the myth of mukombero’s virility-enhancing powers. An article published June 19, 2010, in the Journal of Pharmacology and Toxicology (available on Science Alert ) suggests the likelihood of using M. whitei as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, although the study did not detail any mechanism. The study was funded by the Tianjin Science and Technology Foundation and the National Natural Science Foundation, both of China.

The Kenya Wildlife Service does not list mukombero as an endangered species, but as a ” priority” wildlife species for which farming may be allowed with special permits.

Photo: Mukombero ( Mondia whitei) for sale in a Kenyan market, via the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

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  1. 1. alan6302 12:37 pm 07/30/2011

    Big Pharma will intervene to suppress this info

    Link to this
  2. 2. mich71 5:46 pm 07/30/2011

    Sounds like you need the drug more then him. Coincidentally there are drugs to treat exaggeration and denial problems. Why not give some a try?

    Link to this
  3. 3. OBagle 9:16 pm 07/30/2011

    It is not inconceivable that there is truth to the claimed efficacy of the white’s ginger. I have experimented extensively with DHEA (extracted from a S. American tuber) and was dumbfounded at the remarkable effects, not just in the all-too-important race to cure erectile dysfunction, but also for nearly the entire spectrum of senescence related degenerative ailments.

    But, which do you think will actually go extinct first – a plant or its human harvesters? Glycophosphates (Roundup), Agent Orange, or Paraquat couldn’t even keep weeds out of the cracks in a Brooklyn sidewalk. 100 million cattle in the U.S. couldn’t strip bare in 100 years what record flooding and wildfires have done in just the last 3 years.

    The audacity of this article in presuming that there is a preoccupation with decadent sexual pleasure in Africa is outrageous. Even if true, Africans are generally listed as "low-priority" in the event that "erectile assistance supplements" had to be rationed. What is the purpose of denying that malnutrition is the real cause of extensive and indiscriminate foraging? So that charitable efforts can be more accurately directed towards the truly needy denizens of American trailer parks?

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  4. 4. lamorpa 8:57 am 08/1/2011

    "It never disappoints, my wife is one happy woman," one Kenyan man told Radio Netherlands Worldwide . "Mukombero allows me to go the extra mile and be naughty with other women as well, it has guaranteed results.

    Translation: Spread AIDS to family and children.

    Link to this
  5. 5. lamorpa 9:01 am 08/1/2011

    Mitch71: Why would Robert Schmidt need a drug to treat his reasonable, realistic view of the world? He was responding to a comment that eluded to a theoretical global conspiracy by pharmaceutical companies. I’m sure it was just a flip comment, but if not, he was correct to suggest paranoia was at it’s root.

    Link to this
  6. 6. jgrosay 5:26 pm 08/1/2011

    Is this the drug called "Yohimbine", that was withdrawn from the market they said because of problems in the raw material supply ?. It seems it was useful for cattle, but I heard a guy that gave it to some girls inside the drinks in a party, that "the one who is hot, is hot, and the others won’t get hot even with an stove"

    Link to this
  7. 7. Quinn the Eskimo 11:13 pm 08/3/2011

    Maybe we should start the story about Broccoli being an excellent potency drug. Especially in LARGE quantities!

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