‘Viagra’ grows on trees in South Africa

The root of the wild Mpesu tree (Securidaca Longepeduculata) found in the villages of the Venda district near the Kruger National Park along the border with Zimbabwe, is said to be the source.

The compound extracted from its root and consumed with tea and other traditional drinks has been shown to relax the muscles of the male sex organs, sending a rush of blood that results in enhanced erections, according to researchers quoted in news media.

“You just have to see the local male population roving about with a spring in their step to realise their claims to being ‘the most sexually potent men on earth’ might be valid,” the Johannesburg-based Sowetan newspaper said in an article published Friday.

Botanists have confirmed the effects of the tree that has reportedly long been known to and exploited by traditional healers in the area.

A teaspoon of the medicine sells for around 50 rand (about 7 dollars), DPA reported.

“Though the active ingredients differ from Viagra, our tests showed it is just as effective,” Marion Meyer of the botany department at the University of Pretoria was quoted as saying.

Villagers jealously guard the trees and only local tribal chiefs have authority to sell the crushed roots, the newspaper said.

Many of the trees in and around the area’s Brackenridge Nature Reserve have, however, been mutilated or were dying, according to the Sowetan.

Village elders warn of the dangers of the tree’s powers, recommending that men who use its root, refrain from ingesting large quantities and do so only when they are sure their sexual partners are available for intimacy and when they are close to home.

What is Securidaca Longepeduculata
The effects of Securidaca longepedunculata root extract on ionic currents and contraction of cultured rat skeletal muscle cells.

The effects of the primary extract roots of Securidaca longepedunculata were tested on sodium, calcium and potassium currents in rat skeletal muscle cells developed in culture. In addition, they were tested on depolarisation-induced contraction and resting intracellular calcium levels. S. longepedunculata extract (10(-6) g/l) increases sodium current at all potentials. No clear effect was observed on calcium current except for a slight increase at negative potentials (-30, -10 mV) revealing a 5 mV shift towards negative potentials of the I(Ca)/V curve, as with potassium current. In contrast, at the same concentration, S. longepedunculata enhanced the contractile response elicited by durable depolarisation. This was not attributable to the slight increase in resting intracellular free calcium concentration which did not change during and following S. longepedunculata application. These results strongly suggest that S. longepedunculata root extract contains one or more components acting on the voltage-sensor of excitation-contraction coupling (dihydropyridine receptors), regardless of its implication as a calcium channel.

Securidaca Longepedunculata Fers (Polygalaceae) is commonly used as a traditional medicine in many parts of Africa as well as against a number of invertebrate pests, including insects infesting stored grain. The present study showed that S. Longepedunculata root powder, its methanol extract, and the main volatile component, methyl salicylate, exhibit repellent and toxic properties to Sitophilus zeamais adults. Adult S. zeamais that were given a choice between untreated maize and maize treated with root powder, extract, or synthetic methyl salicylate in a four-way choice olfactometer significantly preferred the control maize. Methyl salicylate vapor also had a dose-dependant fumigant effect against S. zeamais, Rhyzopertha dominica, and Prostephanus truncates, with a LD100 achieved with a 60 l dose in a 1-l container against all three insect species after 24 hr of exposure. Probit analyses estimated LD50 values between 34 and 36 l (95% CI) for all insect species. Furthermore, prolonged exposure for 6 days showed that lower amounts (30 l) of methyl salicylate vapor were able to induce 100% adult mortality of the three insect species. The implications are discussed in the context of improving stored product pest control by small-scale subsistence farmers in Africa.

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