Mukombero [Photo: Courtesy]

In the highlands and Western Kenya, you are likely to meet men along dusty roads chewing on a yellowish root. Ask why they love nibbling on the root and you are likely to receive a wild stare. Occasionally, the courteous ones will say, “Hii ni dawa (This is medicine).”

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Upon further prodding, you may be told what mukombero is really for: giving a man strength. If you are new to Western Kenya lingo, that is a euphemism for improving a man’s libido.

It is not just folks in Western Kenya who have this drive to cure men of bedroom incompetence. In fact, around the world, different cultures associate different consumables with increased sexual desire for a man (rarely is it for women). Some myths, connected to the Indian sub-continent, have claimed that tiger penises give their men an edge in terms of performance.

Who missed the quail revolution in 2013 and 2014! Quail eggs, we were told healed everything, well, except death. But of all the ‘powers’ that were pinned on the tiny birds, the most forthcoming one was that its eggs helped ‘redundant’ men get it up instantly. The list does not end there. Octopus soup, turtle eggs and a scorpion’s bite have all been mentioned in the same breath as having the magic that can make a man stand at attention where previously he was sexually disabled.

I wouldn’t mind a tiger penis or anything else for breakfast but would it really get me ‘hungrier’ than I already feel? “No amount of mukombero, tiger parts, bites or food will boost a man’s libido,” says Dr John Ong’ech. He adds: “All these are claims which have not been proven through studies and proper research.”

A healthy body, a healthy mind, a healthy soul, says Ong’ech, are enough to make any man or woman experience sufficient libido. Apart from Viagra - the chemically processed pill - which has proven libido potency, and other generic versions of it, Ong’ech says there is nothing else (especially of a biological nature) that can make a man more potent.

A good diet and daily exercise should do the trick that mukombero chewers and tiger penis munchers are looking for. As a plant, Ong’ech does not deny that mukombero may contain medicinal value. However, that does not automatically qualify it as an aphrodisiac.

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Sometimes, human beings will fail to respond normally to sex (or intimacy) not because they need ‘help’ but because they are either in the wrong state of mind, physical health or psychological well-being. There you go. If you are looking for octopus soup understand that it will only aid nutritionally – it has nothing to do with the phallus.