Men in far northern South Africa turn to nature when seeking to achieve the effects of the male impotency drug Viagra, it emerged in news reports.
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," Johannesburg-based newspaper Sowetan said.
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 ($7).
"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 are dying, it said.
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.