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March 27, 2008

Chinese researchers domesticate African anti-impotence plant

Agriculture researchers at a Chinese government-run facility have successfully domesticated a plant dubbed "African Viagra" and will soon start using it to develop a drug to combat erectile dysfuntion, according to press reports March 26.

The plant, named vuka vuka in the African Nguni language, was imported from Malawi three years ago and the Taichung District Agricultural Research and Extension Station under the Cabinet-level Council of Agriculture has since been working on adapting the plant to the local environment.

Staffers at the station said vuka-vuka -- which means "wake up, come alive" -- is a herbal medicine used in some southern African countries as a treatment for low sexual desire and male sexual dysfunction, hence its nickname.

Chen Yuan-wu, director-general of the station, had specimens of the plant sent to Taiwan after being made aware of its efficacy from Malawian colleagues during his foreign agriculture service in Africa.

"We think it may be worthwhile applying vuka-vuka to commercial uses," Chen was quoted as saying while explaining the reasons for importing and studying the plant.

During preliminary testing on rodents, powdered vuka-vuka proved to carrying no or very low levels of toxic effect, while increasing the sperm count in male mice.

In addition, Chen's team believe that vuka-vuka root might also alleviate sciatic nerve pain and enlarged prostate in human patients.

Before the new drug development begins, Chen emphasized that further research is required to minimize safety concerns, but he said he believes in the plant's potential.

China Post

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