Andean root used to slow down male sex drive
Steve Connor is the Science Editor of The Independent. He has won many awards for his journalism, including five-times winner of the prestigious British science writers’ award; the David Perlman Award of the American Geophysical Union; twice commended as specialist journalist of the year in the UK Press Awards; UK health journalist of the year and a special merit award of the European School of Oncology for his investigative journalism. He has a degree in zoology from the University of Oxford and has a special interest in genetics and medical science, human evolution and origins, climate change and the environment.
Thursday 19 August 1993
Scientists believe that the tuber, the mashua root, contains powerful anti- aphrodisiacs that can calm the most active libido. It is said that the ancient Incas used to feed it to their soldiers to concentrate their minds before engaging in battle.
Dr Carlos Arbizu, an Andean crop specialist at the University of Ayacucho in Peru, described the powers of the root to delegates at the conference. Experiments on rats had shown that mashua reduced levels of testosterone - the male sex hormone - by half.
'Andean rural women use it to make concoctions to put surreptiously into their husbands' food before they go away to look for a job. They believe it will prevent them becoming unfaithful,' he said.
The tubers of mashua come in many colours and look like voluptuous carrots with eyes. 'The taste is not nice for the first time, it is rather bitter. But if the tubers are exposed to sun for two to three days and then boiled or baked, it is really delicious,' Dr Arbizu said.
Scientists believe the gene responsible for the active ingredient of mashua could be isolated and even genetically manipulated into, for instance, potatoes to make anti-aphrodisiac chips.
Dr Arbizu said he knows that some women in Peru use mashua as a natural method of birth control. An antidote exists in the form of another Andean vegetable, maca, which peasants claim can increase the sex drive. The only drawback is that it grows at an altitude of more than 4000m (13,100ft), which would make most men faint from lack of oxygen.
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