Some time back, a relative came to me with what she thought was outrageous news; her elderly uncle had just passed away in a small village in Jalingo. The old man in his seventies had just married a new bride and entered her room at night. Barely an hour later, the young girl came out in hysterical- the old man had passed out. A few minutes later he was confirmed dead and by morning he was buried six feet under the ground. Immediately, rumours started flying around that the new bride was cursed with evil spirits, while another version spiced it up by alleging that it was her old boyfriend who cast a spell on the old man. His other wives were also not left out as they were accused of using ‘Juju’ to finish off the old man as revenge for taking a new bride.
As she was narrating the story to me, I was overcome by a fit of laughter. It was definitely not the reaction she was looking for how could I be laughing when she just gave me news of death? Her eyes widened as I told her that the man had probably died ‘in active service’ after consuming a local concoction of ‘maganin qara kuzari’ or ‘horse power’ as it’s fondly called. How could I be so sure? She argued. I was not, but I was willing to bet my next paycheck that that is what happened.
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It is no secret that Nigerians openly consume a lot of herbs disguised as aphrodisiacs. Indeed, the consumption of “Kayan Mata” and “maganin maza” in Northern Nigeria, particularly, is a practice that is as old as time itself. People of the North West are, especially known for this practice as it is an important part of their culture. Brides are given various concoctions to drink and apply before they marry; after which they will continue to use through their marital lives. Husbands buy it for their spouses and it is not uncommon to hear it being advertised by men through blaring microphones in markets and mosques. Women who fear losing their husbands, want to ward off the second wife, or enrich time spent between the sheets, are secretly taking their chances with untested ‘aphrodisiacs’ in northern Nigeria.
Lately, in this digital age, these aphrodisiacs are being sold online by Chinese companies and on Instagram by women who have attained fame and fortune selling their products to gullible people.
I remember a story a colleague told me about a woman admitted in a hospital for food poisoning. After being interrogated by the doctor, she admitted to taking a powder packaged in a small carton with a foreign inscription on it. A woman had sold it to her for twenty thousand Naira and claimed it would do wonders. When produced, the pack had a picture of a man and a woman, sparsely clothed and lying on a beautiful rug and underneath the picture was writing in a foreign language. As it was being passed around, a doctor who had trained in Turkey recognized the language and immediately translated it for us. Dear Nigerians, do you know what it was? Carpet cleaner! The naive woman had foolishly ingested a chemical meant for cleaning carpets and had landed in a hospital severely dehydrated from vomiting, diarrhea and abdominal pain. She was lucky she survived.
When we were children, we often heard stories of men dying “in their sleep” but now, as a doctor I realize that most of those stories were untrue. It is appalling really, the lengths to which people go to achieve sexual fulfilment. And although the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and NAFDAC has determined that all these non-medicinal approaches are ineffective, people still follow their heart’s desire in search of the perfect catalyst for love.
While I am not against the use of aphrodisiacs, the question that we need to ask ourselves is: What exactly are we consuming?
What is in these so-called medicines is often difficult to tell. A study conducted at the University of Kano’s department of Nursing Sciences and Applied Health Sciences showed that nearly half the study participants used local medicine and aphrodisiacs. It also showed that there was no regulation of the so-called medicines and very little knowledge of what was actually inside them. It urged doctors, nurses and other medical staff to ask their patients about their use of traditional medicine as well as the need for further studies on the ingredients and their effects on the body.
While there are many products that purport to increase sexual desire and pleasure, the effectiveness of aphrodisiacs has not yet been firmly established. Research has often failed to show the effectiveness of some substances and, in some cases, has even shown that some substances may have adverse side effects. For example, the National Centre for Complementary and Integrative Health reports that Yohimbe, a compound derived from the bark of the African yohimbe tree that has been used as an aphrodisiac, has been linked to heart attacks, seizures, high blood pressure, and stomach problems.
The Primary Health Institution Management Agency (PHIMA) of Kano state recently instituted a ban on the advertisement of aphrodisiacs and other substances at public gatherings. These men often go about screaming at the top of their lungs obscenities in mosques and markets in the name of advertisement. Sometimes I cringe in my car when I hear the way they market their products.
A while back, some private pharmacies were closed when it was discovered that they were administering testosterone hormone by injection to elderly men with erectile dysfunction. Can you imagine the risk? Some of the men who were injected were tested and found to have high levels of Prostatic specific antigen (PSA) which is indicative of prostate cancer. Pray tell- what is wrong with us?
The key to the use of aphrodisiacs is to know exactly what you are consuming. These traditional herbalists have now gotten smarter as they now lace their powder with the blue pill-Viagra- at high doses, crushed and mixed with corn powder to give it a more ‘traditional’ look. The problem arises when the man who uses it has an underlying heart condition or chronic illness that he is not aware of. Many men with uncontrolled hypertension have suffered a stroke during sexual activity because they consumed concoctions in doses that were too much for their hearts to handle.
A satisfying connection in the ‘other room’ is often cited as an important part of a healthy and happy relationship, so it’s no wonder there is such a tremendous amount of interest in finding products that can make sexual activity more enjoyable. However, it should not come at the cost of one’s health and finances.
Dear women, save that money you were going to use to buy ‘Kayan Mata’ from one Hajiya Dellu and buy yourself sense. Men, go to the hospital and get evaluated before consuming any tablets or concoctions.
A word is enough for the wise. Kar garin neman gira a rasa ido.
First published 12 June 2021