BY EVANS MATHANDA
THIRTY-TWO-year-old Takunda Dube says he has been battling erectile dysfunction and decreased libido since he was 21.
The condition is common, but can be a frustrating and embarrassing experience for many.
“I could not maintain an erection and that problem started when I was 21.
“I tried medical doctors, but I still can’t get a sustainable solution,” Dube said.
But Dube says he never gave up and has been drinking all types of concoctions as his body was also not responding to other sex enhancing tablets such as Viagra.
It was not until the day he was directed to downtown Harare where there are tuckshops that sell a 330ml “drink” known as “kombucha”, which is proving popular with men with decreased libido.
The neatly branded brown and white 330ml bottle of kombucha retails for US$1
“But after I started using kombucha drink, I am happy though I still hunt for a permanent solution as the thought of getting married sometimes scares me,” Dube said.
Now I make sure that I have one extra Kombucha drink in case it’s out of stock.
Kombucha is a fermented drink made with tea, sugar, bacteria and yeast.
It is made by adding the colony to sugar and tea, and allowing the mix to ferment.
The resulting liquid contains vinegar, vitamins and a number of other chemical compounds, according to Mayo Clinic.
Another satisfied customer, who spoke to this publication on condition of anonymity, said peer pressure pushed him to buy the Kombucha drink.
“I used it once and my wife questioned me why I had so much energy.
“I think Kombucha drink was specifically made to boost male sexual libido,” he said.
“I usually buy Tadalafil from the pharmacy to treat erectile dysfunctional but I cannot afford to buy them every time, so I only have sex when I have money to buy the medication.”
So many people resort to street herbs instead of modern drugs for treatment of their health problems despite the negative impacts of uncertified medicinal herbs on people’s health.
Erectile dysfunction can occur at any age, but it is more common in men older than 75 years of age, according to urologist Milton Lakin.
It can also be the result of something as benign as a medication side effects to a different health condition entirely.
Other causes include hormonal imbalances, diabetes, obesity, neurological issues, nerve disorders, untreated mental health problems such as depression, and anxiety.
But an underlying condition does not even have to be present.
A lack of sleep, stress or having one drink too many can also cause challenges in the bedroom.
Harare medical doctor Johannes Marisa said people were resorting to traditional drugs due to their affordability and some perpetuated beliefs that they were effective.
“There is a general belief that conditions like sexual dysfunction can be rectified by the use of traditional drugs and because some people believe that sexual dysfunctional is a result of misfortune or evil spirits, which makes people resort to traditional drugs,” Marisa said.
“The issue of affordability of western drugs that are used to treat erectile dysfunction is a cause of concern.
“Drugs like Tadalafil, Sildenafil are not affordable to everyone, which makes people resort to street drugs or drinks like Kombucha.”
Kombucha is smuggled from Zambia.
One of the dealers told The Standard that they pay bribes to police, army and Zimbabwe Revenue Authority (Zimra) officials at legal and illegal crossing points to smuggle the drinks.
“We communicate before we even reach the border and give the car details, like the colour, number plate and the type of a car,” he said.
“So when we arrive, they don’t open to check what we are carrying because we would have communicated with them before.”
Zimra official also said the product was being smuggled into the country.
Zimra head of communications Francis Chimanda said: “There is no record of its importation or any encounters with the product during our various enforcement activities at points of entry or any other areas under Zimra’s jurisdiction.”
Customers who are between 30 to 40 years buy Kombucha drinks as soon as the grocery tuck-shops along Mbuya Nehanda Street in Harare open in the morning.
According to the wholesalers and retailers, only male customers buy Kombucha drinks.
“Usually we open our shop around eight in the morning and our first customers are males who buy Kombucha drinks every day,” Portia Moyo said, pointing to the one bottle of Kombucha in a refrigerator.
“My male friends who use it say the drink is very effective for erectile dysfunction treatment.
“We sell more than 60 bottles per day and we have made sure that we always have it in stock because it’s on demand since February this year.
“We only display one bottle and we sell from the storeroom since we heard some people saying it’s illegal.”
Police spokesperson Assistant Commissioner Paul Nyathi said police were still engaging with the Medicines Control Act of Zimbabwe for an official position.
“Some say it is a traditional herb to clean the male system and some say it is a concoction to boost male sexual potency so there is no one position…we are still engaging the MCAZ so that we analyse it and come up with one position,” Nyathi said.
“However, as it may, smuggling is a criminal offence.”
MCAZ acting director-general Richard Rukwata reiterated that the Kombucha drink was just a fermented tea with perceived health benefits.
“Kombucha is very popular in some Asian countries and it’s sold as a soft beverage in Asian states and in many other places in the world. If people are buying it and it’s very popular we do not believe there is anything nefarious about that,” Rukwata said.
The Zambian made Kombucha drink is so popular that there is now a Zimbabwean version of the ‘Kambucha’ drink manufactured in Harare which some say it is an imitation.