Uganda's "Sex Tree" Risks Extinction

A Ugandan tree used to treat impotence faces possible extinction, warns researchers from Makerere University. The omuboro (citropsis articulata) may not get the same amount of press as rhino horns or tiger penises, but overuse in traditional medicine is rapidly depleted the country's forests of the slow-growing tree.

Local Ugandans probably aren't the only ones to blame for this species' decline. A 2005 paper in the journal African Health Sciences talks about citropsis articulata and other plant species and recommends studying them for use in commercial medicine.

(It should be noted that neither the Makerere University researchers nor the African Health Sciences paper dispute -- or prove -- the believed libido-enhancing power of citropsis articulata.)

Pharmaceutical companies have a habit of exploiting traditional medicine to "discover" new drugs from indigenous plants, and not sharing the profits with the peoples whose lore leads to patentable drugs. A symposium later this month will discuss how to protect citropsis articulata and other local species, and to keep ownership of scientific discoveries in Africa.

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Issue 25

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