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Nature Aphrodisiac but misused.......

Updated on October 1, 2008

Genus Uncaria or Uncaria Gambier

Gambir misused as sex aid

Gambir or it's scientific 'uncaria gambier' or 'genus Uncaria', is a strong and popular local or traditional aphrodisiac in south east Asia region. It is an astringent substance extracted from a gambir plant of the madder family, chewed with betel nut. It is also used for tanning and dyeing. Beside that, it is commonly used and popular as an aphrodisiac.


In Sarawak particularly, it is popular for chewing with betel-nuts and the indigenous people even used it to cure gum infections and toothache as well as treat bites by insects, fish, snakes and other animals.

Today, gambir is a sought after nature product especially for sex aid aphrodisiac. It is not scientifically prove and dubious, but nowadays the popularity of gambir make some people even advertise it in the Internets for selling. The effectiveness of gambir as an aphrodisiac usually only known from oral views and explanation from person to person experience. How true it is, need for scientifically prove first.

As Dr. O. Phelps wrote in his book "The Complete Herbalist", gambir: Properties and Uses: It is employed as an astringent. In various affections of the mouth it is an efficacious astringent. It is also excellent as a stomachic in dyspeptic complaints, especially when accompanied with pyrosis. It should be used just before taking food. It is an excellent astringent in chronic diarrhoea and dysentery. Here I share a good finding from one of the borneo post journalist about gambir in Sarawak.

Gambir misused as sex aid

By Samuel Aubrey (Journalist:

Indigenous people use it as a traditional medicine to cure gum infections and toothache as well as to treat bites by insects, fish, snakes and other animals. It is also used as a leather tanning material. These days it is misused as an aphrodisiac - purportedly to boost men's ‘staying power'.

A TOUR guide once remarked gambir Sarawak was a very popular product among tourists and visitors, especially from the peninsula - so much so that it has lately become one of the most sought after Sarawak ‘souvenirs' after ikan terubok masin (salted terubok fish) and kerasah (rattan) mats.

Even Sarawakians working or studying in the peninsula constantly get requests for the product from friends. What's the secret behind its popularity? Apparently, gambir Sarawak derives its pulling power - as one might have already guessed - from its reputation as a sex aid, especially for men.

It is commonly sold along the five-foot way in India Street and in front of the Kuching Waterfront but the sellers are said to be unlicensed and operate from makeshift stalls.

These peddlers are constantly on the move - wary of enforcement officers - and can, understandably, be very careful and even evasive when approached by potential customers.

Their numbers are not immediately known but they can be easily picked out from the packets of gambir and other aphrodisiacs and bottles of minyak lintah (leech oil) and liquid gambir they are peddling.

Some even print instructions on the proper use of gambir which are given away to customers.

According to one peddler who asked for anonymity, weekends are the best times to sell his products.

"During weekends or public holidays, sales can go up to RM200 per day. Most people go for gambir," he revealed.

He believed the majority of his customers were above 40 years old.

"Gambir can prevent premature ejaculation. This is not just hearsay. Users have attested to this and they keep on coming back for more," he claimed.

Another peddler said the number of young customers had increased lately ... due to, he believes, the cheap price of gambir. Only RM5 for a piece weighing less than a gram.

"Normally, gambir is for husbands wishing to have a more satisfying relationship with their spouses.

"However, it worries me to see more and more young men buying gambir. I don't know if it is for pre-marital sex or if they are suffering from erectile dysfunction. What to do, I just sell to them. It's business for me," he added.

Those who have seen the gambir sold by the street peddlers might think it originates from tree barks. But gambir is not even a part of a tree - it's hardened liquid resin extracted from a tropical flowering vine known by its scientific name ‘uncaria gambier'.

This plant is found in the interior of Sarawak although, for some reason, gambir harvested from Long Panai in Marudi is popularly traded by peddlers.

Gambir has other uses and has been sold for different purposes in the early part of 1900s other than as a sex aid.

There is even a street in Kuching named after it - Gambier Street - as the product and other spices were briskly traded there in the early days.

It used to be popular for chewing with betelnuts and the indigenous people even used it to cure gum infections and toothache as well as treat bites by insects, fish, snakes and other animals. It's also known to be used as a leather tanning material.

According to the instructions passed on by the peddlers, gambir is very easy to use.

"Just tear a small piece of the gambir and place it in the palm of the hand. Apply a few drops of water on it and twirl it to ensure the water is properly mixed with the gambir. Then apply the mixture to the part of the body as required."

According to one peddler, some manufacturers have even ‘added value' to their gambir by mixing it with toad meat from China.

"This is supposed to add more oomph to the gambir," he said.

Despite the illegal peddling and the product's rather dubious reputation, the commercial potential of gambir is tremendous. There are many Internet sites offering delivery service to clients outside Sarawak.

Gambir twigs and leaves are also ‘hot' stuff in the traditional medicine sector. Ironically, these commodities sold in local Chinese traditional medicine shops are imported and not from Sarawak.

According to a sinseh (traditional medicine practitioner), gambir twigs and leaves are prescribed to calm ‘bodily wind' to relieve convulsions, and the liver as well as remove (or clear away) bodily heat.

"It can also lower blood pressure, and treat hypertension and dizziness," he claimed.

The sinseh wondered why interests to produce gambir in Sarawak for a larger market had dwindled even though the state was once well known for this commodity.

"Now, it seems gambir Sarawak is known for only one thing - as an aphrodisiac. In fact, it can be used for many useful purposes," he said.


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