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“Herbal” Supplements for Erectile Dysfunction

What do we know about herbal/natural preparations that “enhance sexual function”? Many preparations advertised as “herbal” or “natural” claim to help sexual/erectile function, implying that they treat erectile dysfunction.

Under worldwide legislation, these preparations are dispensed without a medical prescription as dietary supplements, practically without any control.

A study recently published (Campbell et al., 2013) aimed to investigate the composition, potential adulteration, and cost of 91 such formulations available in the US with a price range of $3 to $18.

According to the results, 81% (74) of the preparations contained an amount of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors or similar substances, i.e., known erectile enhancement drugs.

Specifically, they contained tadalafil and/or sildenafil, and indeed, 18 of them contained amounts up to 110% greater than the maximum allowed dose! However, none of the formulations indicated that they contained them.

In addition, false facts and omissions were found in the information listed on the formulations – e.g., although phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors have an absolute contraindication for co-administration with nitrites, 14 out of 58 “natural” or “herbal” products did not state this.

The above proves that the market is full of fake preparations, as no natural or herbal preparation has so far proven to be effective in treating erectile dysfunction.

What is the best way to treat erectile dysfunction? The first step for a man experiencing an erection problem is to visit a specialist doctor so that the causes of the problem can be determined. Then, depending on the clinical assessment and the individual needs of the patient, the doctor will suggest the most appropriate treatment strategy, which in most cases includes the administration of phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors.

However, the patient must know how the drug works, what to expect from it, know the possible side effects, and especially the contraindications. For all these reasons, the appropriate treatment must always be recommended by a specialist doctor. Unfortunately, the above study confirms similar results of earlier studies and raises significant concerns about the use of herbal preparations to improve sexual function.


Campbell N, Clark JP, Stecher VJ et al. (2013) Adulteration of purported herbal and natural sexual performance enhancement dietary supplements with synthetic phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitors. J Sex Med 10:1842-1849.


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