Unregulated sexual enhancement products often contain dangerous ingredients
The Internet is filled with products marketed as alternatives to Viagra. You can easily find ads touting “all-natural Viagra” or “over-the-counter” erectile dysfunction (ED) medication with a quick Google search. However, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns against these products, as they can cause adverse reactions and contain unlisted ingredients.
This article reviews the FDA warnings and evidence against using unregulated products to treat ED. Read on to learn more about products and ingredients to avoid when treating ED.
What is “Natural Viagra?”
Products marketed as “natural Viagra” or “all-natural” sexual enhancements can easily be found online. The majority of these products are made from a blend of supplements or herbs, caffeine, and other unlisted ingredients. They claim to treat ED naturally and without a prescription. They may or may not be natural, and they are not Viagra.
The majority of these branded supplemental blends have not been tested in clinical conditions. Because supplements are currently unregulated in the United States, these products do not have to undergo rigorous evaluation to demonstrate their claims. Men who report stronger erections or more fulfilling sexual experiences when taking these drugs may be experiencing a placebo effect.
Many of the products marketed for treating ED over-the-counter are proprietary blends, so not all the ingredients are disclosed to the consumer. There is no guarantee as to what these products contain or the dosage of the ingredients that are listed. Because they are not prescribed medications, there is no consistency for dosage per consumer either.
Products advertised as “all-natural” or “herbal Viagra” often contain one or more of the following substances:
- B vitamins
- Ginkgo biloba
- Horny goatweed
- Red ginseng
There are many examples of proprietary supplemental blends on Amazon. The reviews for these products are usually mixed, and there is no research to support the products’ claims. Consumers should thoroughly review products and speak with their medical provider before beginning any supplemental product to treat ED.
What Other Supplemental Products are On the Market?
Beyond “natural Viagra” and “all-natural” sexual enhancements, consumers can also access pure herbs or supplemental blends over-the-counter aimed at treating ED. These include regular herbs, such as maca root, ginseng, or saffron. Many herbs are used in eastern medicine to treat ED, but there is limited research to back up these claims.
These herbs can be found in natural markets, online, and in the average grocery aisle. However, the dosing and blend for each supplement vary, and it can be risky to try this at home. Men should always speak with their medical provider before using any herbs to treat their ED symptoms.
FDA Regulation of Supplements
The FDA does not monitor or approve supplements as regulated products. This means supplements are not required to undergo the same evaluation as either prescription or over-the-counter medications. The FDA is also not able to recall supplements or ban them unless they are able to demonstrate the supplement is unsafe for consumption.
Several products self-labeled and promoted as “herbal Viagra” have been banned by the FDA once they were deemed unsafe for consumption. However, similar products remain on the market uncontested. Consumers should always read the labels and recalls of these herbal products prior to purchasing.
Consumers should also pay close attention to the following cautions:
- Listed ingredients. Many of these supplements contain herbal ingredients. Some of these ingredients may be considered unsafe for consumption, especially for consumers who have a serious medical condition (e.g., heart disease).
- Product dosage. It is difficult to determine the appropriate dosage with blended supplements. Certain doses may interfere with someone’s prescription or over-the-counter medications. The concentration of active ingredients may also vary from product to product or dose to dose.
- Potential unlisted ingredients. Some of these herbal supplement blends have been found to contain unlabeled ingredients, including active ingredients of common ED medications (e.g., sildenafil citrate).
FDA Warnings Against “Natural” ED Products
The FDA maintains an ongoing list of public announcements regarding tainted sexual enhancement products. Each and every recall or warning for one of these products can be found on the FDA’s website, so consumers can check this list regarding any products they have considered purchasing. They have stated that the trend of tainted over-the-counter sexual enhancement products is a growing problem in the United States.
The FDA has consistently warned the general public to beware of using any unregulated over-the-counter products marketed for sexual performance enhancement or ED. Products, especially dietary supplements, labeled as “all-natural” have been found to contain dangerous unlisted ingredients. A scientific review of more than 300 of these products revealed that the majority contained unlisted prescription medications such as Viagra.
Unlisted drugs can cause severe reactions in people living with chronic conditions or already using other prescription medications. People already taking Viagra or other ED medications can experience adverse effects when taking these products. Consumers can only be certain of the ingredients within their products if they take FDA-approved medications offered by trusted retailers.
The FDA and Harvard Health have both warned against taking products that contain the following active ingredients, as they are commonly flagged as tainted or fraudulent:
- Gingko Biloba
- Horny goatweed
What Safe and Effective ED Medications are On the Market?
Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors are the oral medications currently approved by the FDA to treat ED. These medications work by increasing blood flow throughout the body and to the penis. Most medical providers prescribe these oral medications in combination with lifestyle changes (e.g., diet and exercise) for patients to achieve optimal results.
PDE5 inhibitors have been clinically studied for several decades for use in treating ED and other forms of sexual dysfunction. Research has shown drugs like Viagra to be effective in approximately 70 percent of men living with ED. They are safe for most men to use under the direction of a medical provider.
Several brand-name and generic medications have been approved by the FDA to treat ED. These medications are available by prescription only but are approved for most men to use. The list of approved medications includes:
- Cialis (tadalafil)
- Levitra and Staxyn (vardenafil)
- Stendra (avanafil)
- Viagra (sildenafil)
Herbal Supplements vs. Prescription Medication
Herbal supplements and over-the-counter sexual enhancement products have not been rigorously studied or approved to treat ED. The effectiveness of sexual enhancement products or herbs like maca remains unknown. Online reviews of such products also reveal mixed results.
The FDA has approved oral prescription medications such as Viagra for use in most men living with ED. Research supports the use of these medications in treating ED as well as other forms of sexual dysfunction. Consumers should use treatment methods that have been researched and demonstrated as safe rather than risking dangerous health outcomes with untested supplements.
Where Can I Access Erectile Dysfunction Treatment?
Fortunately, accessing safe and effective prescription lifestyle medication is easier than ever, thanks to our services at eDrugstore.com. You can schedule a free telehealth appointment and choose from a variety of trusted medications, such as Viagra, online. Learn more about erectile dysfunction medications by visiting eDrugstore.com today.
Shelby is a public health professional with research and field experience in sexual and reproductive health. She holds a Master of Public Health (MPH) and is a Certified Health Education Specialist (CHES).