The exclusive world on which sex supplements may help and which won't

Soft Science: the exclusive world on which sex supplements may help and which won’t

Author: Adam Campbell
Date: May 2002
From: Men’s Health(Vol. 17, Issue 4)
Publisher: Hearst Magazines, a Division of the Hearst Corporation
Document Type: Brief article
Length: 376 words


Men spend more than $2 billion a year on over-the-counter sex-enhancement supplements. But because the Food and Drug Administration doesn’t regulate supplements, “you can’t ever be sure of what you’re getting in those pills,” says Wayne Hellstrom, M.D., a urologist at Tulane University.

To come to some useful conclusions about what works and what doesn’t, the Sexual Medicine Society appointed six of the nation’s top researchers to look for hard science behind the claims of some common over-the-counter erectile dysfunction remedies.

Here’s what they found.


THE CLAIM: Improves bloodflow in the body, including, supposedly, the penis.

THE FACTS: While good research proves that ginkgo biloba does increase bloodflow to the brain, no studies have shown that it will do the same for the penis. But ginkgo may still help if your problem is psychological, says Ira Sharlip, M.D., president of the Sexual Medicine Society. “The placebo effect for men with erectile dysfunction is as high as 40 percent.” If you’re on a blood thinner, be extra careful about ginkgo.


THE CLAIM: The combination boosts libido by increasing testosterone.

THE FACTS: It also elevates estrogen, the female sex hormone, and too much estrogen can give you gynecomastia–man boobs. Even worse, the combo can slash your HDL (good) cholesterol by as much as 12 percent.


THE CLAIM: Acts on the area of the brain that controls arousal.

THE FACTS: Supplementing three times daily with 5.4 milligrams was more effective than a placebo in treating erectile dysfunction, according to studies in the Journal of Urology. The problem is that very few over-the-counter supplements contain enough real yohimbe. “Getting a prescription for yohimbe from a doctor is the only way to ensure that it’ll have enough of the active ingredient,” says Dr. Hellstrom.

Campbell, Adam


THE CLAIM: Used by cells in your artery walls to manufacture nitric oxide–a molecule responsible for relaxing the smooth muscle of your penis, resulting in increased bloodflow.

THE FACTS: A 1999 study in the British Journal of Urology found that 31 percent of men with erection problems who took 5 grams of L-arginine daily for 6 weeks improved their sexual function, compared with only 12 percent on a placebo.