Herb Viagra: Understanding the Risks

Ah, convenience store penis pills: the final solution to all that ails your manhood. 

That confidence-inspiring packaging somewhere between THC edibles and a new gum brand is so reassuring, and is definitely the sort of thing you want to wantonly put into your body to make your penis healthier, right?

Wrong. 

Herbal ED supplements — Herbal Viagra, Ginkgo biloba, ginseng — are more trouble than they are likely worth. Herbal ED meds and their over-the-gas-station-counter counterparts represent some serious concerns. 

At best, they’re unproven remedies for a problem with proven remedies. At the worst, they can be dangerous and sometimes illegally produced compounds with serious health implications. 

Here’s why you really want to avoid them — either until more significant studies have been done, or they’ve been more thoroughly studied.

What Is Herbal Viagra and How Is It Different from Viagra

Viagra belong to a class of medications called phosphodiesterase 5 inhibitors, more commonly known as  PDE5 inhibitors — medically-prescribed drug treatments which, when taken properly, can increase blood flow to and maintain erections. 

It has been thoroughly tested through decades of medical research, and found to be a safe and proven treatment.

Herb Viagra, on the other hand, is, well, none of these things.

Put simply, herbal viagra is an unregulated supplement promising the same effects as prescription ED medications like Viagra though “natural” compounds. 

Natural may seem like a comforting word, but mercury and cyanide are both naturally occurring, as are black widow spiders. Get it?

Herb Viagra has about as much in common, legally speaking, with Viagra as a can of Dr. Pepper has with a doctor.

The Herbal Viagra Players

There are a few more prominent players in the herbal Viagra game that you may have heard of. 

Epimedium or horny goat weed, for example, has been shown to provide small benefits to erectile dysfunction in testing on animals, but there are no significant human studies showing these effects can translate to people. 

There’s also red ginseng and L-arginine: two products frequently marketed for ED. Both lack much scientific evidence for ED treatment.

Yohimbine is one of the few herbal ED treatments with limited research suggesting it may  increase libido, but it isn’t clear how yohimbine measures up to regular ED medications. 

Furthermore, like the other herbs listed above, it can have a lot of side effects

Side Effects and Risks of Herb Viagra

Herbal ED treatments lack scientifically proven benefits for the most part, but the side effects and risks are pretty well established. 

Most of them can cause a variety of symptoms similar to those experienced with prescription ED medications, like headaches and blood pressure fluctuations.

But there are more serious symptoms that can really screw with your general Health. Yohimbine can cause hypertension, insomnia, and sweating. Ginseng can cause constipation and rash, and can be dangerous for people with diabetes. 

In rare cases, Ginkgo biloba can cause seizures. One study of L-arginine was stopped early because six people died compared with none in the placebo group. Men — especially those at risk of cardiovascular issues like heart disease — should be particularly careful.

And because these “medications” aren’t medically tested or produced with medical levels of rigor, they aren’t as safe. In 2015 the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) advised consumers that many products marketed as Herb Viagra. 

The reason? It contained a hidden drug ingredient. That ingredient, it turns out, was sildenafil, the active ingredient in the real version of Viagra, which was neither disclosed on the label nor, ya know, legal.

Is Herb Viagra Safe?

The point is, gents, that these medications are unsafe. Unlike traditional medications, they are not thoroughly vetted and are not help to the same standards of testing and safety. Period. 

And while it may seem like these supplements have no benefits to offer, the scientific evidence backing them is scarce at best.

There’s a reason this stuff isn’t sold in pharmacies, but rather in gas stations and bodegas next to the bin full of $2 DVDs like Paul Blart: Mall Cop. The reason is that, like a Paul Blart DVD, herbal ED treatments aren’t proven to treat any medical conditions. 

A 2013 review in the Pharmacognosy Review concluded:

“The available drugs and treatments have limited efficacy, unpleasant side effects, and contraindications in certain disease conditions. 

Due to unavailability of the safety data, unclear mechanisms, and lack of knowledge to support the extensive use of these substances, uses of these products may be risky to the human being.”

Do ED Treatment Right

If you’re struggling with ED or just beginning to see symptoms, there are better ways to address this problem than grabbing untested packets and pills off a shelf. 

The first and most important thing you should be doing if you’re in need of treatment is seeking out professional medical help.. 

Health care professionals will be able to address your particular needs, and help you find a safe and effective treatment. 

Plus, they might spot other conditions commonly associated with ED symptoms — everything from obesity and diabetes to anxiety and depression. 

And they may recommend treatments for these conditions in addition to your decreased performance.

In addition to lifestyle changes and therapy, you might also receive recommendations for things like tadalafil or sildenafil (Cialis® or Viagra®), which are prescription PDE5 inhibitors that regulate blood vessels in your penis, and are proven to help treat erectile dysfunction.

If you’re nervous or ashamed to consult a healthcare provider about this, you can stop worrying about that right there. 

ED is a fairly common condition, affecting an estimated 30 million to 50 million men nationwide. If you’ve got a group of four friends, at least one of them is potentially suffering from the same problem. 

Buying something less than safe off a rack to avoid difficult conversations is not a solution — if anything, it can potentially make things worse.

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.