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Our Bodies :: Better Sex In A Bottle? User Beware...

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Dear Dr. Levister: I suffer from erectile dysfunction. I can’t afford the drug Viagra. Recently, I heard a commercial for a liquid “natural supplement” claiming to work faster for half the cost of Viagra. Is this a safe alternative?

Dear L.C.: Many people yearn for a better sex life, at least if the growing number of performance-boosting supplements and their ads is any measure. Some of these remedies are marked as “natural alternatives” to the widely used prescription drug Viagra to treat erectile dysfunction. That is another name for impotence -- the related inability to have and or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse. We’ve all heard the in your face pitches for so-called natural supplements claiming to improve sexual performance. “On a scale of 1 to 10, before 1 was a 2, now I’m a 10!” the guy on the radio ads say are the same claims made for aphrodisiacs for centuries. A television ad portrays a portly man claiming to have lasted all night after taking Man Alive. With names like Go Man, Climagra, Better Man, and Herbal V, the great majority are aimed at men, though a few claim to also help women.
An erection depends upon many factors, including blood supply and nerve tissue in the penis, as well as hormones and psychological factors. Some ingredients commonly found in natural supplements are supposed to affect these factors, and in a few cases there is a legitimate basis for such claims. But most of the supplements on the market today contain ingredients which range from promising to dubious to dangerous. Our problem: the labels often don’t tell you exactly what’s inside, and rarely in what amounts. And even if they tell you, they may not be accurate.
The four most common ingredients found in these supplements are L-arginine, an amino acid, androstenedione, best known as the athletic aid used by Mark McGuire during his 70-home-run 1998 baseball season, yohimbe, made from the bark of an African tree and ginseng, regarded as an aphrodisiac (and virtual cure-all). Countless other herbs and concoctions -- claim to enhance sexual performance and sex drive. User beware: the side effects of these compounds are largely unknown, especially when taken with certain prescription medications. Viagra won’t help everyone and yes, at $10.00 a pill, its expensive, but at least its benefits and sides effects have been well studied.
Seek medical advice before wading in unknown waters. There are a variety of other medical solutions to erectile dysfunction to include suppositories, injections and implants.

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