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Erection in a Bottle? Buyer Beware ...

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Dr. Ernest Levister, Jr.
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 and Levitra. Is this a safe alternative?  L.C.

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 indication. Some of these remedies are marked as “natural alternatives” to widely used prescription drugs such as Viagra and Levitra to treat erectile dysfunction. Erectile dysfunction is another term for impotence – the related inability to have and or maintain an erection sufficient for sexual intercourse.

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 offer more promise than erection. One problem, the labels often don’t tell you exactly what’s inside, and rarely in what amounts. And even if they disclose the ingredients the labels 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. The side effects of these compounds are largely unknown, especially when taken with certain prescription medications. Viagra and Levitra are wildly popular drugs but

they aren’t for everyone. At $10.00 a pill, these drugs are expensive, but at least their benefits and sides effects have been well studied.

People with certain heart conditions should avoid erectile dysfunction medication.

Seek medical advice before wading into unknown waters.

There are a variety of other medical solutions to erectile dysfunction to include suppositories, injections and implants.

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