Be proactive! Do your research before using male herbal supplements

Men's Health

By pH health care professionals

You may have heard about the recent case of a famous athlete who was found unconscious after taking excessive amounts of sex-enhancing herbal supplements. Even though we may never know the whole story, we know there are inherent risks with excess use of stimulants, even if they are “herbal.” There are also risks of possible drug interactions, supplements being laced with undeclared sexual enhancers like Viagra- and Cialis-like substances, and possible contamination with unhealthy ingredients.

What are the actual risks in numbers?

A recent New England Journal of Medicine article found that energy supplements contributed to around 7,000 ER visits annually, and sex-enhancing supplements contributed to around 600 visits. This means energy enhancers have far more adverse health consequences than sex enhancers. However, keep in mind that many adverse reactions may go unreported.

What are the potential problems with sex-enhancing substances?

  • Poor ethics and standards. Unfortunately, supplement quality is not as tightly controlled as pharmaceutical drugs. Supplement manufacturers are required to produce products that are safe, but it  is largely up to them how they do it. The FDA generally gets involved when there are health hazard complaints or mislabeling. Legislation from 1994 actually puts the burden on the FDA to prove a product is not safe in order to stop production.
  • Spiking with other drugs. Some supplements may be spiked with other substances not listed on the label (this is a very common occurrence, according to the FDA). Hidden Viagra in an “herbal” supplement can interact with amyl nitrate (often recreationally used) or blood pressure/heart medication, causing blood pressure to drop dangerously low. Here is a list of tainted sexual-enhancement formulas found by the FDA
  • False claims. Federal regulations emphasize that health claims need to be based on research. However, companies can circumvent this by filling a new product with established regular vitamins, minerals and herbal substances from other manufacturers and then adding their own “secret formula.”  
  • Contaminants. Certain products have been found to contain unhealthy ingredients such as heavy metals or pesticides. Read this article from Consumer Reports.
  • Lack of research data about effectiveness of distributed supplement ingredients. Consumer Reports points out that only 1/3 of 54,000 dietary supplement products have some level of scientific data on effectiveness and safety.

What are some actions you can take to be proactive?

  • Know your supplement and its ingredients. Read up on ingredients, safety, side effects, and drug interactions. Being informed is your best defense. Read FDA warning letters for your supplement.
  • Choose products from a reputable supplement company. Is the company following Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and are they GMP-certified by an independent auditor? How many favorable consumer reviews are listed? Is the company doing its own research? How long has the company been in business? Does the company have a history of FDA warning letters? If you found your supplement on a mail-order website, and it does not have much information about who is behind the company or have a physical contact address, you may already be heading for trouble.

If you are not sure, talk to our knowledgeable doctors.

Enjoy Your Healthy Life!

 The pH professional health care team includes recognized experts from a variety of health care and related disciplines, including physicians, attorneys, nutritionists, nurses and certified fitness instructors. This team also includes the members of the pH Medical Advisory Board, which constantly monitors all pH programs, products and services. To learn more about the pH Medical Advisory Board, click here.