Guys, do you feel you're coming up a bit short in the bedroom? Do you want to satisfy your lady longer than ever? Want an all-natural alternative to Viagra? Well, we've got news for you…
It's all hype.
Despite the billions of bytes that land in e-mail boxes across the country promising potency, better sex and increased penis size, the fact remains that it's virtually impossible to improve on what nature has given you.
Yet that doesn't stop hundreds of companies and thousands of men from trying.
Ever since erectile dysfunction (ED) was determined to be a medical rather than a mental condition in 1983, followed 15 years later by the release of Viagra, the idea that a man could take control of his erections using external means has been steadily growing in popularity. This not only led pharmaceutical companies to produce drugs that correct a man's inability to get an erection, but also inspired thousands of entrepreneurs to try to sell guys on the idea of a magic product that would help them make magic in the bedroom. The products promoted by these get-big-quick schemes were overwhelmingly "natural" in nature, as such preparations are unregulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Unfortunately, the majority of these products simply don't work, and in some cases, contain chemicals that can't be called natural by any definition of the word.
Here, we look at five ways men could be hoodwinked into buying a product that promises to improve their sex lives.
Despite lots of evidence to the contrary, it seems that size really does matter -- especially to men.
In fact, in one English study, 85 percent of women said that they were satisfied with their partner's penis size. You'd think that would be good news for guys. Instead, only 55 percent of men indicated satisfaction with their equipment [source: LiveScience].
Another interesting finding was that more guys who had normal-sized penises were actually afflicted with small penis syndrome (SPS) -- aka locker room syndrome, or the anxiety that one's penis is too small when it really isn't -- than men who had penises with a length less than 3 inches (7.6 centimeters), known as micropenis.
So what exactly is normal-sized? The average non-erect penis measures between 3 to 4 inches (7.6 to 10.2 centimeters) and grows to 5 to 7 inches (12.7 to 17.8 centimeters) when erect.
So ignore the products that promise a bigger, better you, and don't stress -- especially since stress can lead to erectile dysfunction issues and problems with premature ejaculation.
According to the Mayo Clinic, "no reputable scientific research endorses or supports any type of nonsurgical penis enlargement." Furthermore, the FDA has never approved a pill or device for enlarging the penis.
That's because they don't work.
Instead, in all of those e-mail ads you get, promoters rely on anecdotal evidence and flat-out untruths to sell their products. Some promise inches, some promise ecstasy and all promise to take your money.
There are promoters making money off information. You pay for their eBook, which will detail a questionably ancient method (allegedly from Persia) that claims to grow your penis after you practice a stretching technique for 30 minutes a day.
Scientists say that if you could actually stretch your penis, you'd reduce the strength of your erections. Penile chambers aren't meant to be stretched; they're meant to remain tight, providing rigidity to the penis when filled with blood.
That's the size scam. What about performance-enhancing pills and herbs? Even the FDA-approved drug yohimbine, which is derived from the bark of the yohimbe tree, doesn't have solid scientific research backing it. The American Urological Association found that they couldn't definitively say how well yohimbine worked in treating ED, while another study found that the drug worked no better than a placebo [source: American Cancer Society].
If the biggest damage caused by male enhancement drugs is to your bank account, you're lucky. But as we'll see next, some herbs can actually do damage to more than just self-esteem.
Somehow, the herbal supplement industry has convinced us all that herbs are safer, kinder, gentler alternatives to pharmaceuticals. But let's not forget that Socrates died from a cup of hemlock and that the wrong kind of mushroom can send you on a trip from which you might not return.
So, even though the ads might promise you a "completely safe and natural" way to enhance your penile performance, you'll want to think twice as you consider the side effects of certain herbs.
Horny goat weed is one particular herb that's cropping up in health food store displays, where it's touted as a Chinese sexual tonic. It even shows up on the shelves of convenience stores in energy drinks. The problem is that when used over long periods or in high doses, it can cause vomiting, nosebleed or heart arrhythmias. Not quite a recipe for romance.
Ginkgo biloba is another popular herb used in cases of impotence, and some studies have shown that it helps men with impotence by dilating blood vessels. However, it can increase the risk of internal bleeding or extended bleeding, so it's vital to avoid using it before any surgery or if you're already taking blood-thinning medication.
Another natural substance that has gotten some attention for helping men with low testosterone is Dehydroepiandrosterone, more commonly known as DHEA. Unfortunately, it can alter the body's natural balance of sex hormones like testosterone and can cause acne, which might not make it best for a boost in the bedroom.
So if herbal supplements meant to be an alternative to Viagra don't really work, how did they gain so much popularity? Simple: Some of them contain Viagra.
In a 2002 recall of a Chinese herbal preparation, Health Canada found that it contained a substance that wasn't an herb and was suspiciously close to sildenafil -- the drug marketed as Viagra. Since that time, at least 50 other studies have identified sexual enhancement preparations tainted with pharmaceuticals, including PDE-5 inhibitors like tadalafil, which is marketed as Cialis, and vardenafil, which is sold under the name Levitra [source: O'Mathuna].
In some cases, these studies, including one that examined products seized in Singapore's red light district, turned up preparations that actually contained ED drugs in excess of the recommended daily dosages.
Looking closer to home, the FDA's Web site is littered with recalls of products that deliver a dose of drugs along with the promise of bedroom bliss. These products were recalled for containing prescription medications:
In fact, that's the biggest risk with these allegedly all-natural preparations. Men who take them don't know what they're really getting, and if they're taking medication for heart conditions (common among those suffering from ED), the results could be extremely dangerous.
If you choose to experiment with such products and they work, be warned that you're probably getting more than a few roots and leaves in your capsule.
This is perhaps the biggest myth of all when it comes to male enhancement techniques, pills and potions. Likely, a man embarking on a regimen designed to add inches to his penis or minutes to his performance is doing so because he thinks he'll somehow be happier with the results.
But stretching the penis can lead to nerve damage or torn blood vessels. Using pumps, which can help men with medically diagnosed ED, can also damage the elastic tissue in the penis, leading to a lifetime of less-firm erections.
Then there's surgery. In one technique, the suspensory ligament, which helps attach the penis to the pubic bone, is cut. This allows the penis to hang farther away from the body, increasing its length. However, this surgery could lead to penile deformity or unstable erections.
In other techniques designed to increase girth, skin is moved from other pubic areas to the penis, or fat -- taken from your own body or from a cadaver's -- is injected into the organ. In the first case, scarring and unusual hair growth could occur. In the second, much more serious side effects can emerge, including loss of sensation, loss of proper function and, should the fat be absorbed back into the body, an irregularly shaped penis.
If that happens, no one will be calling you Mr. Magic. So instead of seeking greater satisfaction from your endowment, it might be wiser to endow yourself with a greater sense of satisfaction for your natural-born gifts.
Could robots be used in the future as sex therapy tools? This piece of science fiction on HowStuffWorks investigates the possibilities.
- American Cancer Society. "Yohimbe." Nov. 28, 2008. (Nov. 8, 2010)http://www.cancer.org/Treatment/TreatmentsandSideEffects/ComplementaryandAlternativeMedicine/HerbsVitaminsandMinerals/yohimbe
- British Journal of Urology International. "The Penile Suspensory Ligament: Abnormalities And Repair." Medical News Today. January 2007. (Nov. 12, 2010)http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/62355.php
- Burling, Stacy. "Spam ads for 'male enhancement' just toy with men's egos." Knight Ridder/Tribune News Service. Jan. 26, 2004. (Nov. 8, 2010)http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-112568588.html
- The Independent. "'Herbal' impotence pills contain drugs." Nov. 12, 2010. (Nov. 6, 2007)http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P2-20098321.html
- LiveScience. "Penis Myths Debunked." June 1, 2007. (Nov. 5, 2007)http://www.livescience.com/health/070601_penis_myths.html
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- Mayo Foundation for Medical Information and Research. "Penis-enlargement scams: You're more normal than you think." May 22, 2009. (Nov. 3, 2010)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/penis/MC00026/NSECTIONGROUP=2
- Mayo Foundation for Medical Information and Research. "Penis pump." Aug. 28, 2009. (Nov. 11, 2010)http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/penis-pump/MY00795/DSECTION=results
- Meece, James. "Experts reveal truth about male-enhancement products." University Wire. Feb. 7, 2008. (Nov. 3, 2010)http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P1-148954434.html
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- O'Mathuna, Donal P., PhD. "'Herbal Viagra' Should Be Shunned." Alternative Medicine Alert. Aug. 1, 2010. (Nov. 10, 2010)http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-236006077.html
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- Smith, Michael. "When Stress Gets You Down." WebMD. May 12, 2003. (Nov. 10, 2010)http://www.medicinenet.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=51148
- US Fed News Service. "Debunking Myths About Male Enhancement Drugs." Nov. 12, 2010. (Nov. 6, 2010)http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1P3-1284557581.html
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Glow Industries, Inc. Issues Nationwide Recall of Mr. Magic Male Enhancer from Don Wands Amended." Aug. 19, 2010. (Nov. 8, 2010)http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ucm223082.htm
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration. "Nature & Health Co. Issues Voluntary Nationwide Recall of Six Male Enhancement Products Marketed as Dietary Supplements." July 15, 2009. (Nov. 3, 2010)http://www.fda.gov/Safety/Recalls/ArchiveRecalls/2009/ucm172264.htm
- Wanjeck, Christopher. "Penis Enlargement Products Come up Short." LiveScience. Feb. 20, 2007. (Nov. 5, 2010)http://www.livescience.com/health/070220_bad_mad_column.html
- Zavos, Panayiotis M. "Cigarette Smoking and Sexual Health." American Council on Science and Health. July 1, 2000. (Nov. 3, 2010)http://www.acsh.org/healthissues/newsID.646/healthissue_detail.asp