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Are Supplements the Solution for a Sex Life Gone South?


Herbs in Sexual Supplements

The following are among the herbal ingredients in the most popular sexual supplements:

Damiana. Popular as an aphrodisiac in Mexico, the plant-derived leaves and stems are available in tablet form, or the dried leaves can be prepared in a tea. But, advise Mayo Clinic experts, know that the product has not been tested in humans.

DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). The hormone produced by the adrenal glands is necessary for the production of testosterone as well as estrogen. Some small scientific studies have shown promise in helping men with low testosterone, but only a small minority of impotence problems can be blamed on low levels of the hormone.

Ginkgo. Bonnard's point: Ginkgo seeds and leaves can get a rise out of many men by getting "the blood flowing to the right spots." The Mayo Clinic's counterpoint: No solid evidence exists to indicate that ginkgo is an effective impotence remedy. Both camps agree that in some cases ginkgo can be dangerous. Because it can affect blood clotting, supplements containing ginkgo should be avoided by people taking prescription blood thinners.

Ginseng. Found as a dried root and available in a powder or liquid form, ginseng can also be prepared as a tea to be sipped slowly. The aromatic root is used as an aphrodisiac in Asia and has been shown to have some energy-boosting properties, but it is unknown whether impotence is directly affected by the herb.

Kava. It could be the root's mood-altering effects that help to resolve sexual troubles, such as low libido, caused by tension and anxiety. Kava probably won't do the trick for cases of "true ED," Bonnard says.

L-Arginine. This amino acid found naturally in fish, peanuts and beans increases the amounts of nitric oxide in the bloodstream, which increases blood flow. Because an erection requires blood flow to the penis, L-arginine should theoretically work against impotence, but little scientific research has been undertaken, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Maca Root. Though not tested in humans, the Peruvian herb has been shown to improve the penis power in male lab rats. And some men swear it has jump-started their sexual systems.

Muira Puama. Many Brazilians rely on the bush extract as an aphrodisiac — "potency wood" and "tree of verility" are among its nicknames — and some studies have suggested it can bring a man's member to life. Beware its side effects: Chills and allergies are among the most common ones.

Yohimbe. The yohimbe evergreen tree's dried bark is used in herbal remedies, but the bark has been listed as an unsafe herb by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The safer alternative: a strictly regulated prescription form of yohimbine, which is approved by the FDA as an impotence treatment.


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