Have you ever wondered about the ingredients inside male enhancement supplements?

Here is some information about the 14 most common ingredients:

  1. Yohimbe
  2. Tribulus Terrestris
  3. Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia)
  4. Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
  5. Muira Puama
  6. Maca Root (Lepidium meyenii)
  7. L-Arginine
  8. Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium)
  9. Hawthorn Berry
  10. Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica)
  11. Fo-Ti
  12. Damiana
  13. Cayenne Pepper
  14. Catuaba Bark
1. Yohimbe

Yohimbe-barkYohimbe comes from the bark of Pausinystalia johimbe, a tree found in western and central Africa, specifically found in Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, parts of Angola, Nigeria, Gabon, and the Republic of the Congo.

It is thought that Pausinystalia johimbe is not the only source for yohimbe bark; rather, it is likely that a number of different trees in the region contain this substance in varying concentrations.

In its native land, people often use the bark to make teas. In both its native Africa and in the western world, it has become a favorite natural treatment for male enhancement.

How Does Yohimbe Work?

In its native Africa and in the western world, yohimbe’s “claim to fame” is based on its abilities as a cure for mild erectile dysfunction.

Unlike some other herbs that make this claim, yohimbe’s capacity in this area have been scientifically substantiated by western biomedicine, a rare feat for an herbal remedy, though the majority of studies have been conducted on animals.

Yohimbe or, more specifically, the active ingredient yohimbine, is a pre-synaptic alpha-2-adrenergic blocker that stimulates noradrenaline’s distribution in nerve endings, which results in a vasodilatory effect.

In other words, yohimbe’s active ingredient  facilitates the expanding of the blood vessels in the penis, encouraging greater blood flow and therefore, better erections.

It acts as a neurotransmitter (a chemical that relays messages and information throughout the body) that causes harder and longer erections in men and clitoral stimulation in women.

It is for these reasons that yohimbe is so often found in male enhancement supplements. However, the distinction between yohimbe and yohimbine must be made.

Yohimbe vs Yohimbine

Yohimbe refers to bark; yohimbine is the active ingredient that is extracted from that bark.

The difference between the two is that yohimbine is just that—pure yohimbine, with no other substances in it. It is highly concentrated.

Yohimbe is the raw material from which it comes, meaning that the yohimbine content is diluted and varies from bark to bark.

Yohimbine is an indole alkaloid that is only available by prescription due to its potency. Products that contain yohimbine are scientifically proven to alleviate symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

However, some men do not want to go to the doctor for their ED needs and therefore use natural herbal supplements, some of which include yohimbe.

The problem is that companies who make these products do not say how much of the active ingredient yohimbine there is in their formula, only the amount of yohimbe (and sometimes that information isn’t even shared).

This is a problem because sources of yohimbe don’t always contain enough yohimbine to make any difference In fact, when supplements containing yohimbe were analyzed, many were found to lack significant quantities of yohimbine, the active ingredient that is known to work.

For this reason, it should never be taken as a given that a supplement that includes yohimbe is actually effective.

Cautions

The risks associated with yohimbe have led many male supplement/enhancement products to leave them out of their formulas. Its potency comes with major drawbacks.

  • The most major of these is yohimbe’s documented history of causing kidney failure and heart failure. Those who are have kidney or heart problems should not take any supplement that contains yohimbe and no medication that contains yohimbine. It can cause hypertension and there are reports of hallucinations.
  • Headache
  • Tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Decreased urine production
  • Vomiting, diarrhea, and nausea
  • Anxiety
  • Chills and perspiration
  • Can cause symptoms that resemble those of lupus.

In short, before taking a supplement that contains yohimbe, check with the doctor to make sure it is safe.

Sources

Aronson, J.K. (2009) Meyler’s Side Effects of Herbal Medicines. Oxford: Elsevier.

Coates, Paul M. et al, eds. (2004) Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements. New York: CRC Press.

Miller, Richard Lawrence (2002) The Encyclopedia of Addictive Drugs. Westport, CT: Greenwood Publishing Group.

Ncaam.nih.gov, Yohimbe. Available from: http://nccam.nih.gov/health/yohimbe. (Accessed 7 December 2014).

Neurogistics.com (2014) What are Neurotransmitters? Available from: https://www.neurogistics.com/TheScience/WhatareNeurotransmi09CE.asp. (Accessed 7 December 2014).

Rätsch, Christian and Claudia Müller-Ebeling (2013) The Encyclopedia of Aphrodisiacs: Pscyhoactive Substances for Use in Sexual Practices. Rochester, VT: Bear & Co.

Schulman, Robert (2006) Solve It With Supplements: The Best Herbal and Nutritional Supplements to Help Prevent and Heal More Than 100 Common Health Problems. New York: Rodale Inc.

2. Tribulus terrestris
Tribulus_terrestrisTribulus terrestris, also known as puncture vine, is a a flowering plant found in tropical and temperate regions of Africa, Australia, southern Asia, and Europe, and it is an invasive species in North America, particularly prevalent in California and other parts of the American West.

While seen as beneficial in some regions of the world, particularly in Asia, other places do not regard it so fondly—it is called “puncture vine” for a reason.

Its seeds are spiny and almost impossible to remove from skin, animal paws, and even bicycle tires.

Traditional Uses

Both traditional Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine utilize Tribulus terrestris and have done so for thousands of years.

Westerners, as is usually the case in areas like herbal remedies, are a little late to the party, having only discovered the plant relatively recently.

In Chinese medicine, Tribulus terrestris is used for spermatorrhea, hives and itching, impotence, headaches, eye problems, skin lesions, dizziness, and vertigo.

Ayurvedic medicine believes that Tribulus terrestris is an effective cure for kidney stones, increases semen and urine production, and acts as an aphrodisiac.

Modern Use

While some people may take Tribulus terrestris for their kidney stone and bladder problems, it has really  made a home for itself within the male enhancement industry, appearing in numerous different formulas.

While evidence is still being compiled, there is some indication that the irritating and painful plant people write off as a nuisance is actually an effective way of boosting one’s sexual and physical performance.

The active component in the plant is steroidal saponins called protodioscin. Steroidal saponins are a phytochemical that helps the body to produce a greater amount of steroids, which then facilitates increased muscle growth and levels of testosterone.

Animal studies have shown that this compound causes proerectile and aphrodisiac effects in animals, though results in human testing are rather mixed.

Tribulus terrestris may also increase the levels of the hormone DHEA within the body, which is another trait that would be seen as beneficial to men looking to pump up either their bodies or their sex life.

Because of these abilities, Tribulus terrestris is seen as a substance that can be used to alleviate impotence, increase sperm count, boost sperm motility, and give the user greater energy and libido.

Cautions

For most people, Tribulus terrestris is generally safe to take in appropriate doses. Though there are an insufficient amount of  human studies to be able to say for sure what the side effects of the plant are.

Overdoing it can cause liver problems, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and restlessness.

Animals studies have indicated that it may cause the prostate to enlarge and increase blood sugar levels.

For these reasons, it is of the utmost importance that you speak to your doctor before you begin taking Tribulus terrestris.

Sources

Buhner, Stephen Harrod (2007) The Natural Testosterone Plan: For Sexual Health and Energy. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press.

Caldecott, Todd (2006) Ayurveda: The Divine Science of Life. Oxford : Elsevier Ltd.

Cannon, Joe (2013) Tribulus Terrestris Review Does it Raise Testosterone or Make Muscles Stronger? Available from: http://supplement-geek.com/tribulus-terrestris-review-testosterone/. (Accessed 7 December 2014).

Saxsma, Andrew Jay. What is Steroidal Saponins? Available from: http://www.ehow.com/facts_5525189_steroidal-saponins.html. (Accessed 7 December 2014).

Talbott, Shawn M. and Kerry Hughes (2007) The Health Professional’s Guide to Dietary Supplements. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

3. Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longifolia)
Tongkat_AliTongkat ali, or Eurycoma longifolia, is a small evergreen tree that is native to southeast Asia, particularly Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia, where its root has been used in traditional medicine for centuries.

In Vietnam, it is known as the “tree that cures a hundred diseases;” other places refer to it as the “Asian Viagra,” due to its popularity as an ingredient in sexual performance treatments.

It is a difficult herb to grow, but flourishes in well-drained and sandy soil with partial shade and regular watering

Uses

Separating fact from fiction when it comes to the ailments that tongkat ali supposedly cures is quite a challenge.

Among other conditions, tongkat ali has been said to treat jaundice, dysentery, malaria, diabetes, and gingivitis, but a lack of controlled scientific studies on tongkat ali means that most claims are so far unsubstantiated.

This is not to say that it does not work, only that there is not enough data to be able to say conclusively what benefits tongkat ali has.

Tongkat ali increases the body’s levels of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a chemical responsible for energy production.

It is used as an energy booster and a method of combating fatigue, especially after endurance exercise.

Tongkat ali is most known as a cure for erectile dysfunction, thus its moniker as the “Asian Viagra.” In fact, in the recent years since the western world has discovered tongkat ali, demand for it has skyrocketed, depleting the supply in several regions to the point that it is now a protected species in some areas.

Both the root and the bark increase libido, improve longevity, and enhance fertility for both sexes, although tongkat ali should not be used by pregnant women because it increases testosterone levels.

Bodybuilders have discovered tongkat ali for this very purpose, as it allows them to boost muscle mass and strength ; it is seen as alternative to harmful (and illegal) steroids

Tongkat ali also increases sperm count by enhancing spermatogenesis, the sperm-producing process.

Cautions

Tongkat ali should not be used by pregnant women or women that are breastfeeding, children, those with breast cancer, diabetes mellitus, heart disease, sleep apnea, liver disease, kidney disease, those with weakened immune systems or those taking immunosuppressant drugs, and men with prostate cancer.

Sources

Asianlibido.com (2014) The History of Tongkat Ali. Available from: http://asianlibido.com/history-tongkat-ali/. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Mulhall, John P. and Wayland Hsiao (2014) Men’s Sexual Health and Fertility: A Clinician’s Guide. Available from: http://books.google.com/books?id=Ma68BAAAQBAJ&dq=tongkat+ali&source=gbs_navlinks_s. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Puri, Ravi K. (2011) Natural Aphrodisiacs. Available from: http://books.google.com/books?id=zbRRAAAAQBAJ&dq=tongkat+ali&source=gbs_navlinks_s. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Willett, Brian (2013) Tongkat Ali Effects. Available from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/143714-tongkat-ali-effects/. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Wong, Cathy, ND (2014) Tongkat Ali: Health Benefits, Uses, Side Effects, & More. Available from: http://altmedicine.about.com/od/herbsupplementguide/a/tongkat_ali.htm. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

4. Saw Palmetto (Serenoa repens)
Saw PalmettoSaw palmetto or Serenoa repens is a small berry-producing palm that is found in the southeastern United States, particularly in Florida, where thickets of the plant span millions of acres.

It was once a staple food of Native Americans living in the South, used mainly as a nourishing tonic, appetite stimulant, and an agent of weight gain, as well as urinary tract problems.

Early European travelers described the taste of the berries as that of “rotten cheese steeped in tobacco juice,” but today they are a very popular herbal supplement, and even a recommended remedy in parts of Europe and an oft-included ingredient in male enhancement formulas.

Medical Use

While there is some question regarding its efficacy, saw palmetto is most often used in the treatment of males suffering from benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), a condition that causes the prostate to enlarge, but not become cancerous.

BPH can be quite bothersome, as it causes problems with urination, including nocturia (waking up at night to urinate), hesitancy, straining, and incomplete bladder emptying.

This occurs because when the prostate enlarges, it presses against the urethra and pinches it and the wall of the bladder thickens.

The narrowing of the urethra inhibits the flow of both urine from the bladder and semen.

Other uses for saw palmetto include hair loss, chronic pelvis pain, sore throat, hormonal imbalance, and bladder disorders.

Use in Male Enhancement Products

Not only is saw palmetto used in general men’s health supplements, it is often specifically used in male enhancement products.

There are several reasons for this. First, some male enhancement products also double as a men’s health supplement, meaning that it will not only include ingredients to help with erections, it will also include other herbs beneficial to a man’s health.

Secondly, there is some thought that saw palmetto helps alleviate erectile dysfunction by decreasing the size of the prostate which removes the pressure from the urethra and allows semen, as well as urine, to flow more freely.

Saw palmetto will only help with an individual’s erectile dysfunction IF it is caused by prostate enlargement.

For those whose ED stems from a different source, a different remedy is necessary.

Cautions

Saw palmetto is not without its risk; like any other substance, it can pose a risk, so individuals should always speak to their doctor before adding it to their diet.

Drug Interactions

Saw palmetto interacts negatively with blood thinners and hormonal medications.

Side Effects

  • Upset stomach
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Testicular discomfort
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Possible liver damage

Sources

Cancer.org (2008) Saw Palmetto. Available from: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/saw-palmetto. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Coates, Paul M. ed., et al (2005) Encyclopedia of Dietary Supplements.

MacCubbin, Tom and Georgia B. Tasker (2002) Florida Gardener’s Guide. Franklin, TN: Cool Springs Press.

Nlm.nih.gov (2013) Saw palmetto. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/971.html. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Nnama, Helen (2013) What Are the Dangers of Saw Palmetto? Available from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/353866-what-are-the-dangers-of-saw-palmetto/. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Umm.edu, Sexual dysfunction. Available from: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/condition/sexual-dysfunction. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

5. Muira Puama
Muira PuamaMuira puama, which is translated into English as “potency wood,” is found in the Brazilian rainforest.

The muira puama tree can reach a height of fifty feet and produces white flowers and orange to orange-yellow fruits.

The root, bark, and wood are used for making herbal remedies. Its main use has always been related to sexual potency, which is why it has found a seemingly permanent home in the formulas of male enhancement supplement companies.

Use in Male Enhancement

Given its English name, it should not be too surprising that this tree’s main function is to help out in the bedroom.

It has been used for hundreds of years as an aphrodisiac and sexual enhancer.

Muira puama has been observed to have similar effects to that of the herbal substance called yohimbe, which can have serious health consequences (like kidney and heart failure).

Muira puama is able to increase blood flow to both male and female genitalia, which heightens stimulation and response.

Because it is so similar to yohimbe, which many regard as dangerous, a large number of male enhancement supplement companies have stopped using yohimbe in their formulas and replaced it with muira puama.

Though scientific studies do not abound, there are a few that have been conducted  and most, if not all, have yielded positive results.

In one study,  over half of the participants reported boosted libido and diminished erectile dysfunction.

A second study’s results were even better, with an overwhelming majority reporting an increase in intercourse, improved libido, and allowed participants to maintain their erection for a longer amount of time than before they started taking muira puama.

It has also had clinical success in the treatment of low sex drive in women

Other Uses

While it is mainly known for its use in male enhancement supplements, muira puama is said to have a calming effect and is often part of the treatment for those with nervous exhaustion, trauma, stress, and male pattern baldness.

Herbalists use it in a multitude of treatments including those for depression, central nervous system disorders, menstrual cramps and PMS, neurasthenia, and it is utilized in anticholestric remedies.

Cautions

Muira puama is not water soluble nor is the body able to break it down during the digestive process.

Using it in its powdered or capsule form does very little good; instead, tinctures must be made. Alcohol has been shown to work well with muira puama in getting it to dissolve.

Pregnant women should not use muira puama

Side effects include the following:

  • Insomnia
  • Rash
  • Restlessness
  • Hives
  • Breathing problmes

It should not be taken with caffeine, aspirin , or central nervous system stimulants, as well as herb with anticoagulant effects.

Sources

Balch, Phyllis A. CNC and Stacey Bell (2012) Prescription for Herbal Healing, 2nd Edition: An Easy-to-Use A-to-Z Reference to Hundreds of Common Disorders and Their Herbal Remedies. New York: Penguin Group.

Puri, Ravi K. PH.D and Raman Puri MD. (2011) Natural Aphrodisiacs. Bloomington, IN: Xlibris Corporation.

Wuh, Hank C. K. and Mei Mei Fox (2002) Sexual Fitness. New York: Perigee.

6. Maca Root (Lepidium meyenii)
Maca, or Lepidium meyenii, is found high in the Andes around Lake Junin.

It was domesticated around 3800 BCE and since that time, it has been used heavily by the Incas and later, the Spanish, on the recommendation of the locals as a cure for the poor reproduction rates of the Spaniards’ livestock.

The Spanish wrote rave reviews and the substance was so valuable that it was used in bartering.

Today, the root remains important to Andean Indians, as it is traded for other commodities, such as beans, green vegetables, rice, and corn.

On a wider scale, maca is often used as an ingredient in male enhancement formulas

Nutrients

Maca is rich in sugars, protein, iodine, iron, calcium, magnesium, potassium, silica, manganese, zinc, copper, and starches, has a tangy, sweet taste, and smells like butterscotch.

Because it contains so many nutrients, maca is good for one’s general health as it helps restore red blood cells, promotes bone and teeth health, increases healing time, and increases muscle mass when used in conjunction with an exercise regime.

Energy Enhancement

Maca is also seen as an energy booster and stamina increaser. It is often used by athletes as an alternative to steroids.

Hormone Balancer

One of its most popular uses is its purported ability to balance hormones.

Maca is often used by menopausal women to help combat its symptoms, including hot flashes and vaginal dryness, and in menstruating women to help with cramps and body pain, and the anxiety, mood swings, and depression that can occur with both menopause and menstruation.

Sexual Health

Maca is thought to boost the libido of both men and women, but it is in the former that maca has the most noticeable difference on sexual health.

Although more research is needed, there are some results that suggest that maca increases sexual desire and improves sperm formation and movement.

When those traits are combined with maca’s energy-boosting abilities, the result is a substance that can potentially increase sexual performance in key areas—stamina, libido, and there have even been reports of increased testosterone production.

Use in Male Enhancement Products

Due to its ability to increase sexual energy and desire, maca is used in most male enhancement products, such as Erectzan, Triverex, Hardazan Plus, Extenze, and Nitroxin, to name only a few.

Cautions

While maca is generally safe, there are some contraindications and side effects that must be discussed. As with all herbal supplements, check with a doctor before taking maca root.

Contraindications

  • Those receiving treatment for a thyroid-related condition, as it can cause an unsafe rise in iodine levels. Too much iodine can cause kidney failure and insulin-related illnesses.
  • It should also not be used by pregnant women or those that are nursing.

Side Effects

  • Mood swings
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • High blood pressure
  • Indigestion
  • Heartburn
  • Increased heart rate.

Sources

Biddulph, Ryan (2013) What Are the Benefits of Maca Root for Men? Available from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/260315-what-are-the-benefits-of-maca-root-for-men/. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Braun, Rachel, 7 Top Health Benefits of Maca. Available from: http://www.vegkitchen.com/nutrition/7-top-health-benefits-of-maca/. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Castleman, Michael (2011) Is Maca an Aphrodisiac? Available from: http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/all-about-sex/201104/is-maca-aphrodisiac. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Castleman, Michael (2009) The New Healing Herbs. Rodale.

Fonseca, Adam (2013) The Side Effects of Maca Root Powder. Available from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/154802-the-side-effects-of-maca-root-powder/. (Accessed 5 December 2014).

Kilham, Chris (2013) Hot Plants: Nature’s Proven Sex Boosters for Men and Women. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin.

Ronzio, Robert A. (2003) The Encyclopedia of Nutrition and Good Health. New York: Infobase Publishing.

Spar, Myles D. and George E. Munoz (2014) Integrative Men’s Health. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

7. L-Arginine
L-arginineL-arginine is an amino acid, a chemical building block used to make proteins.

Most people ingest it all the time, though they may not realize it, as it is present in dairy, fish, red meat, nuts, seeds, and poultry products.

In fact, most of the time it does not even need to be ingested because our bodies can make it on its own.

The biosynthetic pathway is the only process that cannot make its own l-arginine.

If you take a male enhancement supplement, however, you are likely already acquainted with L-arginine, as many, if not most, of that type of product include L-arginine in their formula.

Function

Arginine takes on a variety of roles within the body, but that for which it is most known is the part it plays in the nitric oxide pathway—a process through which nitric oxide is created.

Arginine is essential for this process because it is the substance that is converted into NO.

Nitric oxide is a particularly important (and toxic!) neurotransmitter, which means that it acts as a messenger molecule.

One of its main functions is to control the relaxation of smooth muscles and by extension, blood pressure.

It accomplishes this by telling the blood vessels when to constrict and when to dilate.

Nitric oxide relays messages of sexual stimulation between the brain and the penis. In other words, nitric oxide is what allows a man’s penis to become erect.

L-arginine’s other uses include combating decreased mental capacity in the elderly, improving kidneys after they have been transplanted, boosting athletic performance, improving the immune system, and protecting premature infants from digestive tract inflammation.

It can also be used in conjunction with other substances to combat things like migraine headaches, breast cancer, and side effects of AIDS and improve wound healing and surgery recovery time.

L-arginine also causes the release of growth hormones, insulin, and various other bodily substances.

Use in Male Enhancement

One common cause of erectile dysfunction is blood being unable to flow into the penis. Without increased blood flow in the penis, erections do not happen.

The reason this might occur largely has to do with the way blood is supposed to enter that area—through blood vessels.

A lack of nitric oxide or L-arginine can cause the smooth muscle of the penis to remain tense and leave the blood vessels constricted, preventing blood from entering into the corpora cavernosa.

Cautions

L-arginine should not be used by pregnant or breastfeeding mothers, children, those who have suffered a recent heart attack, those who have low blood pressure (since one of L-arginine’s functions is to lower blood pressure, the combination can result in a fatally low BP), and those who have herpes, as there is some evidence that L-arginine makes herpes worse because it needs that particular amino acid to multiply.

Sources

Cavendish, Marshall (2003) How It Works: Science and Technology – Vol. 3. New York: Marshall Cavendish.

Di Pasquale, Mauro G. (2007) Amino Acids and Proteins for the Athlete: The Anabolic Edge. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press.

Kroner, Zina (2011) Vitamins and Minerals. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, LLC.

McLaren, Angus (2007) Impotence: A Cultural History. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Nlm.nih.gov (2014) L-arginine. Available from: http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/875.html. (Accessed 7 December 2014).

Talbott, Shawn M. and Kerry Hughes (2007) The Health Professional’s Guide to Dietary Supplements. Baltimore, MD: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins.

8. Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium)
Horny goat weedHorny goat weed, or, as it is sometimes listed, Epimedium, is a creeping perennial plant found mainly in China, but is located in parts of Asia and in the Mediterranean region as well.

The name “horny goat weed” comes from an old Chinese story: a goat herder noticed that all his livestock were perpetually sexually active.

He followed and observed them, and found that their libido increased tremendously after eating a particular weed, which the Chinese called yin yang huo.

It is currently one of the most popular herbal supplements and it is found in almost every male enhancement supplement product currently on the market.

Function

Horny goat weed has been studied in numerous animal trials but reliable clinical studies on humans are completely lacking.

In animal testing, horny goat weed was shown to increase their sexual activity. If we look at the history of traditional Chinese medicine, then horny goat weed has a long, illustrious 2000 year history as an aphrodisiac and as a treatment for kidney and liver disorders.

Herbal remedies use the leafy part of the plant, which contains polysaccharides, alkaloids, plant sterols, and flavonoids, the most important of which is icariin, which scientists believe to be the main active ingredient.

Icariin functions in several ways once inside the body, all of which can effect a man’s erectile dysfunction.

It is a PDE5 inhibitor, which means that it stops the degradation of cGMP, a nucleotide that relaxes smooth muscle tissue, increases the production of nitric oxide, which has a vasodilatory effect as well, and it mimics testosterone’s effects. Icariin is actually an active ingredient in Viagra.

Use in Male Enhancement Supplements

Horny goat weed is known for aphrodisiac effects, but it is hard to prove what is and is not an aphrodisiac in a clinical setting, so that reputation may or may not be warranted.

What is known is that the effects it has on the smooth muscle and blood flow of the penis does improve erection size and longevity.

Between its possible aphrodisiacal qualities and its use in as vasodilator, it is easy to see why almost every formula includes this substance.

Cautions

There are some mild side effects associated with the use of horny goat weed, including:

  • Vomiting
  • Dizziness
  • Nosebleeds
  • Nausea
  • Dry mouth

Large doses of horny goat weed can cause much serious side effects, namely respiratory arrest and muscle spasms.

Additionally, those who have problems with blood not clotting or those who are on medication to boost blood clotting should not use horny goat weed, as doing so can cause your blood to refuse to clot at all.

If you are on low blood pressure medication, horny goat weed is not for you either, as it can cause an unsafe drop in blood pressure.

Sources

Mueller, Kimberly and Josh Hingst (2013) The Athlete’s Guide to Sports Supplements. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.

Occhiogrosso, James (2007) Your Prostate, Your Libido, Your Life: A Guide to Causes and Natural Solutions for Common Prostate Problems. Centennial, CO: Glenbridge Publishing, Ltd.

O’Mathuna, Donald and Walt Larimore MD (2010) Alternative Medicine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.

Wikipedia.org, Epidmedium. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Epimedium. (Accessed 7 December 2014).

Wikipedia.org, Icariin. Available from: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Icariin. (Accessed 7 December 2014).

9. Hawthorn Berry
berriesHawthorn berries come from a thorny deciduous tree that is native to Europe, where is has often been used as a hedge.

White flowers bloom on the tree in the spring and in fall, the berries turn red.

All of the tree has been used at some point for medicine, but that which is used most often is the berry, which is found in a variety of modern herbal supplements, including those that aim to increase male enhancement.

Use

Hawthorn berry’s main use is as a remedy for treat cardiovascular conditions.

Both traditional and modern medicine have utilized it with great success to do such things as strengthening the heart muscle, relaxing blood vessels, reducing blood pressure in those who have experienced congestive heart failure, and acting as a general tonic for the cardiovascular system, as it has an amazing restorative effect.

Hawthorn berry also promotes skin health by stabilizing collagen, which is the main protein that is found in skin and the substance that helps form blood vessels. It also maintains cartilage, ligaments, and tendons.

Finally, hawthorn berry is said to have anti-anxiety effects, though this area has not been explored as much as its cardiovascular health ramifacations have been tested.

Use in Male Enhancement

Hawthorn berry is not always found in male enhancement supplements—it is one of the less common ingredients, though it should be standard because of its documented success.

The properties of hawthorn berry indirectly affect a man’s sexual performance, which could be why many companies do not include it in their formula.

Those that do include it seem to understand that performance isn’t just about the ability to get and maintain and erection, but the ability to actually be able to perform the sex act.

If your heart is weak, if your cardiovascular system is failing to provide adequate blood flow, and/or if the physical demands of sex cause your blood pressure to skyrocket, your erection may not fail, but your body certainly will.

And let’s not forget the effect that too much stress and anxiety can have on a man’s ability to perform—it does not usually end well and it may not even start at all, depending on the stress level and how you handle it.

Hawthorn berry positively affects those bodily systems that enable you to have sex, which is why it is sometimes used in male enhancement formulas.

Cautions

Hawthorn berry has extremely mild side effects, including  nausea, palpitation, skin irritation, sweating, dizziness, digestive issues, and fatigue.

It is well-tolerated in adults, though pregnant and breastfeeding women should not use it.

It can also potentially interact with drugs that are commonly used to treat cardiovascular ailments, such as cardiac glycosides and nitrates.

As with any herbal supplement, you should ask your doctor before taking it to make sure there are no major risks or complications.

Sources

Boon, Heather and Michael Smith (2004) The Complete Natural Medicine Guide to the 50 Most Common Medicinal Herbs. Toronto: Robert Rose Inc.

Challem, Jack ed. (2003) User’s Guide to Nutritional Supplements. North Bergen, NJ: Basic Health Publications Inc.

McBride, Kami (2010) The Herbal Kitchen: 50 Easy-to-Find Herbs and Over 250 Recipes to Bring Lasting Health to You and Your Family. San Francisco: Conari Press.

10. Gotu Kola (Centella Asiatica)
Gotu_kolaFound in South Africa, Sri Lanka, India, the South Pacific, China, and Japan, gotu kola (Centella asiatica) is an herb that is used in traditional Chines and Ayurvedic medicine.

It is a creeping jungle plant that grows in moist, hot environments and is commonly eaten as a leafy vegetable in the regions to which it is native.

Today, it is a common ingredient in male enhancement supplements.

Nutrients

Besides being useful in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, gotu kola is also very nutritious and includes many of the vitamins, minerals, and phytochemicals that are necessary for your health.

Phytochemicals

Naturally occurring chemical compounds found in plants

  • Beta-carotene
  • Camphol
  • Campesetol

Minerals

  • Calcium
  • Potassium
  • Selenium
  • Manganese
  • Phosphorus
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium

Vitamins

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamins B1, B2, and B3

Gotu kola also contains a compound called saponins, a class of phytochemicals that reduce cholesterol, bone loss, and the risk of cancer, as well as boosting immunity and acting as an antioxidant.

Traditional and Modern Use

Gotu kola is one of the few herbal remedies that has received at least a little attention from the mainstream medical community, though more testing is needed before anything can be conclusively said about its benefits, if any, to humans.

Gotu kola is also notable because so many of its traditional uses remain its modern uses.

Often, traditional herbal remedies were used in ways that modern medicine has deemed ineffective, but such is not always the case here.

Skin treatment

Gotu kola is a common ingredient in creams and other products that are to be applied topically to minor wounds, skin diseases, and things like stretch marks.

Why? Because it has triterpenoids in it, which have been shown to have wound-healing abilities.

Animal and lab studies have demonstrated that gotu kola strengthens the skin, increases blood supply to affected areas, and boosts antioxidant levels.

Vein function

Gotu kola has been shown to have promise as a treatment for poor circulation, specifically that which occurs in the legs.

It reduces swelling in the legs and feet, including that caused by chronic venous insufficiency.

It appears to be able to stem the leakage of blood from veins which causes swelling. It is even effective in the treatment of varicose veins.

Anti-anxiety

Gotu kola has traditionally been used as a way to enhance mental clarity and function and is also said to have anti-anxiety and anti-stress capabilities.

Effect on Male Enhancement

Gotu kola is often used in male enhancement supplements for its use in boosting vein health, as poor circulation is often a contributor to a man’s inability to get or maintain a satisfactory erection, and its anti-anxiety and relaxation-inducing capabilities.

The latter is especially important because erectile dysfunction can take a mental toll as well as a physical one.

Men get performance anxiety and are often so worried about not being able to perform that they doom themselves.

Cautions

Because there are a limited number of studies on gotu kola, one cannot know for sure all of the risks involved in taking it.

It is advisable that a doctor’s opinion is sought before starting to take gotu kola.

Some of the reported risks include:

  • Burning, itching, and allergic rash when used as a topical ointment
  • Stomach irritation and nausea when taken orally
  • High doses may raise blood sugar and cholesterol
  • Some cases of hepatitis have been associated with its use

Sources

Ashton, Megan (2014) Benefits and Uses of Gotu Kola. Available from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/388873-benefits-uses-for-gotu-kola/. (Accessed 7 December 2014).

Cancer.org, Gotu Kola. Available from: http://www.cancer.org/treatment/treatmentsandsideeffects/complementaryandalternativemedicine/herbsvitaminsandminerals/gotu-kola. (Accessed 7 December 2014)

Khalsa, Karta Purkh Singh and Michael Tierra (2008) The Way of Ayurvedic Herbs: The Most Complete Guide to Natural Healing and Health with Traditional Ayurvedic Herbalism. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Phytochemicals.info, Saponins. Available from: http://www.phytochemicals.info/phytochemicals/saponins.php. (Accessed 7 December 2014).

Umm.edu (2013) Gotu kola. Available from: http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/gotu-kola. (Accessed 7 December 2014).

11. Fo-Ti
Fo-TiFo-Ti, also known as Polygonum multiflorum and He shou wu, is a traditional Chinese herb used in a variety of remedies.

It is found throughout Asia, including almost all of China, often growing along the sides of roads, in grass thickets, and on damp and shady hills.

In its native China, it is thought to be a way to extend life; stories tell of a man named Li Chung Yun, an herbalist who died in 1933.

That’s not so extraordinary until you hear the year of his birth: supposedly 1677, making him 256 years old. In the western world, companies that make male enhancement production often inclue fo-ti in their formulas.

Varieties

There are two types of fo-ti, though they technically come from the same plant. White fo-ti is the unprocessed root and red fo-ti is the processed root.

It is red fo-ti that is used in male enhancement products, so that is the variety that will be discussed in the following sections.

Uses

Research on the effects of fo-ti when used by humans is extremely limited, as is usually the case with most herbal remedies.

Much of what will be presented here is theory, tradition, or based on what little research has been done.

Traditional Use

Fo-ti is one of the most well-known, widely used, and revered herbs in China.

It is said to have incredible benefits to one’s longevity, restoring vitality and even returning one’s gray hair to its original color.

Its use goes back hundreds, if not thousands of years. It is thought to be able to cleanse the liver and relieve stress and anxiety, but it is most famous for its effect on sexuality, and that is the usual reason one has for taking it.

Fo-ti is said to not only increase sexual energy, but to increase a man’s sperm count, make a woman more fertile, and increase staying power for both sexes.

Fo-ti has more than sexual benefits, however. It is also reputed to be able to help stress, hormonal imbalance, immunity, low energy and stamina, diabetes, and cholesterol, which, while beneficial in their own right, also have repercussions for an individual’s sexuality.

After all, how can you perform at your best when the rest of your body is not healthy.

Use in Male Enhancement Products

Despite the lack of reputable scientific evidence, fo-ti has maintained its standing as a powerful sexuality booster and it is a frequent ingredient in male enhancement supplements.

There is some thought that the sexually stimulating effects come from fo-ti’s having two compounds, resveratrol and lecithin, in its makeup.

Those two substances cause increased circulatory function, which can definitely contribute to a man’s ability to get and maintain an erection.

Cautions

Fo-ti comes with its own set of side effects and as with any other supplement, check with your doctor before taking it. Some of those side effects include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Anorexia
  • Nausea
  • Allergic reaction

It can also potentially interact with other medications you are taking, which is just another reason to be sure to ask your physician for their recommendation.

Sources

Gladstar, Rosemary (2014) Herbs for Long-Lasting Health: How to Make and Use Herbal Remedies for Lifelong Vitality. North Adams, MA: Storey Publishing.

Grossberg, George T. (2008) The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide: The Safe Way to Use Medications and Supplements Together. New York: Crown Publishing Group.

Onolgo, Cami (2014) Miracle Herbs & Plants: Herbal Remedies & Recipes. Bloomington: IN: AuthorHouse LLC.

Redman, George L. (2002) Sensual for Life: The Natural Way to Maintain Sexual Vitality. New York: Kensington Publishing Corp.

12. Damiana
Damiana, also known as Turnera diffusa is found in the hot, humid climates of Mexico, the West Indies, parts of Texas, and Central and South America.

It has fragrant leaves and is related to the mint family. When used as a herbal treatment, it is thought to have stimulant, tonic, aphrodisiac, and diuretic effects.

Use in Male Enhancement

damianaDamiana contains tannins, resins, flavonoids, and arbutin, which is a glycoside. Damiana is similar to some of the other ingredients commonly seen male enhancement products in that it is used for its vasodilatory effects.

Damiana, like L-arginine (or nitric oxide, to be exact), relaxes the smooth muscle in the penis, allowing for greater blood flow and, therefore, harder, longer, and stronger erections.

Experimentation performed on rats has shown that damiana boosts the sexual performance of impotent rats and increased ejaculation rates.

It has traditionally been used as an aphrodisiac, with locals brewing it into tea in order to enhance the sexual experience.

Often, fruits of the saw palmetto plant and kola nuts are brewed with it to increase the effects.

It can also be mixed with pure strychnine, but this is not advisable, as strychnine is a poison and it is incredibly easy to use too much.

Other Uses

Damiana is occasionally found in psychoactive smoking blends as a substitute for marijuana—it is considered a “legal high.”

Someone who smokes damiana will experience euphoric feelings and effects similar to that of a light dose of marijuana.

It is also commonly smoked as a stand-in for tobacco when used with hashish.

Germany uses it to treat nervous and mental disorders and to improve the health of patients’ nervous systems and hormones.

Traditional medicine utilizes damiana in a variety of ways:

  • Indian medicine prescribes it for use in the treatment of asthma
  • Mexican folk medicine uses damiana tea as a way to regulate one’s menstrual cycle and reduce the pain that comes from the hellish nightmare that are cramps.
  • In northern Mexico, damiana is thought to treat nervousness, muscle weakness, headaches, stomach issues, scorpion stings, and rheumatism

Side Effects

Damiana should not be used by those who:

  • Have a history of breast cancer
  • Have Parkinson’s
  • Take medicine that either treats diabetes or controls blood sugar as damiana can cause hypoglycemia
  • Have a psychiatric disorder, such as various manias and schizophrenia
  • Are pregnant or breastfeeding, as damiana changes hormone levels
  • Have anemia, as damiana can keep the body from absorbing iron properly

While damiana is generally considered very safe and causes only minor side effects, such as stool softening, large doses can have serious consequences, including:

  • Hallucinations
  • Urethra irritation
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Sudden death
  • Vomiting

Sources

Fetrow, Charles W. and Juan R. Avila (2000) The Complete Guide To Herbal Medicines. New York: Simon & Schuster, Inc.

Ramawat, Kishan Gopala (2008) Herbal Drugs: Ethnomedicine to Modern Medicine. Springer Science & Business Media.

Rätsch, Christian and Claudia Müller-Ebeling (2013) The Encyclopedia of Aphrodisiacs: Pscyhoactive Substances for Use in Sexual Practices. Rochester, VT: Bear & Co.

Wisegeek.com, What are the Most Common Damiana Side Effects? Available from: http://www.wisegeek.com/what-are-the-most-common-damiana-side-effects.htm (Accessed 7 December 2014).

13. Cayenne Pepper
Cayenne-pepperCayenne peppers originate from Zanzibar where they grow on bushes that belong to the Capsicum genus.

They are now, however, commonly grown throughout the tropical regions of the world, giving everyone access to this hot, hot, hot herbal supplement.

One of the best varieties comes from the great state of Louisiana and is grown by the McIlhenny family for use in their world-famous Tabasco sauce.

If you are looking to up your sexual performance, one thing you probably do today is to up your intake of cayenne pepper, since most people keep it in their cabinets.

Function

You might never suspect it, but that little bottle of cayenne pepper that you keep in your pantry is an herbal powerhouse of health benefits.

It is rich in Vitamins A, C and the complete B complexes as well as calcium and potassium; it contains carotenes and lutein, two substances that fight cancer and promote eye health.

Most important, however, is the capsaicin that is in cayenne.

Capsaicin is what gives cayenne peppers their intense heat; it is a phytochemical that is an antioxidant and an anti-inflammatory. In herbal healing circles, it is most known for its effect on the circulatory system

Use in Male Enhancement

Cayenne pepper appears less often in male enhancement product formulas than some ingredients, but that does not make it any less potent.

Cayenne is useful to a man’s sexual health because of its positive impact on blood circulation.

Erectile dysfunction is often caused by poor circulation—when blood cannot flow into the penis, erections cannot happen.

The majority of ingredients in male enhancement supplements have some effect on blood circulation. (Of course, if your erectile dysfunction problems are not related to blood flow issues, those supplements probably will not help much). Besides increasing blood flow, cayenne improves the health of a person in general, and when you’re healthy, you are much more likely to have an enjoyable sexual encounter.

Other Uses

Listed below are some of the other benefits cayenne can bring to the individual who eats it. Look over the column and see if you think improving that area would affect your ED problems:

  • Increased blood flow and better circulation means a lower blood pressure and healthier heart.
  • Cayenne is a natural pain reliever; in fact, herbalists often put it into salves that are used on swollen joints and arthritis.
  • Cayenne promotes digestion and can help in the treatment of ulcers
  • Cayenne thins mucus, making it a great cure for bronchitis
  • Cayenne is a common ingredient in hangover cures
  • Clears up hemorrhoids

Cautions

Cayenne is available in tablet form, but many choose to use it in its powdered form. Be warned—it is hot.

If you do not like spicy foods or if you cannot eat them, then consider taking the tablets.  It can also cause a burning sensation during urination.

Sources

Brewer, Sarah MD (2010) The Essential Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbal Supplements. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd.

Boone, Lauri (2013) Powerful Plant-Based Superfoods: The Best Way to Eat for Maximum Health, Energy, and Weight Loss. Beverly, MA: Fair Winds Press.

Christensen, Kyle D. (2000) Herbal First Aid and Health Care: Medicine for a New Millennium. Twin Lakes, WI: Lotus Press.

Peiper, Howard and Nina Anderson (1998) Natural Solutions for Sexual Enhancement: Increase the Energy in Your Sex Life with Alternatives to Drug Therapy. East Canaan, CT: Safe Goods.

14. Catuaba Bark
Catuaba-barkCatuaba, also known as Erythroxylum catuaba,  is a tree found in the Brazilian rainforest; its bark is used to make herbal remedies.

Catuaba is actually closely related to the coca plant (the source of cocaine) and they even look similar.

Catuaba is often used in conjunction with muira puama; in fact, the duo commonly appears together within male enhancement formulas

Function

We cannot say for sure what, if any, effect catuaba bark has on the human body because we do not have the scientific evidence on which to draw a conclusion—there are very few reputable studies available on the subject.

In labs, catuaba has shown to have antiviral and antibacterial qualities and research is currently being done on its antidepressant capabilities.

Catuaba is mainly touted for its ability to aid male sexual performance.

It is said to stimulate sexual desire and improve blood flow; while we are not quite sure why it has these effects (lack of research strikes again), it has been suggested that catuaba increases the amount of dopamine in the brain, which would cause a rise in libido.

Use

Catuaba was first discovered by the Tupi Indians, who used it as an aphrodisiac. They reported that it increased the frequency of sexual dreams and boosted one’s sexual interest.

Brazilian folk medicine uses catuaba to treat ailments such as hypochondria, depression, neurasthenia, and sleep disturbances.

Today in its native land, it is used for fatigue and weakness, nerves, and agitation as well, but is known mainly as an aphrodisiac.

In South America, there is a saying: “Until a father reaches sixty, the son is his; after that, the son is catuaba’s,” which is a comment on the effects catuaba has on male sexuality.

Catuaba is most known for its sexual side effects, which is why it is almost always included in male enhancement natural supplements—it is seen as a stimulant and aphrodisiac and may possible increase blood flow, which means better quality erections.

Besides male enhancement, catuaba aids in prostate health and helps maintain the health of those suffering from AIDS and HIV by protecting them from E. coli and Staphylococcus aureus.

It does the latter It is also a popular natural remedy for hypertension, anxiety, pain stemming from the central nervous system, memory loss, and fatigue.

Cautions

Catuaba may interact negatively with anti-depressant drugs and the following herbs: St. John’s Wort, Kava-Kava, Valerian root, Withania, Damiana, and Mandrake, and it should not be taken with alcohol.

Catuaba can cause dizziness, headaches, adverse sexual side effects (basically, there is the possibility that catuaba could act in the exact opposite of the way you would like), stomach irritation, and muscle spasms.

Sources

Brewer, Sarah MD (2010) The Essential Guide to Vitamins, Minerals, and Herbal Supplements. London: Constable & Robinson Ltd.

Fonseca, Adam (2013) Catuaba Side Effects. Available from: http://www.livestrong.com/article/112284-catuaba-side-effects/ (Accessed 7 December 2014).

Green, James (2007) The Male Herbal: The Definitive Health Care Book for Men & Boys. Berkeley, CA: Crossing Press.

Landa, Jennifer and Virginia Hopkins (2012) The Sex Drive Solution for Women: Dr. Jen’s Power Plan to Fire Up Your Libido. Ocala, FL: Atlantic Publishing Group

Mars, Brigitte (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine. Laguna Beach, CA: Basic Health Publications, Inc.

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I am interested in all aspects related to mens's health, in particular sexual health as we age. In my spare time I like to train with weights since that's a great way to boost your testosterone levels and feel overall happy. It is never too late to change your lifestyle into something better. Small positive changes will accumulate over time and bring you happiness in life. You can find my opinions on supplements and devices for men on this website, and also from users such as yourself. Remember to do your research before buying anything.