Obsidian Blog

What Is “Herbal Viagra” — and Is It Safe or Effective?

herbal viagraThere’s nothing like celebrity malfeasance to give an obscure topic newfound salience, and the recent discovery of an unconscious Lamar Odom — former NBA player, reality-TV star and Kardashian-in-law — in a Nevada brothel has done just that for so-called “herbal Viagra.” (Odom had apparently been popping the purported sexual stimulant over several days of partying.) What is the stuff, though? Here’s a primer.

What is herbal Viagra?
It’s the catchall name for a cluster of products, available without a prescription, that claim to enhance male sexual function in the manner of Pfizer’s blockbuster drug. Some of these pills contain vitamins, minerals and herbal compounds that mimic Viagra’s effects — indeed, some actually contain sildenafil, Viagra’s active ingredient.

How does real Viagra work?
The legitimate stuff, available only via prescription, is in a class of drugs called “PDE5 inhibitors,” which work by dilating the vessels that carry blood to the penis when a man is sexually aroused. Better blood flow means a better erection.

Is herbal Viagra dangerous?
 Yes, extremely so; do not put it in your body. Even real Viagra can be dangerous (more on that below) if not taken under the guidance of an experienced clinician. Erectile dysfunction is sometimes the canary in the coal mine — a warning of an underlying medical problem such as heart disease or diabetes. If you’re having trouble getting an erection, see your doctor. Don’t self-medicate with over-the-counter pills. Don’t borrow a friend’s prescribed Viagra. ED is serious stuff; treat it with the respect it deserves.

Why is herbal Viagra so dangerous?
Let us count the ways. First, it’s unregulated by the FDA, so the list of ingredients on the bottle — their names, their purity, their amounts — might bear little resemblance to reality.

Second, some of the herbal compounds in these pills may react in your body the way real Viagra would. This is risky if you have other medical conditions; it might also interact poorly with other medications you’re taking.

Third, as noted earlier, many herbal sexual-enhancement supplements contain sildenafil, Viagra’s active ingredient, or similar compounds. Their dosage might be far higher than is medically advisable — and you’d have no way of knowing.

Finally, herbal and black-market Viagra are on occasion adulterated with a witch’s brew of awful filler: printer ink, amphetamines, drywall, even rat poison. Do you really want such things in your digestive tract?

What are some of the dangers of real Viagra?
Because the very point of Viagra is to dilate blood vessels, taking it in tandem with drugs that lower blood pressure can be fatal. Likewise, medications that treat prostate enlargement can also cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure when taken with Viagra.

If you’ve had a heart attack or stroke within the last six months, don’t take Viagra; other cardiovascular conditions may preclude its use as well. In men with certain eye disorders, Viagra can cause both blindness and hearing loss. Kidney or liver disease are red flags cautioning against its use, and some HIV drugs and antifungal medications can have adverse side effects in concert with Viagra. Don’t mess around with even the genuine article — take Viagra only under the guidance of an experienced, trusted physician.

How should you obtain legitimate Viagra?
Via prescription. That’s it. Don’t buy it online from China — and if you insist on using a Web-based pharmacy, make sure it’s an accredited Verified Internet Pharmacy Practice Site (VIPPS).

The bottom line
Viagra is unquestionably a world-changing pharmaceutical that has brought tremendous benefits to millions of men — but even the real stuff is not to be trifled with. As for herbal Viagra and its variants, don’t even think about it. You might not end up nearly comatose on the floor of a brothel, but that’s the best thing that can be said about it. Leave the fake stuff on the shelf — and make an appointment with your physician instead.


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