“‘Herbal Viagra’ not always herbal

Posted on 22 Jun 2006 at 2:08pm
By Staff and Wire Reports

Investigators in Canada have found that some brands of herbal remedy marketed as “natural” alternatives to Viagra and other sexual-dysfunction drugs actually contain the drugs themselves. Others contain herbal products known to cause toxic side effects.

Investigators at hospitals in Toronto and Vancouver bought seven “herbal” erectile-dysfunction products over the Internet, which came as capsules or tablets to be taken, like Viagra, an hour or two before sex. Two of the seven contained high levels of Viagra and the longer-lasting erection drug Cialis.

HIV-positive patients on therapy are particularly prone to sexual dysfunction and might also be particularly interested in herbal alternatives, since levels of Viagra and Cialis (and the other erection drug Levitra) are raised if you take the protease inhibitors ritonavir or lopinavir/ritonavir This can result in unpleasant side effects like blurred vision, headaches, pounding pulse and unwanted, painful erections.

Men taking “herbal” remedies might also think they were clear of the danger of mixing poppers (alkyl nitrites) with Viagra this can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure and has led to fainting and, on a few occasions, fatalities.
Several supplements also had herbal ingredients known to cause serious side effects. Some contained yohimbe bark, whose main ingredient yohimbine causes effects, including anxiety attacks, flushing and kidney problems.

Others contained androstenedione, a steroid and testosterone precursor that has recently become popular in sexual and body-building supplements. Long-term use of any supplements containing steroid like ingredients should be avoided: These can actually cause rather than cure sexual dysfunction in the long term and also weaken the immune system.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition, June 23, 2006.

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