Labeling Mistakes on Herbal Sex Enhancement Drugs

Jacky Gale | May 15th, 2013

Herbal Sex Enhancement Drugs

Erectile dysfunction is a common problem among men, particularly those that are over the age of 40. Studies have suggested that 40 percent of men are affected by the age of 40, and nearly 70 percent of men over the age of 70 suffer erectile problems. Some men might find it difficult to talk to their doctors about erectile dysfunction, and they might choose over-the-counter herbal sex enhancement drugs instead. Other men who do not have erectile dysfunction might use these supplements in an attempt to boost their libido or sexual performance. However, the results of a recent study indicate that sexual enhancement supplements often have misleading labeling information, and some of them may even contain ingredients that should be available only by prescription.

Dangerously high levels of prescription drugs found in sex enhancement supplements

Neil Campbell, a researcher at Pfizer, was the lead author on this study. Pfizer is the manufacturer of Viagra (sildenafil), an erectile dysfunction medication. For this study, 91 samples from 58 herbal sex enhancement drugs were analyzed. The researchers found that 81 percent of these supplements contained sildenafil or tadalafil (Cialis). Some of these supplements contained levels of sildenafil or tadalafil that are higher than the levels allowed in the prescription medications.

These high levels of prescription drugs have the potential to cause dangerous side effects. According to LIVESTRONG.com, an overdose of sildenafil can cause side effects like priapism, which is an erection that lasts longer than four hours. This painful condition can cause significant complications such as tissue damage that may require surgical intervention. Other possible side effects of overdosing on sildenafil can include:

  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fainting
  • Chest pain
  • Nausea
  • Memory problems
  • Sudden loss of vision
  • Pain that spreads to the shoulder or arm
  • Cardiac arrest
  • Heart failure
  • Anaphylaxis
  • Anemia

Relaxed regulations for herbal supplements

Although the FDA regulates the manufacture and sale of prescription erectile dysfunction pills and other medications, herbal supplements are instead regulated as “dietary supplements.” This means that manufacturers do not need to obtain FDA approval prior to marketing, and manufacturers can claim that their supplements support specific health concerns, provided they have some research to that effect. The less stringent regulations for herbal supplements means that not all of them may necessarily be safe to take.

This recent study highlights the need for greater FDA regulation of herbal supplements. The researchers found that many of the supplements they evaluated displayed labeling problems or quality control issues. For example, some of the labels failed to contain expiration dates or lot numbers, and sometimes the name of the manufacturer was omitted altogether. In some cases, various pills from the same product did not share the same appearance.

Consumers are often attracted to labels that claim that a product is “all natural” because this label tends to sound safer and perhaps healthier. However, it’s worth noting that the researchers found 57 herbal supplements with the label “all natural,” yet many of those contained sildenafil or tadalafil.

Consult a doctor before using supplements

This study does not mean that all herbal supplements are unfit for consumption. However, the researchers strongly urged consumers to consult a doctor before taking any herbal sex enhancement drug. This is particularly important for those who are taking prescription medications or who have an underlying medical condition. Some herbal supplements may be contraindicated for certain conditions or may interact with other medications and supplements, presenting the possibility of dangerous side effects.


  1. Cleveland Medicine Clinic, Erectile Dysfunction http://www.clevelandclinicmeded.com/medicalpubs/diseasemanagement/endocrinology/erectile-dysfunction/

  2. Livestrong, What Are the Effects of Too Much Viagra? http://www.livestrong.com/article/39877-effects-much-viagra/

  3. Mayo Clinic, Herbal supplements: What to know before you buy http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/herbal-supplements/SA00044