Male-Enhancement Products
Chester J. Zelasko, Ph.D. | October 9, 2007

Recently, I opened my spam folder and I had 297 e-mail messages. About 75% of them had subject lines like these:
  • Why not stand out from the crowd?
  • Be confident and stand tall.
  • She will love you a lot more than any new guy.
  • Your partner will give you a new nickname: "big boy"
  • A few inches can make a real difference.
And that’s about as far as I’m comfortable going because the subject lines get really bad after these--and these are bad enough. What’s in these products? Is it possible that they could actually work? That’s the topic of this Newsletter.

Background Information
The penis is essentially a tube with hollow chambers. When sexually aroused, the chambers fill with blood, allowing the organ to become hard enough for sexual intercourse. That isn’t a problem as long as there is adequate blood flow to allow the chambers to fill with blood.

The typical penis is five to seven inches when erect. While flaccid, however, the size can vary. The male-enhancement e-mails try to capitalize on a sense of inadequacy that men may feel about penis size. The tactics remind me of the approach that breast-enhancement products took several years ago. The ads and e-mails prey on the insecurities we all feel.

The Product
Almost every e-mail ends up at a website that promotes a single product called “ManSter.” The testimonials are extensive about the increase in penile length after use, plus increased libido, and better sexual performance. They even had photographs to document the results--more than I really needed to see. The claim is that a team of scientists developed the product, and that it was tested on over 5,000 men around the world. The ad continues to talk about how much can be gained and how long it will take. It always sounds so good.

Fortunately, I was able to find the nutrition label on the website so I checked out the science.

The Science
The ingredients in ManSter are a number of herbs, many of which have unknown effects. Although there’s no published research on the product, there are at least a few studies on each ingredient. But most have no research associated with sexual organs or sexual activity; that list includes some obscure tongue twisters such as mucuna pruriens, asteracantha longifolia, albizzia lebbeck, and argyrerin speciosa, along with the more familiar vitamin E and soya protein concentrate.

Other ingredients include the following:
  • Withania somnifera had no research on sexual benefits, but is being examined for anti-cancer properties and as a treatment for arthritis when combined with other herbs (1).

  • Pueraria tuberosa has not been studied for male enhancement. Due to the isoflavone content, other species in this genus have been studied for effects on menopause (2). Here’s an interesting fact: it has a very familiar cousin in the southern U.S. called kudzu.

  • Valeriana wallichii has not been studied for male enhancement. However, it may have some anti-stress properties and is being studied as a central nervous system relaxant (3).

  • The herb that has gotten the most attention is Tribulus terrestris. There have been some interesting studies on the potential benefits for erectile dysfunction, but the consensus is that there is limited research and what research exists is equivocal (4). There’s no indication that it will enhance penile growth. But let’s give this herb the benefit of the doubt and suggest that it may have a positive effect on erectile dysfunction or even libido. In a recent study on rats, test animals that were fed tribulus in their drinking water had more sexual activity than those given a placebo (5). The amount of tribulus they were given was 50 mg per kilogram of body weight. For the typical 90 kg male in the United States, that would work out to 4,500 mg per day! The amount found in ManSter was a total of 50 mg per dose.
Bottom Line
What would possibly make anyone think you can grow a bigger penis by taking a few herbs? If you’re going to grow something bigger, I think other appendages or organs would take priority--bigger biceps or a bigger brain, perhaps.

But maybe the combination of herbs in these products can slightly increase blood flow to the penis by relaxing blood vessels. Fine, but understand that has to happen systemically--blood vessels will be relaxing throughout your body. Who knows what side-effects there might be for your heart or your brain? Maybe a stroke, maybe a drop in blood pressure. Odds are the supplement won’t do any harm, but there are better, safer, and less expensive ways to enhance your sex life.

Here’s my advice: work on getting fit and looking better for your partner and yourself. Fitness can increase your confidence, and that can work wonders for your sexuality and your libido. Eating less and exercising more is free, so take the money you would have spent on these male-enhancement products and buy some flowers for your spouse, or dinner and a movie (your spouse’s choice), or dance lessons for both of you. Any one of those will be a plus for your relationship, and you just never know how that will enhance your sex life.

References:
  1. Chopra A, et al D. A 32-Week Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Clinical Evaluation of RA-11, an Ayurvedic Drug, on Osteoarthritis of the Knees. J Clin Rheumatol. 2004;10(5):236-245.

  2. Vaishnav K, et al. Isoflavonoids production in callus culture of Pueraria tuberosa, the Indian kudzu. Indian J Exp Biol. 2006;44(12):1012-7.

  3. Bhattacharyya D, et al. Initial exploratory observational pharmacology of Valeriana wallichii on stress management: a clinical report. Nepal Med Coll J. 2007;9(1):36-9.

  4. Douglas MacKay, D. Nutrients and Botanicals for Erectile Dysfunction: Examining the Evidence. Altern Med Rev 2004;9(1):4-16.

  5. Walid H, et al. Free Serum Testosterone Level in Male Rats Treated with Tribulus Alatus Extracts. International Braz J Urol. 2007;33 (4): 554-559.
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