Herbal Impotence Pills Get Some Scientific Scrutiny
Her trial involved 49 women either nearing or at menopause, all reporting
sexual dysfunction. "Across the board, there was a significant increase in
sexual satisfaction in the women on the drug compared to the control
women," Polan says. Some 76% of the group on the ArginMax formulation
reported improved sexual desire, while 72% had greater satisfaction in their
sex lives, 64% had an improved sexual relationship with their partners, 60% had
better clitoral sensation, and 52% had more frequent orgasms.
The placebo effect definitely came into play, as in the men's study, Polan
tells WebMD. In one category, for example, "Thirty percent of women got
better on the placebo. But 60% of women get better on the drug. So there's a
Polan says she was encouraged by the results. "I take care of a lot of
peri- and post-menopausal women, and probably the second biggest complaint is
decreased or ineffective sexual functioning." Currently, there is no
similar drug for women nearing menopause, although estrogen-replacement therapy
is reported to improve sexual functioning in menopausal women. There have been
no large-scale trials of Viagra involving women, Polan tells WebMD.
The women's compound contains L-arginine, ginseng, ginkgo biloba, and the
herb damiana, which is supposed to promote the relaxed state of mind that is
important for sexuality in women, Polan says. Vitamins and minerals also were
She intends to follow the women in her study to determine the compound's
long-term effects, and hopes to launch a larger trial. But how does a Stanford
professor become involved in testing an herbal supplement in the first
The theory behind the product made sense to her, she says. "I felt it
was a group of people who understood you need to develop some data. It's a
small start-up company, so we're not talking about mega trials, but there
should be some critically evaluated information. ... And I think we've shown
As for supplements in general, "who knows what all this stuff out there
does for people?" Polan says. "Of course, if you live in California,
many people use nutritional supplements as their sole source of medication. ...
I never know what to tell patients, so when I see medications that at least
have data behind them, I feel more comfortable."
Buyer beware, says one of the country's top prostate cancer surgeons,
William Catalona, MD, a urologist with Washington University School of Medicine
in St. Louis. He has seen thousands of men facing sexual dysfunction.
And he's heard bad reviews of the herbals: "A lot of [patients] try
these medications. And some feel they help a little bit, but most of the word I
get would not suggest that they are effective. ... Patients ask, but I usually
don't recommend them because [they] haven't been tested and approved by the FDA
to show they are safe and effective."