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Web Sites Selling Herbal 'Viagra' Criticized

Study Questions Safety and Reliability of Sites' Medical Information

What's in the Bottle?

Herbal treatments aren't regulated by the government. The most common ingredients cited in the study were yohimbe,ginseng, and ginkgo biloba.

Yohimbe can cause headaches, sweating, and high blood pressure, making it inappropriate for patients with heart and neurological disease, say the researchers. Reports of diarrhea, vomiting, headaches, and allergic skin reactions have been linked to ginkgo biloba, they say.

That's not to say that those herbs might not have an effect on ED. But the pros and cons of any treatment -- herbal or not -- should be made clear, the study suggests.

Health experts recommend that patients tell their doctors about any supplements they take (including herbal products and vitamins). That could help avoid interactions between treatments.

Herbal or Not?

Two years ago, the FDA cracked down on a supposedly all-natural herbal treatment marketed to men and women to enhance sexual experience. The FDA learned that the product, called Vinarol, actually contained Viagra's active ingredient, says the study.

"It is unknown how many other treatments for ED marketed as "herbal" supplements actually contain active and potentially dangerous compounds," write the researchers, who included Ramesh Thurairaja of the urology department at England's Bristol Royal Infirmary.

The study appears in the March/April issue of the International Journal of Impotence Research.

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