In this increasingly technological age where there seems to be a 'quick fix pill' to cure whatever ails you, many people, fearful of unknown chemical compounds, are turning to more natural solutions to their medical woes. Homeopathic treatments such as Acupuncture and Reiki are become increasingly popular as they offer natural solutions to problems such as depression, stress and tension, to name but a few. The erectile dysfunction market is no exception.
Many herbal products marketed as sexual stimulants claim to be "natural versions" of Viagra and other sexual-dysfunction drugs, but they may not do what they say on the packet. Some brands of herbal remedy marketed as "natural" alternatives, actually contain the drugs themselves. Others contain herbal products known to cause toxic side effects. James Kirby, a spokesman for a UK online impotence clinic points out that "Because herbal products aren't subject to the same rigorous standards as are prescription or over-the-counter medications, it's not possible to endorse any of these so-called herbal Viagra products as 'safe'."
Several supplements contain herbal ingredients known to cause serious side effects. Some contained yohimbe bark, whose main ingredient yohimbine causes effects that are similar to Viagra's but can be more severe, 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.
Another danger associated with 'herbal' remedies is the misconception that, unlike prescription medicines, they are safe to mix with other medicines. HIV-positive patients on therapy are particularly prone to sexual dysfunction and might also be particularly interested in herbal alternatives, since levels of Viagra, Cialis and Levitra are raised if you take the protease inhibitors ritonavir (Norvir) or lopinavir/ritonavir (Kaletra). This can result in unpleasant side effects like blurred vision, headaches, pounding pulse and unwanted, painful erections (priapism). However, many brands of herbal Viagra also contain substances (vasodilators) that improve blood flow by relaxing the walls of blood vessels. But no herbal products are as specific for blood vessels to the penis as Viagra and other similar prescription drugs are. As a result, these herbal remedies may cause generalized low blood pressure and restrict blood flow to vital organs; this can cause a sudden drop in blood pressure and has led to fainting and, on a few occasions, fatalities.
Alternative medicines have been used all around the world for thousands of years with great success. However, it is important to be mindful that they require the same respect as man-made chemicals and also that it is important to realise that many brands may not be as natural as they claim to be.
By James Kirby
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