If a company can afford to aggressively market products, it's probably making a few bucks — but that doesn't mean the products live up to the promises behind them.
Dr. Jennifer Berman, a urologist and co-director of the Female Sexual Medicine Center at the University of California, Los Angeles, says men shouldn't pin too much hope on the sexual enhancement products offered to them on a daily basis via e-mail.
Berman says it's virtually impossible to tell if they really work since most of the products are not regulated by the federal Food and Drug Administration, and therefore they have not been through government-monitored trials.
In addition, some could be dangerous, she said.
"If you're undergoing surgery … some of them can be associated with bleeding, you need to be aware of that," Berman said on ABCNEWS' Good Morning America. "Don't take a chance on them. If you're curious about one of these products, talk to your doctor."
Berman says the success of the anti-impotence drug Viagra has helped legitimize the topic of sexual enhancement and that's opened the floodgates for companies looking to cash in.
Since the sexual enhancement industry is largely unregulated, it is tough to know how big the market actually is. But experts predict the marketing of its products won't decrease any time soon.
"Some of these companies will get 6,000 orders in a month for bottles of pills they're charging $50 a bottle for," Berman said. "It's a huge market for them because they're playing on men's insecurities and their greatest wish and the thing they don't want to talk to their doctors about. Just like women want to buy a magic wrinkle cream, men want a magic enhancement cream."
Promises of Enhancement and Arousal
Some of the elements being marketed via e-mail have curious names, like Horny Goat Weed and Yohimbe. While Horny Goat Weed is marketed as a botanical sexual enhancer that's used in China and Japan, Yohimbe, a South African herb, has been referred to as an aphrodisiac. Viramax, an herbal substance that bills itself as a natural alternative to Viagra, offers promises of sexual enhancement to both men and women.
While some of the products promise size enhancement for men, others promise arousal. Berman says some of the products are designed to achieve these results through enhanced blood flow, but they're not all the same.
"Theoretically, what they do is enhance blood flow for arousal purposes, and then others have some mood-stabilizing, energy-producing products in them," Berman said.
Jennifer Berman's sister Laura Berman, a sex therapist and director of the Berman Center in Chicago, says it's probably not a great idea to bet on an increase in size or in arousal.
"They are really erection enhancers, not size enhancers. With an erection, there's an increase in size, but that's not because you've grown technically, it's by virtue of the fact that you've increased blood flow, and it's temporary," she said.
Jennifer Berman says consumers should also be very careful with any e-mails promising Viagra, which has been proven to work, on the cheap.
Since a doctor's prescription is needed for Viagra, pills sold without a prescription could contain the wrong ingredients — or they could be nothing but expensive sugar pills.
Jennifer Berman says men should see a doctor if they want Viagra. And if they're looking for increased size, she says they should ask themselves why it's so important to them. She says size doesn't really matter that much when it comes to sex, and most products are only making promises that can't be fulfilled in the end.
"In the meantime, delete the e-mails and move on," she said.