There are 20 warnings on the type of 'herbal Viagra' Lamar Odom reportedly took

Lamar Odom, the former Lakers basketball star and ex-husband of Khloé Kardashian, was hospitalized after he was found unconscious in a brothel in the Nevada desert. It was unclear what had caused him to collapse. Dennis Hof, the brothel’s owner, told media outlets that Odom had drunk cognac and taken "herbal Viagra," a substance that the Food and Drug Administration has said can be dangerous. 

What is herbal Viagra?

Herbal Viagra contains substances reputed to enhance sexual performance. It is sold in a variety of stores and over the Internet. The ingredients vary and often are not even listed on the package. Herbal Viagra is supposed to mimic the effects of real Viagra, a prescription drug given to treat erectile dysfunction or to prolong an erection for sexual pleasure.

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What is Viagra?

Viagra is the brand name of the prescription drug sildenafil. According to the Mayo Clinic, sildenafil works by increasing blood flow to the penis, stimulating the erection.

Are there dangers associated with herbal Viagra?

The supplement does not require the same standards or safety regulations the government imposes on prescription drugs or over-the-counter medications. According to the Mayo Clinic, “some products sold as ‘herbal viagras’ have been pulled off the market because they contain undeclared prescription medications. It can be dangerous to take supplements that contain unknown amounts of prescription medications or other unidentified ingredients.”

The FDA has repeatedly warned about the dangers of such products. The agency, which is responsible for testing and ensuring the safety of drugs and medical devices, has issued 20 public notifications this year concerning what it says are “tainted” Internet products with names like "Weekend Warrior" and "King of Romance" that promise male sexual enhancement.

Are there other dangers? 

Some herbal products do improve blood flow by relaxing the walls of blood vessels, however none of them specifically operates on just the blood vessels in the penis, as does Viagra and other prescription drugs, according to WebMD.

According to WebMD, some herbal Viagra supplements can cause dangerously low blood pressure in some men who have heart conditions, have diabetes, are under stress or have consumed too much alcohol.

Why would anyone use herbal Viagra?

Two frequent reasons are cost and convenience. Herbal products are available without a prescription, meaning that no costly doctor’s visit is required. They are also easily obtained, especially through the Internet. Prescription Viagra can cost more than $40 for a 100-mg pill. Some supplements cost less than that for a bottle of 30 capsules.  

How common is ED?

Approximately 30 million men are afflicted with ED on a continuing basis, though nearly all men have some episodes. According to the National Institutes of Health, approximately 5% of men who are 40 years old, and between 15% to 25% of men 65 and older experience ED on a long-term basis.

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