Are dietary supplements safe for treating erectile dysfunction (ED)?

Marc B. Garnick, MD
Hematology & Oncology
Most herbs and other nonregulated substances sold without prescription are known legally as "dietary supplements." Because these products are not controlled by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), there is no oversight of their contents. Sometimes they contain substances that are not on the label.

For example, for the past several years, the FDA has been warning consumers against using products promoted for erectile dysfunction (ED) that contain sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), or tadalafil (Cialis) but do not list these ingredients on the label. This is dangerous, because these medications react with nitrates found in some prescription drugs (such as nitroglycerin) and may lower blood pressure to dangerous levels. People with diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or heart disease often take nitrates. ED is a common problem in men with these conditions, so they may seek products to treat the ED without knowing that they contain the active ingredients used in FDA-approved ED drugs.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.