Herbal uprising

This natural impotence product promises to put the roar back in your drawers.


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Chris Colin
April 8, 1999 2:29PM (UTC)

"Put that tiger back in your tank!" Natural Heritage Enterprises urges at
the
top of its
Web page. A blurry digital kitten morphs into a puma below. A
cartoon man in a suit smiles atop a cartoon mountain, left hand gripping an
astonishingly erect flagpole. Waning male virility, this Orlando, Fla.-based
organic medicine company claims, now has an herbal remedy.

Natural Heritage Enterprises (NHE), which makes most of its money on a natural immune system enhancer,
introduced the Male Herbal Formula roughly six months ago. Six drops taken
three times daily, they say, can boost sexual drive, desire, energy and "the male
sense of well-being." Of course, male well-being is in the eye of the
beholder; below the FDA's radar, herbal medicine is free to work or not
work.

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"I first tested it on myself," reports NHE owner Michael Miller, 59. "By the
third week, I started noticing a nice, comfortable feeling and I was more
easily sexually aroused."

Miller claims friends began to report similar results. "Everybody who
ordered
it went on to reorder it," he says.

Viagra, an NHE spokeswoman conceded, has its advantages -- the Male Herbal
Formula "takes effect a little slower." But at just under 30 cents per day,
an herbal tiger in your tank costs significantly less. "The price is right,"
says the Web page, a mix of crude graphics and earnest appeals to common
sense. "Hey, we are a small company. We have to make a great product!"

NHE isn't modest with its recipe, either. "Only the finest organic herbs are
used," the Web site explains -- "then we use a lot of them." Down the center of
the page runs a list of Male Herbal Formula ingredients: yohimbe bark, saw
palmetto berries, uva ursi leaves and four kinds of ginseng, to name a few.
Indeed, it is yohimbe, extracted from the West African Pausinystalia yohimbe
tree, that has recently garnered attention in virility circles. As herbal
medicine manufacturers have begun tapping into its alleged aphrodisiac
powers, science has taken a look.

According to the February 1 issue of Environmental Nutrition, the active
compound in the yohimbe bark increases sexual drive in male rats. While the
same results have not been found in humans, recent analysis of seven
clinical
trials showed the compound to be more effective than a placebo in treating
erectile dysfunction. Between one-third and one-half of the men reported
some benefit.

Still, the journal article was cautionary. "Yohimbe is not an herb to mess
around with. Ironically, [it] is not recommended for men who may seek it
most -- older men and those with cardiovascular disease, hypertension and
prostate problems. Neither should it be used by those with liver or kidney
disease, psychiatric illness or in combination with mood-altering drugs like
antidepressants."

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Other scientists were less optimistic. "[Yohimbe] has not been proven sufficiently
safe
or effective," says Varro Tyler, Ph.D, ScD, of the Purdue University
School of
Pharmacy and Pharmacal Sciences. As for the compounds that include it -- the
Male Herbal Formula, for instance -- Tyler reports that none of those tested
"had a sufficient amount of the active alkaloid."

Nevertheless, NHE is preparing for major international business. Pfizer
itself has taken notice of Miller's little company, insisting that it remove
references to Viagra from its Web site. Miller speaks optimistically of the
herbal remedy's future -- that hardy mixture of confidence and male
well-being.


Chris Colin

Chris Colin is the author most recently of "Blindsight," published by the Atavist.

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