Male Enhancement


What is Male Enhancement Exactly?


"Male Enhancement", a euphemism for penis enlargement, is a multi-million dollar global phenomenon made possible by e-commerce. The large majority of the industry's suppliers are "drop ship" operations; ordering from formulators who provide a custom label and send the product directly to the customer on demand. The companies themselves never see the product, which is a combination of food-grade herbs and vitamins in pill form.

Despite the higher-than-prescription price point of the product and significant profit margins, most of the money goes to paying out affiliates –– independent website owners who advertise the product "on spec" in hopes that viewers will click through ads and make a purchase, resulting in a significant bounty or finder's fee.

Although recent regulation in the EU (Articles 13 and 14) and the United States about product claims and import of key ingredients have impacted the nutritional supplements industry, sales remain strong among "male enhancement" category products. The largest consuming demographic of these products is "Generation Y", the 43 million Americans between 18 and 29. This demographic also comprises the largest growth in the industry. Additionally, recent de-regulation of the Japanese market allows for significant inroads for the industry.


Unscientific surveys indicate that men's dissatisfaction with the size and duration of their erections may be has high as 40%. Largely this is due to the increase of exposure to the phallic image in pornographic material – an arguably unreasonable standard. Except in rare urological cases this is an image problem or a self-esteem problem, not a medical problem.

Penis enlargement surgery is virtually unheard of in developed countries, given its risk of permanent damage and impotence, very high dissatisfaction rates among urologists and patients, and results of only half an inch in enlargement. Faced with these disappointing results, millions of mostly younger men turn to nutritional supplements as complementary and alternative medicine.

Clinical vs. Anecdotal Results

Given the multi-million dollar nature of the herbal supplement phenomenon, one would imagine that the subject has been studied thoroughly in clinical settings. With the odd exception, it largely hasn't. What few clinical trials have been performed have shown a modest performance of these products above placebo – but "performance above placebo" is all the suppliers need to truthfully claim benefit.

Anecdotal evidence, on the other side, is overwhelmingly supportive. This may be purely psychological, but if the result is an increase in the quality of subjects' sex lives, then the product achieves its purpose.

Further, many users of sexual herbal supplements make recommended changes to their diet and activity: smoking, obesity and stress-related sleeplessness are the leading causes of sexual dysfunction, and once users start consuming herbs, they frequently begin to address these other issues. This may explain the very high anecdotal support for the efficacy of the products.


The most common ingredients include ginseng, epimedium, and ginkgo, thought to increase blood flow and act as a mild stimulant. These core ingredients are generally rounded out with zinc and various vitamins (specifically E and niacin) and certain amino acids (such as L-Arginine). Formulations will often include exotic botanicals; saw palmetto, yohimbine, hawthorn berry, catuaba and muira pauma bark extracts.

Often the studies cited in the promotion of herbal supplement products are really studies on the efficacy of individual ingredients, not the marketer's specific formulations. However, common sense dictates that if ginseng is effective in promoting blood flow and capillary uptake, then a formula with ginseng as its main ingredient would see at least partial efficacy.

Side Effects and Prescription Alternatives

In North America, with ready access to prescription erectile-dysfunction medications, a common impetus for seeking alternatives is the experience of side effects encountered with prescription drugs. Those with high blood pressure or heart conditions – both of which are ubiquitous in males aged 45-60 – are advised against ED pharmacology.

In contrast, herbal supplements have no significant side effects other than those associated with increased blood flow, such as reddening of the cheeks or tingling in the extremities and skin. These rare side effects are not harmful and temporary.


Predominantly, consumers of male enhancement products reside in the southern United States, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia. Usually markets where sexual education is low, as is access to (and comfort levels with) medical professionals. Mexico and Japan, which have relatively low consumption of these products, show the highest rate of market growth as of 2009. Worldwide market data for the industry is unavailable, but 2008 sales were estimated in excess of $100 million U.S.

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