Male enhancement most commonly materialises in the form of pills, some of which are proven to boost male sexual performance. There are options that offer penis enlargement, as well as those more familiar that offer firmer and longer lasting erections like Viagra or Cialis. We provide the prescription pills with an abundance of information, however this page looks into the over-the-counter tablet that can be purchased without a prescription and many claim staggering results that will revolutionise your sex life. Do they work, what's in them and are they safe?

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Why use male enhancement pills?

A large amount of male enhancement pills are available over-the-counter without a prescription. They are also widely available to purchase online, although do make sure you're using reputable sources.

It's suggested that, for men who are suffering from erectile dysfunction or are dissatisfied with their penis size, these offer an affordable treatment that avoid what some men fear will be an embarrassing conversation with their doctor. They see results and the treatment they are using provides a perfect resolution to the issue.

However, caution should be exercised when consuming these medications; in fact, the same level of caution that you would give prescription treatments. Unlike clinically proven treatment, many of their claims are unfounded and unproven, some have been found to contain hidden and potentially harmful ingredients and some can result in negative side effects and drug interactions.

Key Ingredients

A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, published in 2016, looked at the key ingredients found in the best-selling male enhancement pills to evaluate their effectiveness and side effects. Below is a summary of the most common ingredients and what they do:

Ingredients Effectiveness Side Effects
DHEA (A hormone manufactured from soy and wild yam)

May possibly be of some benefit. No definitive findings.

Relatively safe with little impact on hormone levels.


May improve sexual function, arousal and muscle strength.

Relatively safe with no evidence of adverse effects.

Ginkgo biloba

No evidence that it can benefit erectile dysfunction.

Side effects can include headaches, seizures and heavy bleeding. The likelihood of side effects is increased if taken with Coumadin.


South Korean study found it could cause a small but significant improvement in sexual function.

It can cause minor side effects such as headache, nausea, constipation and insomnia. It can lower blood sugar so caution should be exercised if you have diabetes.

Horney Goat Weed

No apparent benefit for sexual function.

Relatively safe with few common side effects. Rare cases of toxicity have been reported, leading to hypomania.

L-arginine (amino acid)

May improve sexual function for some with erectile dysfunction.

Relatively safe. Has been linked with a drop in blood pressure but not any significant change to heart rate.

Maca (Vegetable)

Evidence to suggest increased sexual behaviour in animals, but not proven in humans.

Considered safe, with some rare reports of toxicity causing a small increase in blood pressure and liver enzymes.


No strong evidence to prove its usefulness.

Rare cases of liver and kidney toxicity have been reported.


Evidence suggests this may have benefits in improving sexual functioning.

Side effects can include headaches, hypertension, insomnia and excessive sweating.


Some evidence suggest slight benefits to libido.

Safe with no reported adverse effects from use.

Claims to be '100% natural'

Many of these male enhancement pills claim to be 100% natural, but Medical News Today reported just how many have been found to contain traces of phosphodiesterase-5-inhibitors (PDE5s), which are linked to ED prescription medications. In fact, one study found that as many as 81% of these over-the-counter medications sold in the US and Asia had trace PDE5 elements. This is the same type of medication as Viagra and while it's a highly effective treatment for erectile dysfunction, it should not be consumed without consulting a medical professional beforehand and obtaining a prescription to make certain it is safe for you to use.

PDE5 inhibitors can be dangerous to your health and are not suitable for men with certain underlying medical conditions. They can also cause potentially dangerous side effects, including sudden drops in blood pressure when combined with other medications such as nitrates. If you're suffering from erectile dysfunction, it is recommended that you consult a medical professional who can advise you on the best medication to suit you.

Concerns and risks

Other than the risks associated with PDE5 inhibitors, there have been concerns expressed by medical professionals around the quality, purity and consistency of male enhancement pills bought online or over-the-counter. Because these supplements are classified as foods rather than medicines, they are subject to less rigorous testing and controls. It's up to each individual manufacturer to manage the quality and consistency of the product. It is for this reason that some medical professionals will be slow to recommend them to their patients.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) echoed this warning of the hidden risks with some supplements. At various stages, these over-the-counter supplements have sparked controversy and the FDA has issued statements to warn consumers. The FDA has published a list of 29 over-the-counter products to be avoided due to potentially harmful ingredients, which may not be listed on the label.


If you have from erectile dysfunction, you should consult with a medical professional before starting any treatment, including over-the-counter medications. They can assess whether you're at an increased risk of experiencing side effects due to underlying complicating health conditions, or due to interactions with other medications you're taking.