WebMD Medical News, Oct. 23, 2000

Herbal Viagra Alternative Works—at Least on Rats

Further Study of Ancient Chinese Remedy Is Needed

By Jeanie Davis
WebMD Medical News

Reviewed by Dr. Richard C. Roberson

Oct. 23, 2000 – It’s not yet clear whether what works for rats might be effective for humans. But one study is showing that an ‘herbal Viagra’ mixture really can help if things get dicey in the rat boudoir.

The study, featured in this month’s Journal of Urology, showed that the herb mixture, based on an ancient Chinese formula, achieved “significant results” in terms of erections for laboratory rats, reports study author Tom F. Lue, MD, a urology researcher at the University of California, San Francisco.

For Lue’s study, the researchers put 24 young rats on a high-cholesterol diet that induced erectile dysfunction. “Cholesterol is bad for men and rats alike,” he tells WebMD.

Two months into the four-month study, a commercially available herbal mix called BetterMAN was slipped into the drinking water of 16 of the rats.

All the rats fed the high-cholesterol diet indeed ended up with high cholesterol levels—and all became impotent. But those who drank the herbal mixture were later able to achieve erections, while the other eight rats remained impotent.

In the normal course of their short lives, Lue tells WebMD, rats often do experience erectile dysfunction—usually by the time they are 24 months old (about 70 in human years).

The results of his study are strictly preliminary, says Lue. “This pilot study is designed to see whether the treatment does anything at all,” he says. “One always has to be cautious when trying to extrapolate findings from rats to humans.”

BetterMAN is an 18-herb mix based on a formula used in traditional Chinese medicine, explains Peipei Wu Wishnow, PhD, the China-born, MIT-trained researcher who developed the formula and founded Interceuticals Inc. The company provided BetterMAN for Lue’s study.

“The formula improves blood circulation… and modulates sexual desire through the central nervous system,” Wishnow tells WebMD. “It improves male sexual functioning and decreases nighttime urination—two problems many men over 40 experience.”

Exactly how it works is not well understood, but unlike Viagra —which is supposed to be taken about an hour before intercourse—the BetterMAN mix “not only improves spontaneous erectile function, but also delays ejaculation and enhances libido,” says Wishnow. BetterMAN is taken daily, with rest periods of a few days.

In the last 10 years, says Wishnow, 5,000 Chinese men have used the formula as prescribed by physicians, with 75% reported improvements in sexual functioning and urinary control. In one small study of 45 men in the U.S., 70% reported improvements in sexual functioning and urinary control after two months of regular use.

BetterMAN has been available in U.S. stores since April 1998, Wishnow tells WebMD. Thousands of men have used it since then, and “the mix has shown no side effects or known interactions with medications—a concern many people have with Viagra,” she says.

Not everyone, including Lue, is convinced that BetterMAN is the answer to men’s woes. “I believe Viagra is still the drug of choice, “says Lue, who also involved in a clinical trial of Viagra. “However, if a patient doesn’t want Viagra and asks for herbal alternatives, I will tell him about it.”

Muta M. Issa, MD, an assistant professor of urology at Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta, compliments the study on its methodology, but tells WebMD the results are “too preliminary” to offer any advice to humans.

“The study is done with rats—different animal, different species,” he says. “It’s quite literally there to give someone an idea, if they want to investigate, take it to the next step. Whether [the herbal formula] is promising or not is difficult to say.”

For more information from WebMD, visit our Diseases and Conditions Center on Sexual Conditions.

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