How to Overcome your Addiction to Goat Gonads
The stone tower of the Washington Monument. The majesty of Egyptian obelisks. The exploding power of NASA's space rockets. All symbols of the lofty ideal man covets over all things: an erection made of steel.Throughout history, men have searched for the magic potion that will make love last forever. Toward that end, it seems mankind would balk at nothing, including: ground rhinoceros horn, sauteed goat testes, dried black ants with olive oil, and powdered lizard with white wine, not to mention tiger parts, asses' milk, the fat of camel humps and applications of jackal bile. Jackal bile? The mere thought is enough to make all but the most determined love machine go limp.Now that Viagra's on the scene, is it still worth pursuing these more natural remedies? Do they even work?While science has verified that food has direct health effects for ailments as varied as asthma, depression and arthritis, very little research has been done on the effects of food or food supplements on male sexual performance. That's partly because determining the quality of sexual performance can be subjective. The other quirk is that maintaining an erection is as much work for the body as it is for the mind, thereby making it difficult to separate the placebo effects of aphrodisiacs from their true physical effects.Still, researchers have tried to confirm whether some of the legendary aphrodisiacs really hold their own -- so to speak. One standout in erectile lore is Yohimbine, the herbal remedy derived from the inner bark of West African Yohimbine trees. Native cultures have long attested to the sexual power of Yohimbine and Western veterinarians use it extensively to treat impotent horses. Of course, it wasn't long before someone decided that what's good for a horse has got to be good for wannabe bedroom stallions. True believers claim that Yohimbine increases blood flow to extremities, promotes serum testosterone levels and assists muscle growth and strength. It's easily available from health food stores and through mail order, and is even sold in combination with other sexual performance boosters, including: damiana, an herb made from a plant grown in Africa and North America which is said to nourish libidos and cure premature ejaculation; muir puama, a resin from a South American tree that may enhance desire; and ginseng, a well-known reputed stimulant for energy and performance.But Erick Janssen, Ph.D., an assistant scientist at Indiana University's famed Kinsey Institute for Research in Sex, Gender and Reproduction, reports that Yohimbine has been "marginally effective" in some medical studies. Doctors discount and even warn against expecting too much from mysterious potions that don't accurately list ingredients, may vary from preparation to preparation and haven't been proven effective by medical standards.In addition, they draw a distinction between men with medical causes of impotency -- who should see a physician before trying any drugs or herbs -- and those who might just want improved performance."Some of these herbal things are pretty weird," says David Klurfeld, Ph.D., chair of nutrition and food science at Wayne State University. "I think some of it is clearly just unscrupulous salesmanship and some of it is wishful thinking."In fact, warn scientists, the search for the perfect erection may lead men down the path toward their more feminine sides. For example, Aristotle's extolment of "root vegetables" -- including parsnips, artichokes, turnips, asparagus, candied ginger and scallions -- along with the ever-popular shellfish mixed in wine all actually contain estrogen, a female hormone."I have the feeling that if there was any biological effect, which I doubt, it would be the opposite of what's intended," says Klurfeld.Janssen argues that a food's supposed lovemaking effects may have more to do with how the food looks than what it contains. The word "ginseng" means "man root" because it looks like the human body. Oysters may have earned their reputation from their close resemblance to female genitalia. And the belief that root vegetables are aphrodisiacs may come from their similarity to the penis."If these things are in the ground, there may be some connotation with penetration," Janssen speculates. "A lot of it is probably a placebo effect, but if it works for people, hey, it works."Consuming the balls of beasts also has been commonly thought to promote human performance. An ancient Hindu recipe promises that by eating the testes of a goat with "an adequate quantity of salt and long pepper, fried in clarified butter, prepared with churning milk (not from curd), a man is able to visit 100 women one after the other," Janssen quotes from a research paper. But there's no firm finding of such an effect, Klurfeld says.But with the advent of Viagra, the search for the perpetually perky penis may have finally hit the Holy Grail."This is the Age of Viagra," proclaims E. Douglas Whitehead, MD, a New York City urologist and director of the Association for Male Sexual Dysfunction. He's prescribed the pill to at least 500 men and assesses its success by the width of his patients' "Viagra smiles."Ushering in a new post-impotency era for thousands of American couples, the drug is taken a few hours before attempting intercourse and works by allowing adequate blood flow to the vessels in the penis.Unlike the unproven remedies of folklore, Viagra comes to the medically impotent public backed by solid evidence from years of clinical trials that clarified results with the International Index of Erectile Function, a standardized questionnaire administered to men who tried the pill.Since March, when the FDA approved the pill for use, men have been jamming their urologists' offices seeking the prescription for performance -- the only legal way to obtain the pill. The drug's maker, Pfizer Inc., watched its stock price rise along with É well, anyway. Journalists have covered the story in news, business, health and lifestyle sections, touting the compound as a significant strike in a new sexual revolution.Whitehead says other serious treatments for impotency are available but not really anything else has been as simple and effective as Viagra. "There were potions. There were penile implants. There were injections out there. There was loads of stuff before Viagra," he says. "The short answer is yes, they did work. The rest of the answer is they did not work as well as we would like."Viagra, and the emerging family of performance-enhancing drugs for both men and women, finally may make impotence obsolete. As Aristotle once said, "If you can get your pleasure from a pill, why not let the goats keep their gonads?"