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Men, Those 'Natural Enhancers' Aren’t Doing You Any Favors

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You’ve seen them by the cash register at the gas station: “male enhancers” with alarmingly virile-sounding names. “Who buys that stuff?” you might say, chuckling nervously. Or you might say, “Does that stuff really work?” or “Isn’t that stuff dangerous?”

Prepare to have all those burning questions answered: a recent study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine set out to learn how many men use nonprescription supplements to boost their, uh, personal abilities. The researchers also wanted to learn what’s in those pills, if the pills actually work, and if they’re safe to take. 

So who buys that stuff? A lot of people. Sexual health issues like erectile dysfunction are extremely common; the urologists who conducted the study estimate that between 40 and 70 percent of men will experience sexual dysfunction at some point in their lives. There are drugs for some conditions, but drugs are expensive and can involve terribly uncomfortable conversations with the doctor. “Natural” remedies, on the other hand, are available—without discussion—at any convenience store, or online from any spammer.

Over-the-counter penis pills are classified as dietary supplements, which means there’s no regulation and no monitoring of their ingredients, efficacy, or safety. 

What’s in them? Some of these “natural” supplements may contain herbs like ginseng, ginkgo biloba, or Epimedium grandiflorum, commonly known as "horny goat weed." Others are made with amino acids or hormones. Some are mineral-based. And some are laced with illegal drugs. 

To clarify: the researchers found that some products marketed as “natural” actually contained traces of phosphodiesterase-5-inhibitors (PDE5Is), a class of ED drugs that includes Viagra. Viagra is perfectly legal if you have a prescription, but mixing it into something else and selling it over the counter is illegal in the U.S. It’s also unsafe, senior author Ryan Terlecki said in a press release. A prescription is a doctor’s assurance that the drug should be OK for you to take. Without it, you run the risk of dangerous medication interactions and unintended consequences to your health. 

Do the pills even work? Some might. Others are useless. But the researchers concluded that none of the pills packaged as “enhancers” have been clinically tested. There’s no evidence that they’ll do you any good, and some of the ingredients could actually cause you harm. One thing's for sure: They're not worth the money. "Patients are paying more than $5 per day to take products with no proven effectiveness," Terlecki said.  

Gentlemen, spare yourselves the heartache. If you’re unsatisfied with your sex life, talk to your doctor. Trust us: They’ve heard everything.

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Beyond the Label: How to Pick the Right Medicines For Your Cold and Flu Symptoms
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The average household spends an annual total of $338 on various over-the-counter medicines, with consumers making around 26 pharmacy runs each year, according to 2015 data from the Consumer Healthcare Products Association. To save cash and minimize effort (here's why you'd rather be sleeping), the Cleveland Clinic recommends avoiding certain cold and flu products, and selecting products containing specific active ingredients.

Since medicine labels can be confusing (lots of people likely can’t remember—let alone spell—words like cetirizine, benzocaine, or dextromethorphan), the famous hospital created an interactive infographic to help patients select the right product for them. Click on your symptom, and you’ll see ingredients that have been clinically proven to relieve runny or stuffy noses, fevers, aches, and coughs. Since every medicine is different, you’ll also receive safety tips regarding dosage levels, side effects, and the average duration of effectiveness.

Next time you get sick, keep an eye out for these suggested elements while comparing products at the pharmacy. In the meantime, a few pro tips: To avoid annoying side effects, steer clear of multi-symptom products if you think just one ingredient will do it for you. And while you’re at it, avoid nasal sprays with phenylephrine and cough syrups with guaifenesin, as experts say they may not actually work. Cold and flu season is always annoying—but it shouldn’t be expensive to boot.

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Why You Might Not Want to Order Tea or Coffee On Your Next Flight
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A cup of tea or coffee at 40,000 feet may sound like a great way to give yourself an extra energy boost during a tiring trip, but it might be healthier to nap away your fatigue—or at least wait until hitting ground to indulge in a caffeine fix. Because, in addition to being tepid and watery, plane brew could be teeming with germs and other harmful life forms, according to Business Insider.

Multiple studies and investigations have taken a closer look at airplane tap water, and the results aren’t pretty—or appetizing. In 2002, The Wall Street Journal conducted a study that looked at water samples taken from 14 different flights from 10 different airlines. Reporters discovered “a long list of microscopic life you don’t want to drink, from Salmonella and Staphylococcus to tiny insect eggs," they wrote.

And they added, "Worse, contamination was the rule, not the exception: Almost all of the bacteria levels were tens, sometimes hundreds, of times above U.S. government limits."

A 2004 study by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) found that water supplies on 15 percent of 327 national and international commercial aircrafts were contaminated to varying degrees [PDF]. This all led up to the 2011 Aircraft Drinking Water Rule, an EPA initiative to make airlines clean up. But in 2013, an NBC investigation found that at least one out of every 10 commercial U.S. airplanes still had issues with water contamination.

Find out how airplane water gets so gross, and why turning water into coffee or tea isn’t enough to kill residual germs by watching Business Insider’s video below.

[h/t Business Insider]

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