Adulteration of herbal sexual enhancers and slimmers: The wish for better sexual well-being and perfect body can be risky

Food Chem Toxicol. 2017 Oct;108(Pt B):355-364. doi: 10.1016/j.fct.2016.06.018. Epub 2016 Jun 20.


The popularity of herbal medicines and dietary supplements is increasing all over the world due to the many side-effects assigned to synthetic drugs. Herbal remedies should be considered as safe, with no side-effects, but unfortunately, even if they are labelled as natural, large numbers of adulterants, not only with toxic heavy metals but also with undeclared synthetic substances, have been detected up to date. In this review, the most frequent instances of adulteration of herbal medicines and dietary supplements acting as sexual enhancers and slimming products are thoroughly discussed. The great success of synthetic phosphodiesterase type-5 (PDE-5) inhibitory drugs like sildenafil, vardenafil and tadalafil, used for the treatment of erectile dysfunction has made them, as well as their unapproved analogues, popular as adulterants in herbal dietary supplements. The second group among blockbuster products are herbal preparations for slimming purpose, as obesity and gaining weight are major problems worldwide. Here, sibutramine hydrochloride monohydrate, an anti-obesity drug which inhibits serotonergic and noradrenergic reuptake, seems to be the most common adulterant. Together with large numbers of its analogues, thyroid hormones, anorexigens, diuretics, stimulants, and laxative agents are also detected in most of tested diet supplements.

Keywords: Adulteration; Botanical medicine; Contaminants; Dietary supplements; Sexual enhancers; Slimmers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Anti-Obesity Agents / chemistry
  • Anti-Obesity Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drug Contamination / statistics & numerical data*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Plant Preparations / chemistry
  • Plant Preparations / pharmacology*
  • Sexual Health*


  • Anti-Obesity Agents
  • Plant Preparations