Hey Everybody,

I have fractured my heel, and can only hobble, so I’m spending today with my butt firmly planted in this here office chair. For that reason, I am going to take the opportunity to take an in depth look at a type of product I have always found intimidating: the herbal sexual enhancement supplement.

Working in sex shops, I have always found it really important to know exactly what it is I am selling people. This stuff is going in their bodies! They’re trusting me to let them know whether it’s safe or not! This is not a responsibility I take lightly, and I have made it a point to learn all about the various ingredients and materials found in lubes and condoms and sex toys. But one thing that has always kind of eluded me is the complicated list of herbs and chemicals found on the backs of these supplements. So today, I learn. And you get to, too!


By far our most popular supplement, Forta has a dedicated following of loyal customers. They report longer lasting, harder erections, shorter refractory period, and more stamina during sex. But how exactly? Let’s take a look at its ingredients.

Epimedium Brevicornum (130mg): Also known as Horny Goat Weed, Epidenium is a traditional Chinese herb used to treat erectile dysfunction. It contains icariin, which works by increasing levels of nitric oxide, relaxing smooth muscles (similar in effect to inhaling poppers).

Cordyceps Sinensis (120mg): Okay, this is why I love research. Cordyceps Sinensis is a parasitic fungus that grows out of the heads of caterpillars, which it first kills and mummifies. Holy. Crap. But before you run away screaming, this fungus is highly prized in traditional Chinese medicine as an aphrodisiac. Because it is both animal and vegetable, it is regarded as having an excellent balance of yin and yang. From a more scientific standpoint, cordyceps are found to promote fat mobilization and beta-oxidation, which maintains blood glucose levels during prolonged sexual performance. Athletes in trials were found to exhibit enhanced endurance and reduced fatigue while taking this stuff.

Panax Ginseng (100mg): Ginseng has long been prized for its anti-fatigue effects as well its ability to increase blood-flow. Overall increased bloodflow is good for boners, which are very much about bloodflow.
Lycium Barbarum (80mg): Also known as Goji, the berries from this plant are used in traditional medicine for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, although most of the support for its efficacy is anecdotal, rather than scientific.

Cinnamoni Cassia Extract (70mg): Cinnamon is used in traditional medicine as a treatment for stress and depression, promoting relaxation and feelings of well-being. However, most of the scientific research surrounding the benefits of cinnamon are focused on its ability to reduce insulin spikes in the treatment of diabetes.

Forta for Women

The women’s version of Forta has many of the same ingredients as Forta for men, but in slightly different doses. There’s a bit less each of the horny goat weed, cordyceps, and ginseng, and none of the goji or cinnamon. In their place, there is the following:
Rehmannia Glutinosa (75mg): Rehmannia is used in the traditional Chinese and Japanese medicine to treat anemia and in the reduction of pain and swelling.
Morinda Officinalis (75mg): Also known as Indian Mulberry, Morinda is used in the treatment of depression by boosting the effect of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a huge part of the mammalian sexual response, and tons of the stuff is released during sex.
Angelica Sinensis (50mg): Also known as Female Ginseng, Angelica has powerful anti-fatigue properties.


Durazest has most of same ingredients as Forta for men but with 20mg more of Epidenium Breviconum it also has:
Gingko Biloba (50mg): I like gingko for its pretty leaves, but it is also used to enhance cognitive function, and is being explored as a treatment for Alzheimer’s disease and dementia (results still inconclusive there.)

HerbaMax for Women

In the brief period when Health Canada pulled Forta from our shelves, HerbaMax swooped in as a replacement. Marketed to support “the emotional aspects of sexual health”, I was very interested to see what researching these ingredients would return. They are as follows:
Tribulus Terrestris (150mg, but equal to 1500mg in concentration): Also known as Gokshura extract, it is used in Ayurvedic medicine to promote virility and good urogenital health. Studies have shown that Gokshura does in fact enhance the libido of rats, although the exact mechanism is not known. It also has adaptogenic properties, meaning it reduces the effects of stress on the body.
Epimedium Grandiflorum (50mg, but equal to 1000mg in concetration): This herb is known as Yin Yang Huo in Chinese medicine. Like horny goat weed, it contains icariin, and has the same effects (see above).
Panax Ginseng (400mg): See above
Maca Root (1500 mg): Maca root is supposedly beneficial for sexual performance, but not enough data exists to confirm this.
Rehmannia Glutinosa (100mg): See above
Angelica Sinensis (400mg): See above
Morinda Citrifolia Root (50mg): See Morinda Officinalis

HerbaMax Men

Almost the same as the women’s formula, HerbaMax for men has Horny Goatweed, Ginseng, Tribulus and Maca, but instead of the Gokshura, it has:
Tongkat Ali Root Extract (100mg): Also known as Eurycoma Longifolia Jack (or Malaysian Ginseng, though not to be confused with ginseng proper) has a direct effect on both erection and sperm production. Aha! This appears to be the main event for this pill. It also has an effect on libido, acting as a powerful aphrodisiac.
Goji (60mg): See above

Max It

These guys are fairly new, and I haven’t heard much feedback one way or another from customers yet, but in the Forta void, they too were flying off the shelf. These pills promise a longer lasting and firmer erection. Let’s see what the ingredients say!
Niacin (18mg): Niacin, or vitamin B3 causes, among other health benefits, vasodilation, meaning a widening of the blood vessels. This makes more room for blood to rush in, sounds like good news for boners!
Zinc (15mg): Zinc is an essential trace element for humans, and aids in other chemical reactions. Basically zinc plays an important role in other things working well, enhancing your body’s ability to use the other ingredients in the pill.
Catuaba Bark Extract (500mg): This is a Brazilian traditional aphrodisiac, but its properties have not been adequately investigated by scientists.
Cnidium Seed (100mg): Used in traditional Chinese medicine to treat erectile dysfunction, it appears to behave similarly to Horny Goat Weed in that it relaxes smooth muscles.
Horny Goat Weed (5000mg): See above
L-Arginine (308mg): L-Argnine is meant to promote blood flow and increase stamina, but it appears that research has yet to confirm this.
Maca Root (150mg): See above
Muira Puama Stem (400mg): A traditional South American extract used to treat sexual dysfunction and as a mild stimulant.
Avina Sativa (150mg): Or, simply, oats! Oats are great for your heart, and what’s good for your heart is good for your sexual performance.
Saw Palmetto Fruit (320 mg): This fruit is best known for its ability to shrink enlarged prostates, and promote prostate health in general. While this doesn’t directly affect boners, a healthy prostate is definitely a good thing when it comes to male sexuality.
Siberian Ginseng (100mg): See Panax Ginseng
Stinging Nettle Leaf (75mg): Also used to treat the prostate and urinary tract infections. Again, not directly related to harder, stronger erections, but definitely not a bad idea either. Having a generally healthy sexual system is good for everybody.
Tribulus Terrestris (50mg): See above

Max Finish

Max Finish is a stimulant-free way to increase the amount of ejaculate fluid during an orgasm, which increases the explosive sensation that accompanies it. These can be taken in tandem with Max It too!
Vitamin B6 (15mg): B6 plays a huge role in overall health, and it involved with over 100 enzyme reactions in the body, including specific roles in metabolism and the biosynthesis of neurotransmitters. I can’t seem to nail down its specific role in semen production, but with how integral a nutrient it seems to be, I’m sure it has one!
Zinc (15mg): See above
Epimedium Grandiflorum (150mg): See above
L-Arginine (315mg): See above
Lepedium Meyenii (400mg): See ‘Maca Root’
Masson Pine Bark (60mg): From what I can glean, this species of Chinese pine is generally used for making turpentine and adding smoke flavour to tea…although it does seem to slightly raise body levels of nitric oxide which helps with blood flow. Notably, it is often used in the treatment of venous insufficiency, which is blood flow specifically to the lower extremities.
Saw Palmetto Fruit Extract (320mg): See above
Tongkat Ali Root (50mg): See above
Tribulus Terrestris (100mg): See above
Pollen Extract (200mg): Though the package doesn’t specify what kind of pollen exactly, pine pollen has been shown to sensitize the testicles to produce more testosterone, and inhibit the conversion of testosterone to estrogen.

Max Trigger

Thirdly and finally in the Max family of supplements, we have Trigger. The company’s website copy says:
“MAX Trigger boosts testosterone levels which increase sexual desire, sexual performance and energy. The increase in testosterone also helps to build lean muscle mass and burn fat”.
Further reading clarifies that a little bit, what this actually means is that an enzyme which normally converst testosterone into estrogen is inhibited, thereby raising the overall blood level of testosterone instead of stimulating the production of new testosterone. Most of this pill’s components (Horny Goat Weed (250mg), Tribulus fruit (250mg), Saw Palmetto (160mg), Tongkat Ali (50mg)) fall into this category and have already been covered, others have also already been covered and have various healthful or aphrodisiac properties: Gingko (100mg), L-Argnine (150mg), Cnidium Monnieri (15mg), Oats (250mg) and Zinc (3.5mg), but there are also a couple new ones:

Magnesium (10mg): I think in this product magnesium is being touted as an exercise enhancer, although research seems to negate this. What magnesium is good for, however, is facilitating all kinds of other processes in the body, as it is one of our primary electrolytes. Westerners’ diets are also frequently deficient in magnesium due to their lack of nuts and leafy greens, so it certainly doesn’t hurt to get a little bit more.
Selenium (25mcg): This is another essential nutrient that seems to play a key role in all kinds of body processes. For our purposes, it looks like selenium helps protect against oxidization and balancing the thyroid, two exercise enhancing qualities. Again, promises aside, it certainly doesn’t hurt to get some added selenium.
Damiana Leaves (25mg): These are a traditional Mayan aphrodisiac and “physical tonic” which, while anecdotally lauded, seem to show very little evidence of efficacy.

Phew! Well there ya go. Everything you ever wanted to know and more about the contents of herbal supplements. I for one have always been intimidated by long lists of impressive sounding chemicals and herbs, and I don’t like feeling that I have to take some company’s word for the fact that they work (and more importantly, are safe to consume!) Hope this clears some of that up, and happy supplementing!