This article contains sexually explicit material that may be NSFW.   

On those rare but mortifying occasions when I can’t achieve an erection, there’s no point in saying it’s never happened before. It totally has, and it will again. But I’m not about to ask my doctor if Cialis is right for me—the problem, I know, is purely psychosomatic. It requires a subtler touch. Maybe something herbal. Maybe a specially blended virility tea. From the Internet.


Photo via eBay

No, wait, hear me out: The Web has a way of needling dudes, typically via porn sites, with spam ads about miraculous methods for enhancing one’s manhood or performance. While our self-confidence isn’t undermined to the extent that women feel pressured to be dangerously thin, there’s no denying that it gets to you after a while. And as I come to grips with the end of 20-somethinghood, I find myself more curious than ever about these sketchy products bearing outsize promises. After all, I do want to keep having sex for the foreseeable future.

Fortunately, so does my wife, Cecilia, who became a partner in the wildly unscientific research presented here, probably with the idea of calling in a massive favor down the line, at which point I’ll rue this foul experiment even more than I already do. She correctly accused me of crafting an article pitch that would make intercourse part of my job description, though I firmly believe that volunteering to imbibe a variety of exotic teas in the hottest weeks of the summer is an act of masochism that somewhat mitigates any pleasure I get from a bout of coerced marital intimacy.

And so, assured that the Daily Dot would reimburse me for the saddest online shopping spree I’ve undertaken to date, I placed a few orders and waited, on pins and other sharp objects, for the parcel that would change my life—or at least give me a vulgar anecdote for parties. 
 

Local Harvest

The first tea to arrive in the mail was also the cheapest. I admit to having high hopes—who wouldn’t like the idea of an affordable alternative to erectile dysfunction medications perpetually hawked on cable television? I was, however, thinking of these teas as recreational supplements rather than boner-forcing agents, so it was with some irritation that I opened the package and found a plain Ziploc bag with a sticker that read “IMPOTENCE TEA” in a frilly font. Besides, isn’t that a misnomer? It sounds like a tea that keeps you from getting hard.


 

After registering my offense, I removed the fluffy white sachets, which looked to be full of greenish leaves and were not tied together with the lovely purple ribbon featured on Local Harvest’s website. They smelled of chamomile, with more than a touch of mint. I was then distracted, for I happened to be on vacation, by the smell of food cooking outside, and the next thing I knew, I had consumed enough rare steak and asparagus to make sex a daunting proposal.

Or had I. Perhaps this was just the time—swollen with a dinner I couldn’t afford—to see if the aphrodisiac and nervine herbs assembled by Sharon Hubbs-Kreft, Herbalist, would “help build confidence and hormones to sustain an erection.” I admit to being vaguely alarmed by the accompanying literature’s caveat about increased heart rate and “heightened blood flow,” but come on, I thought—this is tea! How dangerous could it possibly be? Well, I had a lot to learn.

In the first place, I couldn’t say much for the taste: It was not unlike trying to drink hand soap, but hand soap when you’ve tried to stretch it another day by pouring water into the bottle and shaking it up. The air conditioning was on full blast, but I immediately felt flushed, rosy-cheeked. “It’s working already?” said Cecilia, noticing my fidgeting. Yes, part of me wanted to have several cocktails and fall asleep in front of the TV, but another part—let’s call him “Lefty”—was staging a mutiny. We stumbled into bed and I didn’t once lose rigidity until it was all over. I had the notion it lasted two minutes longer than usual, but that may just have been my elevated heart rate.
  

VPOWER 

Nothing made any sense about the second tea I received. At $20 for two sachets, it was the most expensive I ordered, but it came by certified mail from Hong Kong, meaning I had to pick it up at my local post office, where I noticed that the total shipping cost was more than $25. How could anyone be making money off of this, I wondered, suspicious that some secret ingredient (powdered rhino horn) would soon have me addicted to the stuff and ordering a case every month. The advertising and packaging were both unsubtle, drawing on warlike imagery, as if sex were a military conquest, which I guess it is for a subset of bros with rage issues.

No, seriously, the package features a Conan the Barbarian character protecting a passed-out, bikini-clad cavewoman from some kind of dragon. With a sword. Get it? Good, neither do I.


 

Even weirder than the product’s masculine mythology complex was the stuff itself, a fine, chalky, yellowish powder that resembled tea in no way, shape, or form. It was around now that I began to fear the side effects of the products I was sampling. My research had led me to an Australian newspaper report about a medicine watchdog warning that something called Vigor Tea, despite its supposedly herbal pedigree, contained the “undeclared derivative substance” sulfoaildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra. The misleading tea was so potentially dangerous, in fact, that the Therapeutic Goods Association advised drinkers to “go teetotal and take their remaining sachets into the local pharmacy so they can be safely disposed of.” Very genteel country, Australia.

I was right to be suspicious of this noxious dust—bafflingly billed as “the world’s ONLY herbal sex tea” online—but before I tell you what it did to me, let’s pause to list “every” ingredient in it:

Milkvetch, Ginseng, Chinese Dodder, Cnidium, Epimedium, Cornelian Cherry, Chinese Angelica, Common Jujube, Possilia Spiriferis, Mulberry, Cistanche, Cassiabark, Eucommia, Chinese Magnoliavine, Clove, Gardan Balsam.

Stop, really, you had me at “milkvetch.” I dissolved the contents of a packet in hot water and nearly retched at the first sip. It was as if I had distilled barleywine in the bottom of an old hiking boot and infused it with notes of crusty medical gauze. To shorten my suffering, I choked a whole mug down so fast it burned my throat. And that’s when things went askew.

I was ill. Yes, there was a raging stiffy in the mix, but it came at outrageous personal cost. Where the Local Harvest tea had me warm and tingly, here I was sweaty, fluish, disoriented. My vision blurred. Sex sounded like a terrible idea, though I knew I had a mission, and besides, maybe putting this insistent, almost painful boner to use was the only path toward a measure of relief. Our coupling was intense and sloppy, not least because one of us was menstruating (in my state, I couldn’t be sure who), and, forgive me, but afterward there was this froth everywhere. Possibly my ejaculate had taken on the properties of sea foam. We showered off, and then I lay awake for hours, debating whether to vomit, before passing into bad, hot, dreamless sleep.
 

Fadna Bedroom Sex X-Tea Men Women Aphrodisiac Herbal Ceylon 100%                   

After by brush with VPOWER, I wasn’t in a rush to try another tea; it was lucky that the next one took a full month to arrive from Sri Lanka. I’d found it on Amazon, which noted that only five boxes were left. This, I supposed, meant it was either the real deal or straight-up poison left over from a recent political coup. Either way, great story—I just wouldn’t necessarily get to write it.

The cute, compact package, addressed in fine handwriting, augured well. When the manila paper came off, I was less optimistic. For whatever reason, the X-Tea box had been concealed inside a second, reused box, which had apparently once contained an inflatable kiddie pool. Perhaps I’d unwittingly smuggled illegal tea leaves into the country? Almost certainly yes. The question of what made the tea illegal circled my mind. I chose to believe, for the sake of my project, that big pharma was deliberately constricting American access to bona fide boner juice. 


 

The tea, I was heartened to find, had been certified by the Department of Ayurveda of the Ministry of Indigenous Medicine of Sri Lanka as “suitable for general use.” Even better, it was the first I had tried that tasted like—wait for it—actual tea. (The island’s history as a British colony may be a factor here.) It was a blackish but gentle blend “ideal with milk” that “Promotes general well-being—Relaxes the mind and body—Promotes strength, vitality and supports healthy libido. Acts as an agent in restoring sexual vitality, increases sperm count.” I tend to shy away from anything that enhances the likelihood of conception, but these days I was living on the edge.

In the bedroom, though, I was slow to arousal. Slow enough that I began to suspect Sri Lanka had swindled me with regular breakfast tea—or even pranked me with a dose of something numbing. Either that or Cecilia had tired of her role in these shenanigans. Eventually, the lovemaking kicked into high gear, but only after an internal pep talk about how absurd it would be to give up on orgasm when I had a stimulating beverage on my side. Sure, the directions said I’d need to take it twice a day for a week, and ideally for three months straight(!), but forget that, I was having sex right then, so put up or shut up, X-Tea. That’s right: I gave tea an ultimatum.

And it worked. I think. If nothing else, I became the first person to talk himself into experiencing the placebo effect. Not bad! We lay there, panting and relieved. The journey was almost over.
 

DIY

I say “almost” because, although I had seen what other healers and alchemists had to offer, the Internet is more than a massive shopping center. It’s also a repository of humankind’s collected knowledge—flawed, biased, and typo-ridden though it may be. The bit of wisdom I was after, naturally, was a way to brew my own erection tea at home. I didn’t have very far to look, either.

The recipe I found was poorly written but simple enough that I presumed I could fudge the preparation. The ingredients were black tea, ginger powder, and lemon, bought at my local supermarket with the snickering smugness usually reserved for condom purchases. Back in my kitchen, I concocted the mixture swiftly, again regretting my initial disregard for July’s oppressive heat. The results were as decently flavorful as you might expect, if unappetizing to look at. The combination of spice and citrus made it seem like I was drinking a scalding, seasonal, non-alcoholic beer. I’d been tired, yet the ginger opened my sinuses—I was alert.


 

As with the X-Tea, there was a moment of doubt—there’s a definite unsexiness to chugging tea and being obligated to screw right after, as compared to letting passion take its course. Indeed, we had finally turned sex into a homework assignment: So this was where all that passive-aggressive griping among other marrieds came from! Even so, we enjoyed ourselves. It was with significant pleasure that I asked Cecilia if I’d been harder than normal.

“What?”

“In the FAQs for the tea recipe, one of the questions is: ‘How much harder should you expect the penis to get, as a result of taking the tea?’ The answer is, ‘About ten percent harder penis.’”

My wife considered this for a moment.

“Ten percent? Maybe!” 

I imagine this was an effort to tickle my ego, since she’d already needlessy apologized for bringing the Hitachi Magic Wand into play that evening and pressed me to admit that none of the teas had really worked, I'd just been moved by her beauty. What can I say—we’re in love, and it’s gross. There was no need, as I saw it, to incorporate this tea into a broader “Penis Enlargement workout regimen,” despite an Internet stranger’s speculation that such a combination “may be interesting.” My interest, it must be said, had reached its outer limit.

Will I ever again turn to these miracle cures? I’d have to be pretty desperate. On the other hand, it’s not like any of them put me in the hospital. And the perfect blend could still be out there. Ideally, it’ll come in the form of a frozen margarita—those things work wonders, you know. 

Photos via Wikimedia (here, here, and here) and Local Harvest | Remix by Max Fleishman