Do penis enlargement pills work?
LAST UPDATED: Feb 16, 2023
6 MIN READ
HERE'S WHAT WE'LL COVER
You've heard it before: having great sex (or not so great) can be like a game of mental gymnastics. When anxiety is present, it’s hard to release your inhibitions and be present with your partner(s). That's particularly true for one of the most common anxieties experienced by people with penises—am I big enough? If you suffer from this anxiety, it’s natural to wonder, do penis enlargement pills work? Unfortunately, the short answer is no.
The good news is that we can almost guarantee that this particular concern is in your head. A 2015 study of more than 15,000 men found that the average size of an erect penis is 5.16 inches (13.12 cm). The average girth (circumference) is 3.66 inches (9.31 cm) (Veale, 2015). However, porn and pop culture have conspired to fluff up the numbers and managed to do a real number on the psyche of people with penises in the process.
As a result, many try to achieve penis enlargement with so-called penis enlargement pills. However, with these pills, you’re almost sure to be disappointed. Continue reading to learn more about penis enlargement pills.
What are penis enlargement pills?
Penis enlargement pills (or penis growth pills) are supplements that claim to give you a larger penis. They're sold under a variety of brand names online and in stores promising "male enhancement" or (less delicately) penis enlargement.
These penis enlargement pills are usually composed of a motley brew of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements. While there is some scientific evidence to support the potential of certain supplements to support healthier erections, there's no scientific evidence to support claims that any pill can increase the size of your penis. Some supplements that may support healthier erections include:
Vitamins, supplements, and “penis enlargement pills” are not regulated by the Food and Drug & Administration (FDA), so there’s no way to ensure that the pills you’re taking actually contain what is advertised, or in what amount. Before beginning any vitamin or supplement, consult your healthcare provider.
Do penis enlargement pills work?
Unfortunately, according to Urologist at NYU Langone Health in New York City, Seth Cohen, "There are no supplements out there that are going to grow the size of your penis."
Here's why penis enlargement pills won’t work. The penis contains two tubes of spongy tissue called the corpus cavernosum. During an erection, this tissue fills with blood and stiffens. After an erection (whether or not orgasm is achieved), this tissue reverts to its previous size and appearance. The amount and density of spongy tissue in your penis is firmly set post-puberty. That's what determines the size of your erection, and there's nothing a pill can do to change it.
Some alleged penis enlargement pills contain ingredients that may help you get an erection faster or achieve a firmer erection. Still, they can't enlarge the corpus cavernosum. Therefore, they aren’t going to make your penis permanently bigger.
As of now, surgery is the only way to permanently enlarge your penis (Nugteren, 2010). However, tools like penis pumps, cock rings, and more can help you achieve a firmer, longer lasting erection (more on this later).
What claims do penis enlargement pills make?
However male enhancement pill manufacturers claim to work, (and we cannot emphasize this enough) they do not have to prove they are effective, or even safe. Penis enlargement pill manufacturers make a number of claims as to how their products increase penis size. Some pills claim to contain a combination of the supplements listed above. Another common ingredient in penis enlargement pills is Ginkgo biloba, prepared with leaves from the Ginkgo tree. However, research shows the supplement does not improve sexual function (Corazza, 2014). Others claim that their product increases testosterone or the amount of semen released during ejaculation (both of which would not increase the size of your penis, even if these claims were true).
Unlike FDA-approved erectile dysfunction medications including Viagra, Levitra, Cialis, and Stendra, penis enhancement pills do not undergo rigorous study and clinical trials. In 2020, the FDA released a warning to consumers warning them against over 50 male enhancement pills sold on eBay and Amazon containing harmful ingredients, including the active ingredient in Viagra (sildenafil) which can cause serious side effects if not properly prescribed by a healthcare provider (FDA, 2020).
Viagra Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
Cialis Important Safety Information: Read more about serious warnings and safety info.
Side effects of penis enlargement pills
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, supplements aren't regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). So you can't be absolutely sure what's in them or that the ingredients are pure. Some "male enhancement" pills may contain traces of PDE5 inhibitors (medications like Viagra and Cialis). While that may sound like a good thing for your sexual prowess, it can be extremely dangerous–if these pills contain too much of these substances or if you have a health condition that precludes you from taking PDE5 inhibitors, the consequences can be serious or fatal.
Alternative penis enlargement options
While penis enlargement pills won’t do the trick, there are some options that could make your penis temporarily larger and firmer. These options are not without their risks, so speak to your healthcare provider before using them. If you have a true micropenis, your healthcare provider can also help you explore options to improve your sex life.
Penile extenders are traction devices that you strap to your flaccid penis and wear for an extended time (usually several hours a day). This may result in an increase in the length of the penis, although it could take months to see results. Any increase in the size of your penis with a traction device will likely be in length only, not in girth (Nikoobakht, 2011).
One device, in particular, was developed to treat a rare condition called Peyronie’s disease, which causes scarring and sometimes bending and pain in the penis. The device, known as RestoreX, is a medical device registered with the FDA that has been shown in clinical trials to straighten bent penises (Joseph, 2020). If you don’t have a bend in your penis, it probably won’t be of much use.
Penis pumps (vacuum devices that encourage blood flow into the penis) will help you get an erection—they're sometimes used to treat erectile dysfunction—but they won't permanently make your penis bigger.
In one small study, 37 men used penis pumps for 20 minutes, three times a week, over the course of six months. Researchers found that the participants' average penis length increased by only 0.3 cm but couldn’t say for sure that the increase was the result of the device they were testing. The treatment was only 10% effective, and only 30% of the patients said they were satisfied (Aghamir, 2006).
Cock rings sit at the base of the penis and hold blood in during an erection. This can make erection firmer and longer lasting. Cock rings may work well in tandem with penis pumps to maintain an erection, however they will not permanently increase the size of your penis.
Penis enlargement surgery
Surgeons offer a variety of surgical procedures to enlarge the penis, from injecting the penis with fat or fillers to cutting the suspensory ligament, which runs from your lower abdomen to your penis, causing the penis hang lower and seem longer. Surgeons can even insert a flexible or inflatable implant.
These procedures are expensive and potentially dangerous. One 2019 study found surgery or penile augmentation to be ineffective and risky (Marra, 2020).
What you should know about penis enlargement
The penis enlargement industry exists because insecurity about size is age-old, and modern porn does nothing to help people with penises establish a realistic, accepting attitude towards their penises and sex.
In some cases, people are so concerned about their perceived inadequate size that they develop what psychologists call "small penis anxiety" or "penis dysmorphic disorder" (PDD)—the irrational belief that you can't measure up (Veale, 2015).
You may be surprised to learn that the average penis is 5.16 inches erect, and nearly 90% of people with penises have a penis between 4 and 6 inches in length (Veale, 2015). That means your fears about your own shortcomings are most likely unfounded. However, if you’re still interested in making your penis appear larger, these tips may help you become more comfortable with the look of your penis without the use of medical tools or pills.
Trim your pubic hair
Cutting your pubic hair closer to the base of the penis may increase the appearance of the length. Use a body hair groomer that includes guards or attachments for consistency and to reduce cuts in this sensitive region.
Eat a healthy diet and get regular exercise
If you carry excess fat in the pubic region, fat that hangs over the base of the penis may decrease the appearance of length. Speak to your healthcare provider about if it’s safe for you to embark on a weight loss journey. A healthy diet and exercise may not only improve the appearance of your penis, but also improve the strength of your erections by increasing blood flow throughout your body.
Unlearn harmful stereotypes about penis size
From television shows to porn, we are constantly inundated with the message that our bodies aren’t good enough. It’s no wonder that people with perfectly average, healthy penises are concerned they don’t reach nine-plus inches when erect. However, in a survey of 52,031 heterosexual men and women, results showed that 85% of women said they were satisfied with their partner’s penis size, however only 55% of men were satisfied with the size of their penis (Lever, 2006). If you have concerns about your penis size–have a vulnerable conversation with your partner(s). You’ll likely find that if communication and respect are present in your sex life, you have nothing to worry about.
If negative feelings about your body continue to hold you back in the bedroom, you could have body dysmorphia. It's a good idea to check in with a mental health professional who can help you work on your confidence in the bedroom. If you experience erectile dysfunction, make an appointment with your healthcare provider to explore (legitimate) options to improve your sex life.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Aghamir, M. K., Hosseini, R., & Alizadeh, F. (2006). A vacuum device for penile elongation: fact or fiction? BJU International, 97 (4), 777–778. doi:10.1111/j.1464-410X.2006.05992.x. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16536772
Corazza, O., Martinotti, G., Santacroce, R., et al. (2014). Sexual enhancement products for sale online: raising awareness of the psychoactive effects of yohimbine, maca, horny goat weed, and Ginkgo biloba. BioMed Research International, 2014,
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Joseph, J., Ziegelmann, M. J., Alom, M., et al. (2020). Outcomes of RestoreX penile traction therapy in men with Peyronie's disease: results from open label and follow-up phases. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 17 (12), 2462–2471. doi:10.1016/j.jsxm.2020.10.003. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33223425/
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Marra, G., Drury, A., Tran, L., et al. (2020). Systematic review of surgical and nonsurgical interventions in normal men complaining of small penis size. Sexual Medicine Reviews, 8 (1), 158–180. doi: 10.1016/j.sxmr.2019.01.004. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31027932/
Nikoobakht, M., Shahnazari, A., Rezaeidanesh, M., et al. (2011). Effect of penile-extender device in increasing penile size in men with shortened penis: preliminary results. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 8 (11), 3188–3192. doi: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01662.x. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/20102448/
Nugteren, H. M., Balkema, G. T., Pascal, A. L., et al. (2010). Penile enlargement: from medication to surgery. Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, 36 (2), 118–123. doi:10.1080/00926230903554453. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20169492
U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). (2020). FDA warns consumers to avoid certain male enhancement and weight loss products sold through Amazon, eBay and other retailers due to hidden, potentially dangerous drug ingredients. Retrieved from https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/fda-warns-consumers-avoid-certain-male-enhancement-and-weight-loss-products-sold-through-amazon-ebay
Veale, D., Miles, S., Bramley, S., et al. (2015). Am I normal? A systematic review and construction of nomograms for flaccid and erect penis length and circumference in up to 15521 men. BJU International , 115 (6), 978–986. doi: 10.1111/bju.13010. Retrieved from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25487360/