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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.
You’ve heard it before: So much of sex is mental. That’s particularly true for one of the biggest anxieties guys have about it—am I big enough? We can almost guarantee that this particular concern is all 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 male psyche in the process.
Simply put, many men’s idea of where they fall on the spectrum of penis size is all out of whack. Consequently, to some men, anything bigger than what they’ve got is better and worth trying to achieve. One of the ways they go about it is with so-called penis enlargement pills.
What are penis enlargement pills?
Penis enlargement pills are supplements that claim or suggest that taking them will give you a larger penis. They’re sold under a variety of brand names online and in supplement stores promising “male enhancement” or just straight-up penis enlargement.
They’re usually composed of a motley brew of vitamins, minerals, herbs, and supplements. There’s no scientific evidence that they work. “There are no supplements out there that are going to grow the size of your penis,” says Seth Cohen, MD, a urologist with NYU Langone Health in New York City.
Here’s why: The penis contains two tubes of spongy tissue called the corpus cavernosum. During an erection, this tissue fills with blood and stiffens, then reverts to its previous size and appearance after orgasm (or the erection just peaces out on its own). The amount and consistency of spongy tissue in your penis are, uh, 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 one that’s a bit firmer than usual. Still, they can’t enlarge the corpus cavernosum, and therefore they aren’t going to make you permanently bigger.
“Surgery is thus far the only proven scientific method for penile enlargement,” declared researchers who published their findings in the Journal of Sexual and Marital Therapy (Nugteren, 2010). That is still largely true, with one potential exception (and that isn’t pills).
Side effects of male enhancement pills
Unlike pharmaceutical drugs, supplements aren’t regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. 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, see Important Safety Information; and Cialis, see Important Safety Information). While that may sound like a good thing for your sexual prowess, it can be dangerous if these pills contain too much of these substances or if you have a health condition that precludes you from taking those drugs.
Additional penis enlargement methods
While penis enlargement pills won’t do the trick, there are some other options that could make your penis larger. These are not without their risks, so remember: You probably don’t need to make your penis bigger to begin with. If you have a true micropenis, speak with your healthcare provider about your options.
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 might take months to see results, and any gains you make would be in length only, not in girth (Nikoobakht, 2010).
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 give you an erection—and they’re sometimes used to treat erectile dysfunction—but they won’t permanently make your penis bigger.
In a small study published in 2006, 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 even that meager 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).
A number of lotions are sold online under poetic monikers like Plump, XPanse, and Mega Penis. Just like penis enlargement pills, they contain various vitamins, herbs, and supplements that claim to increase penis size. Just like penis enlargement pills, there’s no evidence they work, they’re not regulated by the FDA, and they could make your junk look like junk.
Penis enlargement surgery
Surgeons offer a variety of surgical procedures to enlarge the penis, from injecting it with fat or fillers to cutting the suspensory ligament, which runs from your lower abdomen to your penis, essentially letting the penis hang lower and seem longer. They can even insert a flexible or inflatable implant.
These procedures are expensive and potentially dangerous—so much so that a May 2019 study published in the journal Sexual Medicine Reviews advised men that penis surgery or penile augmentation is “ineffective and risky” and could put patients in the hands of “charlatans” (Marra, 2020).
Alternatives to penis enlargement pills
The penis enlargement industry, such as it is, exists because male insecurity about size is age-old, and the Monster Dong demolition derby that is modern porn (which is seemingly everywhere) has done nothing to help men establish a more realistic, accepting attitude toward their penises and sex.
In some cases, guys are so freaked out 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).
The reality is, you can, and you very likely do. But if feelings about your body image are holding you back in the bedroom, you could be developing body dysmorphia. It’s a good idea to check in with a mental health professional who can help you work on those issues. That’ll give you more confidence, a better sex life, and a happier life overall.
- 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
- Joseph, J., Ziegelmann, M. J., Alom, M., Savage, J., Köhler, T. S., & Trost, L. (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/
- Marra, G., Drury, A., Tran, L., Veale, D., & Muir, G. H. (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., Mehrsai, A., & Pourmand, G. (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., Schultz, W. C. M. W., Nijman, J. M., & van Driel, M. F. (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
- Veale, D., Miles, S., Bramley, S., Muir, G., & Hodsoll, J. (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://bjui-journals.onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/abs/10.1111/bju.13010
Yael Cooperman is a physician and works as a Senior Manager, Medical Content & Education at Ro.