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Vicks VapoRub for Male Enhancement: Does It Work?

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 03/21/2021

Updated 02/14/2024

Online research can be an okay way to narrow down causes of sudden symptoms and double-check your ailments, but we also know — and hope you know, too — that message boards aren’t the best place to get the best male health support, especially if you have erectile dysfunction (ED). 

Case in point: the myth that Vicks VapoRub® can help with the treatment of erectile dysfunction. 

Despite literally no scientific studies on this topic, internet users are nevertheless constantly spreading the same rumors that over-the-counter VapoRub and its active ingredients can have some benefits for natural male enhancement, penis enlargement, ejaculation or other kinds of sexual enhancement. The evidence: “trust me bro.”

Below, we’ve explained why the best male sexual enhancement (of any kind) is not, in fact, an ointment people use for chest colds, but rather a list of other things that research actually supports. We’ve also covered how VapoRub works, the risks of misuse and the alternatives to look into instead.

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Vicks VapoRub is an over-the-counter topical containing camphor, eucalyptus oil and menthol as active ingredients. Officially, Vicks VapoRub is a topical analgesic — a pain reliever — and cough suppressant.

Vicks advertises that the VapoRub can be used to relieve cough that occurs from minor airway irritation, and it can help with minor aches and pains. To use it, it’s rubbed onto the chest and throat (or other affected area). 

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Unfortunately for all the guys out there searching their medicine cabinets for quick erectile dysfunction relief, Vicks VapoRub is also not much of an alternative to male enhancement pills, ED medications and the like. 

We’ve read the same rumors online, and from our research, the only semi-legitimate explanation has to do with research into the topical benefits of some compounds found in Vicks VapoRub. 

One study, for example, found that topical menthol could be a vasodilator — essentially something that helps your blood vessels relax, like medications that are prescribed to treat ED. 

The problem is that this study looked at cutaneous vasodilation, which is dilation of the small blood vessels in the skin, not of the larger blood vessels deeper underneath. 

As you might guess, the small blood vessels in the skin aren’t the ones that help you get an erection.

Even the most optimistic research — a study of topical menthol for ED — only determined that it was a vastly underexplored research area, and that more studies are needed.

So, there is no scientific evidence (let alone medical guidance) that suggests Vicks VapoRub is safe or beneficial for use on your penis.

Now, there is an interesting new entrant on the scene. Recently, the FDA authorized a non-medicated, non-prescription topical gel called Eroxon StimGel for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Eroxon StimGel is rubbed onto the penis, and it works because the cooling and warming sensations that occur as it’s evaporating simulate nerve endings in the penis, leading to more blood flow and an erection. 

Is it possible that Vicks VapoRub has some similar effect and can somehow stimulate some men to get some sort of an erection? Maybe — it hasn’t been researched, and it’s hard to say. Eroxon StimGel and Vicks VapoRub are two completely different products with different ingredients, and they are meant for different purposes.

Choose your chew

Vicks VapoRub can cause skin irritation if you’re sensitive to any of its ingredients, and it can cause an allergic reaction if you’re allergic to any of its ingredients.

Additionally, Vicks VapoRub is only intended for external use. Don’t put it in your eyes, don’t ingest it, and don’t rub it near mucous membranes (like inside your nostrils) or on broken skin. You also shouldn’t put it on your penis and then have your penis touch other people’s mucous membranes — like the inside of their vagina, mouth, or anus. Camphor, one of the ingredients, can be toxic.

If you’ve been having erectile function problems for a while, you may have eyeballed supplements and other non-prescription products for a quick fix. While prescription ED pills are certainly an effective treatment, that weird stuff at gas stations isn’t going to help.

Understanding the factors at work in ED is essential for treatment — and it’s a long list of potential causes. Stress, obesity, anxiety, blood flow issues, illicit and prescribed medications and their side effects can all make it hard to get hard, as can smoking, poor diet, hormone imbalances and more.

Luckily, real treatment options abound. We’ve already mentioned one (Eroxon StimGel) above.

There are also a variety of actually effective ED medications on the market, including Viagra® (sildenafil), Cialis® (tadalafil), and Stendra® (avanafil). 

These drugs are phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors and actually do work. Specifically, they increase blood flow to your penis and make your chances of getting hard higher. 

Pills (as well as our hard mints chewable ED meds) are convenient and fairly simple — ask a healthcare provider today if you’re interested, but make sure to mention problems like high blood pressure or heart health issues when you do.

Other ED treatment options may include other medications, like alprostadil (an injectable), and lifestyle changes, like quitting smoking, dropping weight, exercising, getting more sleep and trying to cut some stress. Therapy can also help. Men with performance anxiety and unaddressed intimacy issues can really see their game turn around in the second half with a little vulnerability to a therapy professional.

Convenient approaches like online therapy can help you address anxiety, depression and whatever else might be standing in your erection’s way or causing psychological ED.

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If you’re reading this in the first place, we’re guessing you were searching for Vicks VapoRub as an ED treatment because the internet is less judgmental than a doctor might be. 

Nobody’s judging you. An estimated 30 million to 50 million men nationwide experience erectile dysfunction, making it a fairly common condition for adult men — you’re not alone.

Guys tend to avoid talking to doctors (or anyone) about problems with their sex life, and so “home” remedies and non-prescription options are at the top of a lot of lists. 

Here’s the thing:

  • Vicks VapoRub is not the solution.

  • No studies have demonstrated any benefits of Vicks VapoRub for ED, and you should avoid any sort of internal application of it (including secondhand).

  • If you’re suffering from erectile dysfunction, don’t keep using Google as your healthcare provider. Talk to an actual healthcare professional.

Here's a bit of necessary tough love: stop Googling other treatment options and taking advice from less-than-safe sources. 

Ready to do something? Our ED resources are a great place to start. Reach out today — and stop putting stuff from the medicine cabinet on your penis — unless it’s meant for that purpose.

7 Sources

  1. Sooriyamoorthy T, Leslie SW. Erectile Dysfunction. [Updated 2023 May 30]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562253/.
  2. Bodenmann, G., Atkins, D. C., Schär, M., & Poffet, V. (2010). The association between daily stress and sexual activity. Journal of family psychology : JFP : journal of the Division of Family Psychology of the American Psychological Association (Division 43), 24(3), 271–279. https://www.researchgate.net/publication/44670652_The_Association_Between_Daily_Stress_and_Sexual_Activity.
  3. Dhaliwal A, Gupta M. PDE5 Inhibitors. [Updated 2023 Apr 10]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2023 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK549843/.
  4. Menthol topical side effects: Common, severe, long term. Drugs.com. (n.d.). https://www.drugs.com/sfx/menthol-topical-side-effects.html.
  5. U.S. National Library of Medicine. (n.d.-a). Camphor overdose: Medlineplus medical encyclopedia. MedlinePlus. https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002566.htm.
  6. Menthol for the treatment of erectile dysfunction: Generation and ... (n.d.-c). https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Rafael-Leonne-Cruz-De-Jesus-2/publication/365155996_Menthol_for_the_Treatment_of_Erectile_Dysfunction_Generation_and_Technology_Export/links/63671bdd2f4bca7fd036decc/Menthol-for-the-Treatment-of-Erectile-Dysfunction-Generation-and-Technology-Export.pdf.
  7. Craighead, D. H., & Alexander, L. M. (2016). Topical menthol increases cutaneous blood flow. Microvascular research, 107, 39–45. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5406845/
Editorial Standards

Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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