Diseases like diabetes, cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis, kidney disease, obesity, multiple sclerosis, and depression, and activities like bicycling, smoking, alcohol or drug abuse can impair blood flow or nerve impulses throughout the body. Surgery, as well as certain medications, can also result in ED. However, this may be a temporary problem.4
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Spice up your love life with chillies. When your face flushes after eating a curry, that’s the blood vessels expanding thanks to the effect of the chillies. And it’s not just the blood vessels in your face that get the boost. Biologically speaking a hard-on is simple hydraulics – more liquid (blood) being forced into little tubes (blood vessels) in your penis – so what you need is a strong heart and smooth, healthy pipework.
Eastern medicine should be fully exploited, and integrated with modern medicine to combine the advantages of both TCM and Western medicine. More research should be conducted into the efficacy and safety of TCM, and integration of TCM and Western medicine may provide promising breakthroughs in future clinical treatment. This strategy may allow for the development of new therapeutic strategies based on concepts of TCM and integrated medicine. There is a need for multimodal therapy and holistic approach to treat men (and their partners) with ED through complementary use of herbal supplements and modern drug to optimize underlying medical comorbidities; acupuncture, exercise or massage to reduce stress and strengthen the body; introduction and escalation of various medical therapy with use of mechanical therapy to further enhance penile erection; and lastly surgical intervention in suboptimal or refractory ED cases.
Leafy green vegetables, like celery and spinach, may increase circulation because of their high concentration of nitrates. Beet juice has been found to be really high in nitrates. Nitrates are vasodilators, which means they open up blood vessels and increase blood flow. Many years before the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the first ED drug in 1998, several case reports on the beneficial effects of nitrates for erectile dysfunction had already been published. The ED drugs used today are based on the relaxing effects of nitrates on the blood vessels that supply the penis.
Usually patients will try less invasive alternatives to treat impotence before opting for surgery. These alternatives may include supplements, herbs, lifestyle changes and even medications. In cases where other treatments do not work to resolve ED, surgery might be a last-resort option. Surgery involves implanting a penile prosthesis. This is a saline-filled silicone device or a malleable device. Although the likelihood of serious side effects is considered to be low, certain risks are associated with surgery to correct erectile dysfunction. These side effects may include: anesthetic risk, device infection, and device malfunction or mechanical failure. Some studies have found that five years following surgery around 10–20 percent of men experience device malfunction and failure. Infection rates are low. Around one percent of men who opt for this type of surgery get an infection.
For patients who failed oral medical therapy or unable to tolerate the side effects, intracavernosal injection of vasoactive agents can often provide effective alternative. Various vasoactive agents such as alprostadil, papaverine or phentolamine have been used either as single agent or combination agents to potentiate the NO release and cavernosal smooth muscle vasodilation. However, intracavernosal injection therapy has high attrition rate and can be associated pain especially with alprostadil injection (2). The practice of isolating compounds and understanding its pharmacological attributes before using it as a drug therapy has been a strength of Western medicine.
There’s a reason chocolate became a gift given before amorous activity. Cacao increases levels of the mood-boosting hormone serotonin, which can lower stress levels, boosting desire and making it easier to reach orgasm. And that’s not all: Cocoa also increases blood flow through the arteries and relaxes blood vessels, sending blood to all the right regions, which can boost pleasure.
Opioids are used for chronic pain or for recreational use, and there is currently an epidemic of opioid addiction in the United States. Opioids induce ED by inhibiting gonado-tropin-releasing hormone (GnRH), which leads to a decrease in the production of luteinizing hormone (LH). Decreased levels of LH, in turn, inhibit production of testosterone, which – in both men and women – can cause depression and sexual dysfunction.9
Erectile problems can sometimes be linked to cardiovascular issues. If your heart isn't in full health, your sex life maybe suffering as result. Men who suffer with moderate to severe erection problems have significantly lower levels of folic acid than guys without the issue. The B vitamin has been shown to work with nitric oxide which would explain why an absence of it would lead to problems in the manhood. This seems to help with erectile dysfunction more than some medications. Treatment with folic acid resulted in men having an increase in their erectile strength.
Enlargement of the prostate gland, another condition that occurs with increasing frequency in men as they age, can also cause ED. In a 2012 Swiss study, 82 men with moderate to severe symptoms of prostate enlargement, who were also experiencing problems such as ED or loss of libido, took 320 mg of saw palmetto extract daily for 8 weeks. At the end of the study, the men’s ‘International Prostate Symptom Score’ (IPSS), a method of measuring prostate health based on a questionnaire, was reduced by an average of 51 percent. In addition, their ED, libido, and other sexual functions had also improved by an average of over 40 percent. Unlike the drug approaches used in conventional medicine, which can even cause ED as a side effect, saw palmetto is very effective in treating prostate problems and is free from side effects.
According to the FDA (Food and Drug Administration), many of these products sold on the internet contain potentially harmful compounds. And they aren’t listed on the label. In an investigation, the FDA found that one-third of these online supplements were laced with undisclosed ingredients. This includes sildenafil—the active ingredient in Viagra. Doctors prescribe Viagra to some patients, but it’s not safe for everyone. The drug could interact with other medications and lower your blood pressure to dangerous levels. This makes ordering supplements online risky. You don’t know whether they contain sildenafil or other ingredients that could harm your health.
The same device is considered a vacuum erectile device (VED), when it is used to increase inflow of the blood to the penis without a constriction band. Regular use of VED in post-prostatectomy patient increases penile oxygenation and is accepted as a valid option in penile rehabilitation. Recent study reported transient increase in oxygenation to the glans penis and corporal bodies were detected by oximetry after VED was applied, providing proof for possible role for VED to counter the early penile hypoxia, cavernosal fibrosis and long-term ED after radical prostatectomy (9).
Tiffany La Forge is a professional chef, recipe developer, and food writer who runs the blog Parsnips and Pastries. Her blog focuses on real food for a balanced life, seasonal recipes, and approachable health advice. When she’s not in the kitchen, Tiffany enjoys yoga, hiking, traveling, organic gardening, and hanging out with her corgi, Cocoa. Visit her at her blog or on Instagram.
By far the most common cause of ED is vascular dysfunction. When the arteries that supply the penis with blood to achieve and maintain an erection are blocked or hardened, or the lining of these arteries are damaged, blood flow is reduced. Vascular dysfunction not only affects the small arteries of the penis, but the larger coronary arteries of the heart too. Astute doctors now recognize that ED may actually be an early warning sign of impending cardiovascular disease, showing up several years before a cardiovascular event like a heart attack or stroke.2 To maintain healthy vascular function, and in turn, normal erectile function, consider these supplements:
Quassinoids isolated from Tongkat Ali have been reputed to be anti-tumor, anti-malarial, anti-amoebic and anti-inflammatory. Its leaves are used for washing itches, its fruits for the treatment of dysentery, its bark used as a vermifuge, the taproots used for treatment of hypertension and the root bark for treatment of diarrhea and fever. The roots extracts are used for sexual dysfunction, aging, malaria, cancer, diabetes, anxiety, aches, constipation, exercise recovery, fever, increased energy, increased strength, leukemia, osteoporosis, stress and syphilis. Animal studies done on middle age sex rats showed enhancement of the sexual qualities in terms of hesitation time among middle aged rats (46).
In total, 24 RCTs, including 2080 patients with ED, were identified. Among these, 12 evaluated monopreparations (five ginseng [n = 399], three saffron [n = 397], two Tribulus terrestris [n = 202], and one each Pinus pinaster [n = 21] and Lepidium meyenii [n = 50]), seven evaluated formulations (n = 544), and five investigated dietary supplements in combination with pure compounds (n = 410). Ginseng significantly improved erectile function (International Index of Erectile Function [IIEF]-5 score: 140 ginseng, 96 placebo; standardized mean difference [SMD] 0.43; 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.15-0.70; P < 0.01; I2 = 0), P. pinaster and L. meyenii showed very preliminary positive results, and saffron and T. terrestris treatment produced mixed results. Several herbal formulations were associated with a decrease of IIEF-5 or IIEF-15, although the results were preliminary. The quality of the included studies varied, with only seven having a prevalent low risk of bias. The median methodological quality Jadad score was three out of a maximum of five. Adverse events were recorded in 19 of 24 trials, with no significant differences between placebo and verum in placebo-controlled studies.
Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo is an herb that is used in Chinese medicine that’s thought to improve blood flow. "Any ED treatment that improves blood flow may help," explains Dr. Harris. "An erection is just blood in and blood out." However, the evidence that ginkgo can improve blood flow in ED is limited, and most experts say the jury is still out. In addition, ginkgo can increase the risk for bleeding problems if combined with certain medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin).
Like garlic, onions too help treat ED. In a study conducted on male rats, fresh onion juice was found to have improved copulatory behavior and cured medicine-induced sexual dysfunction.8 They are also believed to help treat involuntary loss of semen during sleep or other times. Studies also show that like garlic, onions too offer some protection against testicular oxidative damage and spermiotoxicity.9
And what about L-citrulline? Watermelon has the highest concentration in nature (particularly the white rind), followed by onions and garlic. Just one standard serving of yellow watermelon provides enough L-citrulline to boost sexual performance. My advice is that you might want to stick to watermelon and not onions and garlic to boost your nitric oxide production before going on a date!
L-arginine is an amino acid that is necessary for the lining of the blood vessels to produce nitric oxide. Nitric oxide allows the blood vessels to relax, thus improving blood flow throughout the body, including to the penis. Studies on L-arginine and erectile dysfunction have used between 2,000-5,000 mg a day in divided doses.ii Supplemental arginine is best taken on an empty stomach.3
There are so many potential reasons a man might develop erectile dysfunction (ED), it's nearly impossible to generalize the best ways to treat it. What works for one man may not work for another simply because they are having problems for different reasons. That said, it may encouraging to hear that there are a variety of options that may be considered, from psychological counseling to lifestyle changes, medications to treatments and devices.