ED can be caused by a handful of things, but one thing’s for sure: You need a healthy supply of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide (NO) to get and maintain an erection. NO is produced in nerve tissue and helps jolt your Johnson by relaxing the smooth muscle so blood can fill the penis. After the initial release of NO, your body releases a cascade of chemicals—including more of the neurotransmitter—to help keep you hard and happy, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
A combination of yohimbine and L-arginine is shown to significantly improve erectile function in people with ED. L-arginine is an amino acid that helps expand blood vessels. It’s regarded as safe and effective for ED but can cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Avoid taking L-arginine with Viagra, nitrates, or any high blood pressure medications.
Despite the name, horny goat weed actually helps improve your erection, not libido. Botanically known as epimedium, this herb has been used by the Chinese for centuries to treat, among other things, low libido and erectile dysfunction. “A growing body of research shows that isolated icariin—the extract of epimedium—inhibits the enzyme phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) and significantly increases nitric oxide synthase, helping to improve erectile function,” says Fisch. In fact, this is the same mechanism that Viagra works through (but the herb comes with a way better name).
B-vitamin complex helps to support normal energy production and is also essential for supporting the normal functioning of the body during times of stress. Stress quickly depletes the body’s reserves of the B vitamins. Look for a B-complex containing 20-50 mg of vitamins B1, B2, and B3. The other B vitamins should be included in their relative proportions.
Researchers discovered men who regularly consumed flavanoid-rich foods—especially those with anthocyanins, flavones, and flavanones—experienced a significantly reduced risk of the disorder than those who did not. Good news since the foods are already popular in American diets. Lead researcher Aedin Cassidy says, “…the top sources of anthocyanins, flavones and flavanones consumed in the U.S. are strawberries, blueberries, red wine, apples, pears and citrus products.”
A study in the Journal of Sexual Medicine found that a large percentage of men with ED also have low levels of vitamin D. If you’re experiencing ED, you may want to have your level of vitamin D checked. Other symptoms of a low vitamin D level may be too subtle to notice. However, if you have serious vitamin D deficiency, you may have bone pain or muscle weakness. Vitamin D levels can be checked with a simple blood test and for most people corrected with a supplement.
Erectile dysfunction can occur as a side effect of medication taken for another health condition. Common culprits are high blood pressure meds, antidepressants, some diuretics, beta-blockers, heart medication, cholesterol meds, antipsychotic drugs, hormone drugs, corticosteroids, chemotherapy, and medication for male pattern baldness, among others.