L-arginine, or arginine, is an amino acid found in red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products that helps expand blood vessels and increase blood flow. “The body uses this semi-essential amino acid as the primary building block for nitric oxide,” explains Harry Fisch, M.D., clinical professor of urology and reproductive medicine at Weill Cornell Medical College/New York Presbyterian Hospital.
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
While the rationale behind why it would work is airtight, the research on arginine’s actual effect on erectile dysfunction is slim, points out Charles Walker, M.D., assistant professor of urology and cofounder of the Cardiovascular and Sexual Health clinic at Yale University. But given its solid safety profile, minimal side effects, and potential benefit on heart disease, it’s worth a try, he adds, especially when taken in conjunction with other herbs on this list, which studies have shown can be more effective.
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
If you can't take one of these oral medications, your physician may have you try Caverject (alprostadil for injection), a hormone that you inject into your penis using a fine needle, or Muse (alprostadil urogenital), a tiny suppository that you insert into the tip of the penis. Both of these will bring on an erection within five to 15 minutes without sexual stimulation.
Long considered an aphrodisiac by the Chinese, ginseng may do more than just rev your engine. A 2013 South Korean study found that taking the herb for just a few weeks improved guys’ performance in the bedroom, including helping them last longer before finishing. Meanwhile, a study in Spermatogenesis found that ginseng can also help make for harder, longer-lasting erections and improve testosterone levels, which in turn boosts libido. “Ginseng is a promising herbal therapy for ED because it helps promote relaxation of smooth muscle in the penis, increase dopamine levels in the brain, and increase pressure in the cavernosal nerves of the penis which helps nitric oxide synthesis,” Walker explains.
You might spice up your love life by adding some chili peppers to your diet. The stuff in cayennes, jalapenos, habaneros, and other peppers that give them their heat relaxes the arteries -- and that helps blood flow to the heart and other organs, including the penis. Chilies can also help lower blood pressure and cholesterol and prevent blood clots.
The oyster has always had an aphrodisiac reputation. One reason may be that oysters have high levels of the mineral zinc, which plays an important role in the production of the male hormone testosterone, and low levels of testosterone could be one reason for erectile dysfunction. Research presented at an American Chemical Society meeting may offer another connection: Raw shellfish contain compounds that stimulate the release of sexual hormones in both men and women.
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.
Ginkgo Biloba is promoted to treat conditions ranging from hypertension to Alzheimer’s dementia. There is evidence that shows improvement of memory enhancements in the geriatric population (47), improvement in terms of cognitive function via effect on cerebral vasculature (48), improvement of claudication distance and cutaneous ulcers in patients with peripheral vascular disease (49). Ginkgo Biloba extract is proposed to induce NO in endothelial cells and thus causing relaxation of vascular smooth muscles. Animal studies have reported relaxation of rabbit corpus cavernosal smooth muscle cells with the use of Ginkgo Biloba (50). Adverse effects include headaches, major bleeding (in patient who are taking warfarin concurrently) and seizures with reported fatality (36).
Prescription drugs called “oral phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors” are considered the “first-line non-invasive treatment” options for patients with ED. These include the drugs that go by brand names: Sildenafil, Vardenafil or Tadalafil. They work by helping the smooth muscle cells lining the blood vessels that supply the penis with blood to work properly. This allows a man to maintain an erection more easily.
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This tasty green nut may be more than a great snack. A study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research examined how eating pistachios affected ED. Measurements were taken before men were put on a nut-heavy diet and after. Consuming pistachios for several weeks showed improvement in several parameters of ED, including improved International Index of Erectile Function scores for study participants.
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Dr. Niket Sonpal is the Associate Program Director of the Internal Medicine Residency at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn and an Associate Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. He's a practicing Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist with a focus on Men's and Women's Health, and a regular contributor to Women's health, Shape and Prevention Magazine.
Shape up. Because ED is often linked with restricted blood flow to the penis, keep your heart and arteries in good condition by maintaining a healthy weight, and following a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Regular aerobic exercise can improve blood flow to the genitals and reduce any stress that contributes to your ED.
The most common adverse events associated with all of the PDE-5 inhibitors10 are headaches in 16% of men; flushing in 10% of men; dyspepsia (7%); nasal congestion (4%), and visual disturbances/color sensitivity in about 3%. Tadalafil distinguishes itself from vardenafil and sildenafil by the relative lack of visual side effects. It does, however, have an additional possible adverse effect, which is back pain and/or myalgia.11
Peanuts contain a trove the amino acid L-arginine, which is one of the building blocks of nitric oxide, which aids your efforts under the covers. They also help reduce cholesterol levels. The less cholesterol you have in your system, the easier it is for blood to circulate throughout your body and down, which can help you maintain a firmer erection longer.
Another natural treatment for erectile dysfunction to consider would be vitamin E. This is a vitamin that has been linked to chronic diseases in the past due to the antioxidant effects of this vitamin. Considering ED could be a manifestation of another chronic condition, it makes sense that vitamin E may have a role in reducing the symptoms of the disease. As a person ages, it is natural for the body to undergo more oxidative stress and damage as cells do not function as well as they once did. Rats who were given supplemental vitamin E were found to have reduced levels of oxidative damage to their tissues and had levels of NO and other factors that help induce an erection more similar to younger rats compared to rats without vitamin E supplementation. If patients incorporate vitamin E into their vitamins and dietary supplements for ED, their ED should improve. 
"The problem with alternative treatments for any medical problem, including erectile dysfunction, is that until you have about 20 well-controlled studies over several years, you really don't know what you are working with," cautions Richard Harris, MD, a urologist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of the Loyola University Health System in Chicago.
Need a snack? Choose nuts, researchers from Turkey suggest. After 17 men with ED ate 100 grams of pistachios for three weeks, they all reported a significant improvement in their erectile function, ability to orgasm, libido, sexual satisfaction, and overall happiness in life. As a bonus, they all had higher HDL, or “good,” cholesterol and lower LDL, or “bad,” cholesterol, too.
In addition, when research has shown a nutrient such as zinc or niacin to improve sexual function, it's usually in people who are deficient in it. So, before you stock up on over-the-counter nutritional supplements for ED, speak with your doctor. He can test you for deficiencies and steer you toward the most effective and safest way to treat your erectile dysfunction.