Researchers at Johns Hopkins University last year looked at 3,400 healthy Americans and found that men who were vitamin D deficient were 32% more likely to have trouble getting it up than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for other ED risk factors. In fact, the connection is so common, Walker says D levels are something he always checks in ED patients. Why? The sunshine vitamin is crucial for keeping the endothelial cells that line blood vessels healthy. Without enough of the stuff, blood flow is inhibited, affecting everything from your heart to your hard-on.

Vitamins and minerals are used in systems all over the body. Everywhere from your cardiovascular to your nervous system. It’s a lot to understand. So to help dispel some of the myths and outlandish claims, we’ll take a look at how five common vitamins and nutrients affect one very specific aspect of men’s health—erections. Turns out, vitamins can do more than just ward off the common cold.


The use of shock wave therapy has revolutionized the treatment of many aspects of medicine. High intensity extracorporeal shockwave therapy has been used for the treatment of nephro-urolithiasis while medium intensity shockwave therapy is used by orthopaedic surgeons to treat joint pain as well as tendinitis. Low intensity shockwaves therapy was first noted to improve ischaemia-induced myocardial dysfunction in animal studies when low intensity shockwaves were applied to porcine myocardium (13). Shockwaves induces a localized stress on cell membranes in the same way that shear stress affects endothelial cell membranes (14) and this triggers the release of angiogenic factors, such as increased NO production through increased activity of endothelial NO synthase (eNOS) and neuronal NO synthase (nNOS), platelet-derived growth factor (PDGF) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) (15). These shockwaves also cause membrane hyperpolarization (16), activation of the Ras signaling pathway, non-enzymatic synthesis of NO and induction of stress fibers and intercellular gaps (17).

Saw palmetto. Saw palmetto comes from the fruit of a small palm tree. It has been used to treat symptoms in men with an enlarged prostate gland, such as difficulty urinating, and it has been recommended to treat ED caused by an enlarged prostate. However, several recent clinical trials did not show that saw palmetto works any better on an enlarged prostate than a placebo does. "There is no evidence that saw palmetto should be used to treat erectile dysfunction," says Dr. Gilbert. Like ginkgo biloba, saw palmetto can interact with some prescription medications.

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Also called vacuum devices, penile pumps are devices that are placed over the penis to draw blood into the shaft. Once the vacuum creates an erection, the retaining band is slid down to the lower end of the penis and the pump is removed. An erection typically will last long enough for intercourse but your penis may be cold to the touch and the rubber band may restrict ejaculation.22
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Some scholarly minds believe it wasn’t an apple, but a pomegranate with which Eve tempted Adam in the Garden of Eden. She was smart: A recent study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research discovered that pomegranate juice, rich in antioxidants that support blood flow, can help improve erectile dysfunction. Though this study was funded by POM Wonderful, animal studies have also shown that the elixir improves long-term erectile response, so it’s definitely worth a shot–literally. Knock a shot back or water your juice down a bit: One cup of tart POM Wonderful packs 31 grams of sugar.
Information on this website is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this website for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment. Any third party offering or advertising on this website does not constitute an endorsement by Andrew Weil, M.D. or Healthy Lifestyle Brands.
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:
If you’ve been to the health food store lately, you’ve seen shelves lined with vitamins and “organic” supplements, each claiming to boost immunity, revitalize organ function, or “promote health.” And it’s working. Supplements are currently a $30 billion industry in the US, with more than 90,000 products on the market, and vitamin use is on the rise. In fact, a recent survey in Journal of American Medicine Association showed that “52% of US adults reported use of at least 1 supplement product.”
Intensive lifestyle changes that include a Mediterranean type diet, circuit-type resistance training, with 15- to 60-second rest between sessions has shown to improve erectile score in a randomized trial. Men in the intervention group had a significant decrease in glucose, insulin, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure, and a substantial increase in HDL cholesterol.15

Arginine. The amino acid L-arginine, which occurs naturally in food, boosts the body's production of nitric oxide, a compound that facilitates erections by dilating blood vessels in the penis. Studies examining L-arginine's effectiveness against impotence have yielded mixed results. A 1999 trial published in the online journal BJU International found that high doses of L-arginine can help improve sexual function, but only in men with abnormal nitric oxide metabolism, such as that associated with cardiovascular disease. In another study, published in 2003 in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, Bulgarian scientists reported that ED sufferers who took L-arginine along with the pine extract pycnogenol saw major improvements in sexual function with no side effects. Arginine can be helpful, says Geo Espinosa, ND, director of the Integrative Urological Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. Espinosa says that men with known cardiovascular problems should take it only with a doctor's supervision; L-arginine can interact with some medications.
Reiter, W. J., Pycha, A., Schatzl, G., Pokorny, A., Gruber, D. M., Huber, J. C., & Marberger, M. (1999, March). Dehydroepiandrostone in the treatment of erectile dysfunction: A prospective, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study [Abstract]. Urology, 53(3), 590-594. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0090429598005718
The Epimedium plant is a flowering perennial found throughout Asia and parts of the Mediterranean. Horny Goat Weed’s active ingredient is icariin, a falvonol glycoside and reputed to improve cardiovascular function, hormone regulation, modulation of immunological function and antitumor activity (44). Icariin has also been shown to have a PDE5i effect. Animal studies have been carried out showing improvements in penile hemodynamic parameters. There is one report of tachyarrhythmia and hypomania with the use of this herb (45).

Derived from the bark of a West African evergreen tree, yohimbe was the go-to ‘script for a wonky willy prior to the advent of wonder drugs like Viagra, Walker says. “Yohimbe enhances sexual performance both by blocking certain neurotransmitters in the brain and by increasing the release of nitric oxide in the cavernosal nerves of the penis,” he explains. And it pairs well with other erection-friendly tablets: A 2010 study in the Iranian Journal of Psychiatry found that a combination of yohimbe and L-arginine successfully helps guys get it up. However, yohimbe also has a handful of side effects, including elevated blood pressure and anxiety, so definitely talk to your doctor before you start on the supp.


The definition of erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to obtain or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. Historically, admitting to having ED was considered taboo and downright embarrassing until the advent of sildenafil citrate (Viagra) in 1998. Sildenafil liberated men from the stigma of having ED, and it opened a conversation about a problem that has existed for centuries. Up to 10% of men younger than forty suffer from ED and upwards of 60% by age 69.1
Yohimbine: The main component of an African tree bark, yohimbine is probably one of the most problematic of all natural remedies for ED. Some research suggests that yohimbine can improve a type of sexual dysfunction that is linked with a drug used to treat depression. However, studies have linked yohimbine to a number of side effects, which can include anxiety, increased blood pressure, and a fast, irregular heartbeat. Like all natural remedies, yohimbine should only be used after advice and under supervision from a doctor.
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