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.
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.
And just because you’re using a “natural” herb doesn’t mean you won’t feel any side effects. Ginseng can cause hypoglycemia or bleeding in some people, and at high doses puncturevine can damage the kidneys. Plus, the FDA has found that a lot of supplement companies make sure their erection-enhancing products actually produce erections by tossing in some Viagra off-label. If you really need it, it’s probably better–and safer–to go see your doctor for a prescription.
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.
L-arginine. L-arginine is an important amino acid that the body needs to build proteins. Because L-arginine has been shown to improve blood flow, some alternative practitioners have recommended that the supplements be used to treat ED. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, which is a reliable authority on alternative medicines, says L-arginine is possibly effective for treating erectile dysfunction. But Harris warns that "although this supplement could improve blood flow, side effects can be dangerous." L-arginine can cause an allergic reaction or worsen asthma in some people; it can also lower blood pressure.
The Science: Some studies have implied that feeding maca to domestic cattle increases sperm production, but there is very little data about any sexual effect on humans. One very small randomized double-bind trial of men with erectile dysfunction found that men taking maca extract reported a small increase in their ability to get erections. But so did the control group. As with the fenugreek study, a similar study with a larger group of people is needed to see whether any differences between the controls and the maca-eaters are real.
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).
Some studies carried in and outside Uganda show that some of these plants listed in the management of sexual impotence and ED may be potent. Some of these medicinal plants are regarded as traditionally aphrodisiacs, implying that they have ability to increase sexual desires. For instance, Cola acuminata fruits are widely used herbal remedies in ED and are harvested from the forests of Democratic Republic of Congo. The Cola acuminata fruits contain about 2% catechine-coffeine (Colanine)7. The roasted seeds in Europe are used as strong stimulant, in addition to the treatment of migraine, neuralgia, diarrhoea and stimulant or cardiotonic, loss of appetite, antidepressant and melancholy (severe form of depression)7. Coffee is drunk for certain migraine, nausea, resuscitation and diuretic7. Coffee is a famous stimulant used world over as a beverage. However, the wild coffee species are more popular in treating ED and are believed to contain more alkaloids (caffeine). Coffee is further reported to be a nervous system stimulant (Pampalona-Roger, 2000). Cannabis sativa (Marijuana) is smoked by mentally sick and impoverished men7. C. sativa is like morphine, it is an opioid analgesics. Allium sativum (garlic) is used in treatment of diabetes, high blood pressure, prevention of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries and is one of the causes of ED)7. Garlic reduces blood sugar levels and blood cholesterol levels which are the direct causes of ED if not checked. The Zingiber officinalis (ginger) volatile oils from the rhizome are used for stimulating the nerves and making then sensitive7. Capsicum frutescens in many African cultures is a known powerful stimulant and carminative24. Capsicum frutescens (chilli) contains enzyme capsaicine that helps in blood clotting (fibrinolytic) and people who consume C. frutescens seldom suffer from heart attack. In addition, the pharmacological tests showed that the capsaicin chemical compound from Capsicum frutescens acted like powerful stimulant of the receptors participating in circulatory and respiratory reflexes24.
Only the few elite (educated) and with money seek modern medical care privately and secretly. The description of impotent men in western Uganda among the Banyankore ethnic grouping is literally translated as the persons having no legs (Kifabigyere, Runyankore Dialect) to imply that the penis is dead (cannot bear children). There are other various terms used to describe such men with sexual impotence and ED like the one trampled by a goat, [Akaribatwa embuzi (empene), Kinyankore dialect]. In other places they called, such men who were unable reproduce as “Ekifera in Kinyankore meaning worthless). The men who were unable to have children were not supposed to be given the positions of responsibility or leadership because they were regarded as abnormal. Socially these men were excluded from society, even on drinking joints for the local brew or beer, they are not expected to talk and if they talked, they are hushed. Even women and children always taunted the suffering individuals. Socio-economically, sexual impotence and ED is demeaning and tortures the sufferers by reducing their self-esteem and worthiness in the society. Culturally, in olden days, the impotent men married wives and entrust their wives to very close friends and or relatives to bear them children. In central Uganda, the men with erectile problems are equalled to car engines that cannot start on their own [non-starters] or cars whose batteries have no or low charge (‘Takuba self’, Luganda dialect).
Pomegranate juice. Drinking antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice has been shown to have numerous health benefits, including a reduced risk for heart disease and high blood pressure. Does pomegranate juice also protect against ED? No proof exists, but results of a study published in 2007 were promising. The authors of this small-scale pilot study called for additional research, saying that larger-scale studies might prove pomegranate juice's effectiveness against erectile dysfunction. "I tell my patients to drink it," says Espinosa. "It could help ED, and even if it doesn't, it has other health benefits."
While these side effects mainly create discomfort, some individuals are at risk for more serious, even life-threatening reactions to these drugs. Some men have reported fainting after taking impotence medications, and priapism (a painful condition involving an erection that does not subside after more than four hours) has also occurred as an effect of impotence drugs. This condition can lead to permanent nerve damage; injectable drugs may also cause irreversible damage to the penis if used incorrectly.
Does drinking water improve erectile dysfunction? Erectile dysfunction or ED is a common concern for men. Everyday factors, such as hydration levels, may affect a person's ability to get or maintain an erection. Drinking water may, therefore, help some men with ED. In this article, learn about the link between hydration and ED, and other factors that can cause ED. Read now
Most sincere gratitude to the sponsors, Third World Organisation for Women in Sciences (TWOWS), NUFU Medicinal plants Project through Botany Department, Faculty of Science, Makerere University, UNESCO-MAB Young Scientist Research Award, 2000, Gender studies, Makerere University and WHO-Uganda. The Staff of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Field assistants, local leaders, the resource users and all respondents, particularly the TBAs and traditional healers in Bushenyi, Mbarara and Kasese Districts who provided the information.
^Efficacy and safety of pomegranate juice on improvement of erectile dysfunction in male patients with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study. - Author: The Male Clinic, Beverly Hills, CA, USA and David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA. (14 June 2007)
The Plant: It’s true, the name’s hilarious. But as it turns out, it’s not just one plant: supplement manufacturers might put any one of 15 different species from this genus of shade-loving perennials inside that pill. That’s important to keep in mind, because the types and amounts of biologically active molecules the plant contains can differ from species to species.
ED may occur at any age, but tends to have a greater psychological effect when it occurs in midlife. ED invokes stress related to midlife intimacy and the physiological realities of aging. Although the prevalence of ED increases with age, it is not an inevitable consequence of aging. Rather, ED becomes more prevalent as men grow older because of its relationship with various age-related diseases. Several studies have found that age is an independent risk factor for severe ED, even after adjustment for other age-related diseases. The aging male requires more penile stimulation; it takes longer to get an erection and the erection may not be hard enough for vaginal penetration. Also, it takes more time to reach ejaculation in elderly individuals. Absence of sexual interest in the partners of older men can lead to ED simply by the man not receiving sufficient direct penile stimulation. Testosterone replacement therapy for aging men has become a topic for discussion among health care providers. There are no established norms for testosterone levels in aging men. Studies in healthy men show that testosterone levels, particularly free bioactive testosterone levels, decline with age although there is considerable interindividual variation. The percentage of men who actually become ‘testosterone deficient’ is unknown. The diagnosis of androgen deficiency in aging men is associated with a wider range of symptoms than a mere impact on hormone levels per se. If the patient has no clinical signs of an androgen deficiency, testosterone replacement therapy will have no clinical effect.
When it comes to boosting sexual performance, many men will walk all over God’s green earth looking for ways to maintain a good sex life. Luckily men, all you have to do is walk — not run — 2 miles a day. This, along with other healthier lifestyle interventions can help obese men reduce their risk of ED, or even “reverse” current impotence, according to a 2005 study. This comes of importance, since maintaining a trim waistline is a good defense for ED, as men with a 42-inch waist are 50 percent more likely to have ED than those with a 32-inch waist. Getting to a healthy weight and maintaining it is a good strategy for preventing and treating ED.
Yohimbine. This chemical is found in the bark of an African tree called yohimbe. It has been used as a male aphrodisiac in Africa, and under medical supervision it has been used as a prescription drug to treat ED. Supplements made from yohimbe bark are also available without a prescription, but they can be life-threatening if used at high doses, according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. The supplement can interact in a harmful way with certain drugs, such as blood pressure medications, and should be avoided by anyone with liver, kidney, heart, or diabetes problems or problems with anxiety or depression. Like DHEA, yohimbine should not be taken without a doctor's supervision.
Catuaba (Erythroxylum catuaba): in Brazil, Catuaba Extract is considered to be a central nervous system stimulant (5), without the side effects of caffeine. This is used in some Asian remedies for sexual weakness and lowered libido. European herbalists have found that Catuaba may have aphrodisiac properties and can be used to combat sexual weakness.
The estimated range of men worldwide suffering from ED is from 15 million to 30 million23. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS), for every 1,000 men in the United States, 7.7 physician office visits were made for ED in 1985. By 1999, that rate had nearly tripled to 22.3. This is in USA, where statistics are clearly compiled, the level of awareness and education is high as compared to sub Saharan countries like Uganda. This is a clear indication that there are many silent men, particularly couples affected by ED.
There is no single cause for erectile dysfunction. Achieving an erection involves a complex series of physiological events; in order for an erection to occur, the body is required to coordinate nervous system responses with tactile sensations, emotional triggers, and signals from certain hormones. If any of these events are disrupted, impotence is likely to occur.
From the conservation point of view, medicinal plants usage will continue to grow in popularity as people seek ways to support health naturally and gently31. So far, over 72% of these medicinal plants used in ED conditions were harvested from the wild. Yet, there is increasing trend in usage of traditional medicine in developed countries30. The dramatic increase in herbal remedies usage will continue to rise since WHO has taken on monitoring of all unconventional medicine according to the traditional medicine strategic plan of 2002 to 200533. Most medicinal plants have proved successful sources or have acted as leads of effective ingredients that today's drug companies often look first to traditional places such as the rain forests, forest animals and traditional healers for clues to guide their drug development efforts. Furthermore, the harvesting of medicinal plants from the wild places such as the forest reserves, national parks in QEBR is a point of concern whereby no viable mechanisms have been put in place to propagate them. The plant parts harvested especially those of wild medicines such as roots and stem, pose threat to the future survival of natural reservoirs if domestication strategies are not adopted in the near future.
Pumpkin seed: besides having a pleasant flavor, pumpkin seeds are revered by the Chinese for its antidepressant properties (5). More importantly, pumpkin seed ingestion can impact prostate health, which is very important for male sexual health. It is commonly used to strengthen the prostate gland and promote healthy hormone function in men. Myosin, an amino acid found in pumpkin seeds, is known to be essential for muscular contractions.
Tribulus Terrestris is the fruit of the Zygophyllaceae plant and it grows primarily in North China. It is a well-known aphrodisiac with records that trace back to ancient times. There are plenty of animal experiments that verify the effectiveness of Tribulus for improving erectile function. These effects are mostly due to its androgen enhancing ability, namely increasing testosterone levels. Though testosterone doesn’t directly cause an erection, it does play a role. Erection is made possible by many factors, but mostly it's through receptors on cells lining our arteries that stimulate a chain reaction that relaxes the blood vessels that go to the penis, allowing blood flow to get in. Low testosterone is often associated with overall poor metabolic and cardiovascular health. When the test is low, estrogen is usually high, leading to oxidative stress and calcification of the arteries, including the penis, restricting blood flow to the penis. So, improving testosterone levels, and improving overall metabolic function, while reducing oxidative stress is a good plan for improving overall sexual function and erection.