The neurovascular mechanism of erection is complex and involves multiple factors including hormones, neurotransmitters, elements of the autonomic nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic) and vasodilators such as NO. The common causes of ED include psychogenic disturbance with failure to relax cavernous smooth muscle, arterial insufficiency as a result of atheromatous disease, damage to the parasympathetic nervous system, spinal cord injury, diabetes or following pelvic surgery such as radical prostatectomy, radical cystectomy or bowel resection [4]. It is important to note that cavernous nerves are unique in that although they belong to the autonomic nerves system they do not release either acetylcholine (Ach) or norepinephrine; however, they release NO in the penis. NO relaxes the smooth muscle of the corpora cavernosa via cyclic GMP (cGMP), allowing expansion of the cavernosal lacunar spaces, blood flow and erection. Thus, NO is not a direct dilator of the smooth muscle of cavernosal bodies, but it is an important mediator in this process. Erectile function may also be adversely affected by cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption, obesity and systemic diseases such as mononucleosis, hepatitis, HIV and cancer. Some men are prone to develop an erection that fails to subside after ejaculation (ie, priapism). The condition is associated with sickle-cell disease and leukemia, or may be a result of intracavernosal injection of drugs such as prostaglandin E1 [4]. Peyronie’s disease causes a physical bend in the erect penis and also contributes to ED.

Nitric oxide is made internally from L-arginine, which is an amino acid found in red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. In other words, L-arginine is the building block for nitric oxide, which is essential for erections. A lack of one can lead to a lack of the other. However, there’s a problem when it comes to treating L-arginine deficiency with supplements.

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

Shindel, A. W., Xin, Z.-C., Lin, G., Fandel, T. M., Huang, Y.-C., Banie, L., … Lue, T. F. (2010, February 5). Erectogenic and neurotrophic effects of icariin, a purified extract of horny goat weed (Epimedium spp.) in vitro and in vivo. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, 7(4), 1518-1528. Retrieved from http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01699.x/full
A recent study tested whether ginseng extract would influence exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation responses. Male college students took either ginseng or a placebo, and then performed a high-intensity uphill treadmill running task. In those taking ginseng, inflammation markers were significantly decreased during recovery, suggesting that ginseng could reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.
Cordyceps (Dongchongxiacao): this Chinese caterpillar fungus and the carcass of the larvae of various insects are collected in the period of the Summer Solstice (tenth solar term). They are cleaned and dried in the sun or baked and used for treating deficient kidneys manifested as impotence, seminal emissions and soreness and pain in the lower back and knees (17). Cordyceps (Dongchongxiacao) is used with Dogwood fruit (Shanzhuyu), Dioscorea (Shanyao) and Dadder seed (Tusizi). The herb can also be used alone.

For many men, stopping smoking is an erectile dysfunction remedy, particularly when ED is the result of vascular disease, which occurs when blood supply to the penis becomes restricted because of blockage or narrowing of the arteries. Smoking and even smokeless tobacco can also cause the narrowing of important blood vessels and have the same negative impact. 
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.

Most importantly, herbal supplements are not well regulated in the United States.  Studies have shown that 40-50% of herbal supplements do not even contain the supposed main ingredient, and many contain substances that are not listed which may have dangerous side effects2.  Another study found that over two thirds of the products tested had substituted other plant species for the plants listed on the label, and a third of products also contained other fillers or contaminants3.  A study by the New York State Attorney General of herbal products sold at GNC, Target, Walgreens, and Walmart found that four out of every five products didn’t contain the ingredient they claimed!  Fourteen US states and territories have petitioned Congress to regulate the herbal supplements industry.
Cavallini, G., Modenini, F., Vitali, G., & Koverech, A. (2005, November). Acetyl-L-carnitine plus propionyl-L-carnitine improve efficacy of sildenafil in treatment of erectile dysfunction after bilateral nerve-sparing radical retropubic prostatectomy. Urology, 66(5), 1080-5. Retrieved from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0090429505006515
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.
Ginseng is the root of some Araliaceae plants, which grows in northeast China. Ginseng is the number one herb in TCM that is used to maintain the balance of the body and enhance the vital Qi energy. ED is said to be caused by Qi deficiencies in the Kidney and Liver and Ginseng helps to improve Qi flow to these organs, especially when used with acupuncture. It has been confirmed clinically to enhance erectile function. The ginsenosides are the main active components in ginseng that give it anti-inflammation, anti-tumor, antioxidant, as well as apoptosis inhibition and preventing the degeneration of neurons in dorsal penile nerves while reducing the oxidative stress in the corpus cavernosum. 1
Impotence, also called erectile dysfunction (ED), can be a very frustrating problem. Some men are able to achieve an erection but are not able to maintain one. Others are not able to achieve one at all. Causes of impotence can be both physiological (affecting mostly the body and organs) or psychological (affecting the mind). Luckily, there are natural remedies for impotence you can try.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for intercourse. Because ED can have a strong psychological component, counseling with a psychotherapist or sex therapist often works. However, more often ED is a symptom of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, both of which can impair blood supply to the penis. In addition, many medications interfere with sexual functioning.
The herbal medicines used in the management of sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction are mainly prepared by pounding, chewing and boiling and are mainly orally administered. The traditional healers treat sexual impotence and ED by prescribing some of these herbs in tea or using local beers, fermented milk and porridge. Some herbs are herbs are roasted or smoked such as coffee before administration. The dispensing of herbal medicines used in sexual impotence and ED using local beers, fermented milk and porridge possibly the alcoholic content improves on the kind of active chemicals extracted than water alone12.
Size matters, so get slim and stay slim. A trim waistline is one good defense — a man with a 42-inch waist is 50% more likely to have ED than one with a 32-inch waist. Losing weight can help fight erectile dysfunction, so getting to a healthy weight and staying there is another good strategy for avoiding or fixing ED. Obesity raises risks for vascular disease and diabetes, two major causes of ED. And excess fat interferes with several hormones that may be part of the problem as well.
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.
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.
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.

These three versatile herbs, used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, have a variety of health benefits for both men and women. However, they work in several ways to address health issues of top concern to men, such as erectile dysfunction (ED) and high blood pressure, and I believe they should be a part of every man’s long-term plan for overall health.
Thirty-three medicinal plants both cultivated (Table 1) and wild harvested (Table 2) were documented and identified in the area of study. In the description below these results of these two table are combined as presented below. All the identified medicinal plants in both tables belong to 25 families and 30 genera. The family Rubiaceae (4) is the most represented followed by Alliaceae, Euphorbiaceae, Mimosaceae, Papilionaceae and Caesalpinaceae families which have two species each and the rest with one species. The composition is that 42.4% are shrubs, 39.4% herbs and herb climbers and 18.2% trees. Leaves (57.6%) are the commonest plant parts followed by roots (42.1%), barks (27.3%) and the rest of the plant parts harvested have less than 10% of the parts harvested. From Allium cepa, Allium sativum, Rhus vulgaris, Warburgia ugandensis, Cleome gynandra and Tarenna graveolens, three different plant parts, are harvested for use in sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction. In the case of Impetiens species and Urtica massaica, the whole plants are harvested while the rest of the species one or two different plant parts are used. The conservation status of these documented plants is that 27.3% are cultivated while 72.7% are collected from wild places. The common methods of plant medicine preparation included boiling, chewing, pounding, cooking, roasting and smoking. The commonest method of herbal administration was by oral means as food, herbal teas or by mixing in several drinks including locally made beer.
Another important natural source of non-essential amino acid, L-Arginine is well studied to support many bodily functions even though its usually present in low quantities, especially as we started to age it is one of the most . One of the biggest benefits to our body is L-arginine or L Citruline (Our body converts L-citrulline to L-arginine, another type of amino acid) is converted into nitric oxide (proven), which causes blood vessels to open wider is its capability to improve blood flow and better circulation for Erectile Dysfunction.
Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica): amongst its many properties, nettle leaf has lately shown itself possibly effective for prostate health and prevention of prostate conditions, especially prostatitis, which is an inflammation of the prostate gland (16). There is speculation that nettle leaf may help with male pattern baldness. Prostate health is essential for men, no matter how young or old. Prevention starts when men are young, so as to avoid problems associated with aging. Prostate problems can interfere with a healthy sex life. Nettle is also considered to be an overall restorative for the body, as well as a natural diuretic and anti-inflammatory remedy (16). It is rich in iron, zinc, and chlorophyll.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
The truth is medication or psychosexual counselling are the first treatments a doctor will suggest because they’ve been proven to work. If a doctor has approved a medication for you then it’s safe. If you would still like to see if herbal supplements work for you, then there is a list below of supplements thought to work for erectile dysfunction. Just before you invest your money in them, remember they aren’t proven to work:
Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), used widely in Ayurvedic medicine, holds a similar role to that of ginseng in Chinese medicine. Though unrelated to ginseng, it appears to share similar properties and actions. Ayurveda considers this herb to be a rasayana, or particularly powerful rejuvenative. The name ashwagandha means “like a horse,” connoting that it is regarded as a premier sexual tonic.
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.

It doesn’t look good for the herbs. So far, there’s no data from controlled human trials that support the erection-promoting claims for any 5 of the most frequently used herbs. The icariin in the horny goat weed can help get it up, but since you’re getting the herb rather than a purified molecule, the concentration probably isn’t high enough to have much of an effect. Worse, it turns out that Viagra is much better at blocking that erection-killing enzyme than icariin is.
We present herein a new herbal combination called Etana that is composed of five herbal extracts including Panax quinquelotius (Ginseng), Eurycoma longifolia (Tongkat Ali), Epimedium grandiflorum (Horny goat weed), Centella asiatica (Gotu Kola) and flower pollen extracts. Most of the above-mentioned extracts have a long historical and traditional use for erectile dysfunction (ED). On the basis of the mechanism of action of each of the above, a combination is introduced to overcome several physiological or induced factors of ED. This study was conducted to show an enhancement of erectile function in male rats. The animals were observed for 3 h after each administration for penile erection, genital grooming and copulation mounting, and the penile erection index (PEI) was calculated. The maximum response was observed at the concentration of 7.5 mg kg(-1) of Etana. At a 7.5 mg kg(-1) single dose, the percentage of responding rats was 53+/-7 with a PEI of 337+/-72 compared with 17+/-6 with a PEI of 30+/-10 for control animals. This PEI was significantly (P<0.001) higher than each single component and than the sum of any two herbal components of Etana. When compared with sildenafil citrate, Etana induced more pronounced PEI than 0.36 mg kg(-1), but similar to 0.71 mg kg(-1) of sildenafil. Furthermore, full acute and sub-acute toxicity studies showed no toxic effects of Etana. In conclusion, this study describes a new and safe combination of herbal components that enhance erectile function in male rats. Clinical studies are warranted for evaluating Etana's significance in ED.

Muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides): although used in Asia, this potency wood is actually the best known Amazonian folk medicine which increases libido and penile hardness. It acts as a nerve stimulant to heighten receptiveness to sexual stimuli as well as physical sensation of sex (9). Rich in sterols e.g., sitosterol, campesterol and lupol it activates the body’s receptors for hormones like testosterone to heighten libido and enhance performance (5). Also present are volatile oils like champor which helps restore sex drive and inner depth of libido and mental ability to be aroused.
Just because a product claims to be natural doesn't mean it's safe. Many herbal remedies and dietary supplements can cause side effects and dangerous interactions when taken with certain medications. Talk to your doctor before you try an alternative treatment for erectile dysfunction — especially if you're taking medications or you have a chronic health problem such as heart disease or diabetes.
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