We use cookies and similar technologies to improve your browsing experience, personalize content and offers, show targeted ads, analyze traffic, and better understand you. We may share your information with third-party partners for marketing purposes. To learn more and make choices about data use, visit our Advertising Policy and Privacy Policy. By clicking “Accept and Continue” below, (1) you consent to these activities unless and until you withdraw your consent using our rights request form, and (2) you consent to allow your data to be transferred, processed, and stored in the United States.
In the East, many herbal tonics and preparations are used to assist the aging male improve his ability to have sexual drive or perform penetrative sex by increasing sexual stimulation, erectile, ejaculatory, orgasmic and other responses for sexual function and satisfaction. Currently available herbals, tonics and therapies range from Tongkat Ali, Ginseng, Tribulus etc. Those that act as testosterone releasers have some value especially if the male has andropause and those containing some pick-me-ups II and energizers like ginseng help the tired and fatigued male and possibly those with asthenia. Deer horn contains growth factors and taking these may help improve nocturnal erections in the male with somatopause. Popular in historic Singapore were remedies such as “Penis Soup II” (Figure 2) and Snake Meat, whilst Surabaya was known for Cobra meat (Figure 3) and Cobra Blood which had claims of improving erectogenic prowess-these myths including that of taking dog, cow, wild boar, bull and ostrich testicles (Figures 10,​,11)11) are mainly Village doctor remedies still being practiced widely in the developing regions of Asia. In China, the horny goat weed (Figure 9) is currently still popular and may have some scientific merit (11) for enhancing sexual drive.
For centuries, men have tried all sorts of natural remedies for erectile dysfunction (ED) -- the repeated inability to get or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. But do they really work? It is simply not scientifically known at this point. Furthermore, you take these remedies at your own risk, because their safety profiles have not been established. What follows are commentaries by experts and reviews in the field of alternative treatments that are available over the counter for erectile dysfunction and impotence.

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.
E longifolia is a medicinal plant (family Simaroubaceae) native to Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam and Laos. The root extract has been found to be the most powerful herbal aphrodisiac [17]. Tongkat ali extracts contain many alkaloids, quassinoids, phenolic compounds, tannins, high-molecular-weight glycoproteins and mucopolysaccharides. The main bioactive compounds are eurycomaoside, eurycolactone, eurycomalactone, eurycomanone and pasakbumin-B. It is considered to be natural ‘Viagra’. It increases sexual desire, and enhances performance and general well-being [17- 19]. In addition to its aphrodisiac effect, other medicinal effects, such as antimalarial, antibacterial, antipyretic, antiulcer and antitumour effects, have been reported [20,21]. Root decoction has been used as a general tonic (18,22]. Laboratory animal studies show that root extract enhances sexual characteristics and performance in rodents [22-25]. In a study involving a boar model, it was found that E longifolia root extract-treated boars increased sperm counts and semen volume; the effect was attributed to increased level of plasma testosterone [26]. Reports also suggest that E longifolia extract reverses the inhibitory effects of estrogen on testosterone production and spermatogenesis in rats [27]. Oral administration of E longifolia extract to inexperienced castrated male rats produced dose-dependent increases in sexual performance [28]. Zakaria et al [29] found that eurycomanone, a potential bioactive compound in the root extract of E longifolia, induced apoptosis in hepatocarcinoma (Hep G2) cells. Furthermore, their work suggested that eurycomanone was cytotoxic to Hep G2 cells and less toxic to normal Chang’s liver and WLR-68 cells. Tambi and Imran [19] investigated the effects of water-soluble extract of the root of E longifolia Jack and found that the extract increased semen volume, sperm concentration, percent of normal sperm morphology and sperm motility in male partners of subfertile couples with idiopathic infertility. Supplementation with E longifolia elevated the testosterone levels and upregulated osteoprotegerin gene expression in male Sprague-Dawley rats [30].
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.

In this day and age, there is a wide spectrum of innovative drug and other methods of treatment including psychosexual therapy and counseling, topical and systemic drug therapy, device-assisted therapy, electromagnetic stimulation to improve nerve and vascular function of the pelvis and perineal muscles. Electro-ejaculation and the less often done surgical techniques are currently available. The simpler electrovibration can help create or maintain erection or stimulate ejaculation. Although we give so much emphasis on ejaculation, in the Chinese traditional medical teaching, there is reference to improving health by ejaculatory control and abstaining from ejaculating during sexual activity—hence the popular belief that EJACULATING TOO MUCH will lead to WEAKNESS and ILL HEALTH!

Erectile dysfunction (ED) or male impotence is defined as inability of a man to achieve or maintain penile erection sufficient for sexual activity. It is primarily a neuronal and endothelial dysfunction of the corpus cavernosum of penile tissue, and is partly characterized by reduced production of nitric oxide (NO). Other factors that may contribute to the pathogenesis of ED include androgen deficiency in aging men, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, diseases of the prostate and heart, and anatomical deformity of the penis. ED may also be caused by some medications, prostate surgery and spinal cord injury. Psychological and social conditions such as stress, depression and unhappy marital relationship may contribute to the problem. Chronic infections and inflammation can also contribute to the disease process. ED is linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Several orally active drugs (sildenafil, vardenafil, tadalafil, avanafil) are currently prescribed for treating ED to improve the arterial blood flow to the penile tissue. Medicinal plants and their extracts have been used in traditional medicine in southwest Asia and other countries to treat ED. The current review focuses on four medicinal plants that have been used as aphrodisiacs for enhancing sexual performance and for the treatment of ED. These plants include Eurycoma longifolia Jack (tongkat ali); Chlorophytum borivilianum (safed musli); Withania somnifera (ashwagandha); and Pausinystalia johimbe (formerly known as Corynanthe johimbe). Suggested mechanisms of action for each of the plant extracts will be discussed.
Many products contain undocumented “fillers” that can cause allergic reactions.  In recent years, the FDA has found over 300 herbal products that contain hidden, deceptively labeled, or dangerous ingredients4. And since 2015, the FDA has released public warnings on more than 160 ED supplements and “male enhancement” products found to contain dangerous ingredients and contaminants5 .   An independent study of FDA data, conducted in 2018, found almost 800 herbal supplements that contained unlisted ingredients6.
Counselling or sex therapy (58% of people find this works for them) –mind-related causes of erectile dysfunction can affect anyone. They are more likely if you experience erectile dysfunction at a younger age. Talking to a counsellor or therapist can help some people overcome erectile dysfunction related to these problems, possibly for good. They can also help you if your erectile dysfunction is causing you stress, as this can make matters worse.
Consider this:  penicillin, the first successful antibiotic, was derived from molds that inhibit bacterial growth.  Scientists had to figure out why the molds slowed bacteria, and refine the active ingredients.  Using herbal supplements is somewhat like putting mold on a wound.  It might help, a little, but it’s certainly not going to help as much as using penicillin.
Garlic is one of the most common vegetables found at home that's beneficial in the treatment of sexual impotence. Dr. Mani says, "Garlic has often referred to as "the poor man's penicillin" because it serves as an effective antiseptic and immune booster. Being a sex rejuvenator, it can improve sexual activities that have been damaged due to an accident or a disease. Garlic is important for people who overindulge in sex to protect themselves from nervous exhaustion."
DHEA. DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone, is a natural hormone that the body uses to make the male hormone testosterone. DHEA and testosterone decrease with age, just as ED increases with age, so it seems that taking DHEA might protect against ED. But Harris says that "it is unlikely that taking DHEA would raise your testosterone enough to make much difference." DHEA should not be used by people with liver problems; it also has many side effects.
The art of acupuncture has become the new treatment for everything from back pain, depression, and even ED. Impotence could be more of a state of mind, and acupuncture may help. Through this alternative therapy, fine needles are placed in various parts of the body to relieve pain or stress. Although there are many mixed studies for acupuncture and ED, many tend to confirm positive results. A 1999 study found acupuncture improved the quality of erection and even restored sexual activity in 39 percent of participants.
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.
Epimedium extract (Horny Goat Weed) (11), (Figure 9): the Chinese refer to this herb as ‘yin yang huo’, which has been loosely translated as ‘licentious goat plant’; hence, its common name is well known as ‘horny goat weed’ by many Western cultures. Scientifically, studies have shown that Epimedium may restore low levels of both testosterone and thyroid hormone, bringing low levels back to their normal levels (5), which may account for some of its benefits in improving sexual libido. Other benefits to Epimedium involve increased muscle mass. Used for fatigue and aging, And vasodilatation effect; thus, most frequently used in treatment of sexual dysfunction in Traditional Chinese Medicine (12). The active substance from horny goat weed was reported by Xin Zhong Cheng at Beijing Medical University as Icarin—acts by increasing sexual activities and ICP levels in castrated rats after long term oral administration. It has no effects on serum testosterone level in castrated rats after long term oral administration. Instead Icariin increases nNOS and iNOS mRNA and protein expression in the corpus cavernosum after long term oral administration and hence may have long term efficacy on erectile dysfunction after oral administration.
Oyster meat: totally natural, oyster extract is excellent for men’s reproductive health and endurance. It is a rich source for the amino acid taurine, which is used for cardiac health and nerve transmission. Historically known as an aphrodisiac, flavonoids in oyster meat have been shown to stimulate the reproductive system. However, still its potency is under question (5).
The proved herbal remedies with therapeutic values such as Prunus africana used in the treatment of hypertrophy in male genitalia is indicative that some herbals may be potent though not yet studied comprehensively5,13. However, most of the herbal remedies used in male ailments are not well documented and researched. The dangers of loosing valuable indigenous knowledge (IK) on sexual impotence and ED are likely to occur because westernization in the present generation. This indigenous knowledge in medicine ought to be documented for future use and sustainable utilisation19. According to the convention on biological diversity (CBD)6, specific reference is made to the need to protect the world's indigenous cultures and traditions (Art. 8 of CBD). This article points out that national legislation need to respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities encompassing traditional life styles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. UNEP argues nations to have an urgent action to safeguard indigenous cultures and their knowledge.
Maca root (Lepedium meyenii W): this native Peruvian root has been cultivated for thousands of years. Considered an integral part of the diet, the Incans found maca root so potent (14), it was restricted to royal use only. Known for its energy enhancing abilities, maca root enjoys a special place amongst herbalists and health seekers. Like ginseng, this plant is employed to increase strength, libido and sexual function (14). Clinically its effects have been proved with experimental animals (5,15).

Experts feel that treating erectile dysfunction on your own, without consulting a doctor, is unsafe. "If you have ED, the first thing you need is a diagnosis," says impotence expert Steven Lamm, MD, a New York City internist and the author of The Hardness Factor (Harper Collins) and other books on male sexual health. He says men with severe erectile dysfunction probably need one of the prescription ED drugs, which include Levitra (vardenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil) as well as Viagra. But, he says, mild ED -- including the feeling that "you're not as hard as you could be" -- often responds to natural remedies.
A 2011 study of 160 men with moderate or severe erectile dysfunction divided the group in two—80 men were given niacin supplements, and 80 a placebo. The group given niacin reported improved ability to “maintain an erection versus the control group.” It’s not exhaustive research, but still promising. The best part about niacin is that it’s naturally found in foods like turkey, avocado, and peanuts (yum). If you’re not a turkey sandwich fan, you can supplement with a vitamin B complex.
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.

A daily dose of niacin improves erectile function, particularly in men with high cholesterol, according to a 2011 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. The vitamin helps increase blood flow and reduce inflammation—one of the underlying causes of both high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. “Vitamin B3 is also used to make sex hormones and other important chemical-signal molecules,” says Fisch. Like many of the others on our list, this tablet is most powerful when taken in conjunction with others: A cocktail of propionyl, L-carnitine, L-arginine, and niacin taken for three months improved 40% of erections in a study from researchers at Sapienza University of Rome in Italy.
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.
×