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.
^Effects of Korean ginseng berry extract on sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction: a multicenter, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical study. - Author: Department of Urology and Urological Science Institute, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, and R&D Center, Amorepacific Corporation, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea (20 Dec 2012)
Currently, there are four orally active drugs are available to treat ED. These include: sildenafil citrate (Viagra [Pfizer, USA]), vardenafil hydrochloride (Levitra [Bayer, Germany]), tadalafil (Cialis [Eli Lilly, USA]) and avanafil (Stendra, Spedra [Vivus Inc, USA]). These drugs inhibit the enzyme phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE-5), which is responsible for the hydrolysis of cGMP. PDE-5 inhibitors and cGMP act as effectors of dilation of smooth muscle of cavernosal bodies. PDE-5 inhibitors are contraindicated in patients taking any kind of nitrate therapy for angina, and may not be appropriate for men with certain health conditions, such as severe heart disease, heart failure, history of stroke or heart attack, uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes, and patients with pigmental retinopathy. PDE-5 inhibitors are less effective in men with diabetes and men who have been treated for prostate cancer. PDE-5 inhibitors are also not effective in men with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease involving PDE-5 deficiency. The common side effects of PDE-5 inhibitors include gastrointestinal upset, headache, nasal congestion, back pain and dizziness. The PDE-5 inhibitors may interact with other medications including antihypertension drugs. Nonetheless, the PDE-5 inhibitors are generally safe and effective for most men. The primary mechanism of action of these drugs is through the mediation of NO. NO is one of the key molecules involved in ED. It is a short-lived, highly permeable, pleiotropic, gaseous molecule, secreted from the postganglionic cavernosal parasympathetic nerves, endothelium of the cavernosal blood vessels, platelets in the cavernosal sinuses and phagocytic cells (monocytes, macrophages and neutrophils). NO acts on platelets to inhibit platelets adhesion and aggregation. NO causes relaxation of the smooth muscle of the cavernosal blood vessels of the penis, leading to vasodilation, tumescence and stimulation. Release of NO in the corpus cavernosum of the penis during stimulation activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase, which results in increased levels of cGMP, producing smooth muscle relaxation in the corpus cavernosum and resulting in increased blood flow (5). NO is mainly produced from cavernosal nerves, which are nonadrenergic, noncholinergic nerves within the penis, and acting via its second messenger cGMP. It has been suggested that maintaining normal body weight and mild exercise, as well as dietary supplementation of folic acid, zinc, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin E and L-arginine, a precursor of NO, can support the biochemical pathway leading to NO release [6]. NO is an effector molecule that is involved in a number of intracellular functions such as vasorelaxation, endothelial regeneration, inhibition of leukocyte chemotaxis and platelet adhesion [7]. A small proportion of autonomic nerves do not release either Ach or norepinephrine [8]. For example, the cavernous nerves predominantly release NO in the penis. The exact mechanism is not known, but it is believed to be through increased intracellular calcium. Another gaseous molecule produced in the corpora cavernosa is hydrogen sulphide (H2S), which is also known to be involved in erectile function [9]. H2S activates ATP-sensitive potassium channels in smooth muscle cells. Some reports indicate that NO acts in large vessels and H2S in small vessels. A high level of tumour necrosis factor-alpha has been shown in ED patients [10]. Although current ED therapies using PDE-5 inhibitors are safe and effective, approximately 40% of ED patients do not respond to currently available treatment [11,12]. For these patients, herbal therapy may be useful.
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.
Tongkat Ali (Eurycoma longiflora) (Figure 7): this native plant found through SE Asia is used as an Aphrodisiac since 1996 (5). It has to be used regularly and works by enhancing the testosterone and cGMP production. Benefits are felt gradually over a period of time, mainly because it enhances the natural biological synthesis of testosterone. When the level is increased, health and vitality are restored. In studies on Mice, Tongkat Ali increases the number of times and duration of sexual performance of the animals under study (8) with testosterone levels increasing up to 440% in some animals. In a recent study on humans, 62% of subjects showed an increase of the free testosterone index indicating it’s biostimulatory effect on steroidogenesis. It has also been shown to increase sperm concentration and motility and increases energy in the individual by enhancing ATP production by 60% thru oxidative phosphorylation.
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.
The Institute of Medicine recommends cumulative daily vitamin D intake of 600 international units (IU) for adults between 18 and 70 years of age , and 800 IU for those over 80. A 3oz serving of salmon contains about 450IU, while an 8oz. glass of milk only has about 100IU. Low vitamin D levels may be an independent, potentially modifiable risk for ED, so it’s worth taking Vitamin D supplements for your “D.” However, keep your daily vitamin D supplement intake below 4,000IU, as too much vitamin D can be toxic.
Acupuncture. Though acupuncture has been used to treat male sexual problems for centuries, the scientific evidence to support its use for erectile dysfunction is equivocal at best. In 2009, South Korean scientists conducted a systematic review of studies on acupuncture for ED. They found major design flaws in all of the studies, concluding that "the evidence is insufficient to suggest that acupuncture is an effective intervention for treating ED."
According to Uganda's health policy priorities8,25, men's reproductive health is not given any mention. The national health policy focuses on services like family planning, diseases control like STI/HIV/AIDS, malaria, perinatal and maternal conditions, tuberculosis, diarrhoeal diseases and acute lower respiratory tract infections that are given priority8,25. The sexual and reproductive health rights in Uganda focus on maternal and child mortality, family planning and the like exclusive of men's sexual needs and rights8.
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.
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.
A study published in May 2014 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that some men can reverse erectile dysfunction with healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercise, weight loss, a varied diet, and good sleep. The Australian researchers also showed that even if erectile dysfunction medication is required, it's likely to be more effective if you implement these healthy lifestyle changes.

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.

Wild oats: a study in 1986 by the Institute for Advanced Study of Sexuality in San Francisco reported effects like heightened sexual awareness, increased sexual thoughts, more orgasms (36% in men and 29% in women) and some male subjects showed increased levels of testosterone attributed to unbinding of testosterone from TBG. Oats supply steroidal saponins which modulate hormonal balance (5).
Impotence, or erectile dysfunction (ED), is the inability for a man to sustain an erection long enough for normal, satisfying sexual intercourse.  To understand the underlying causes of impotence, it helps to know the basics about how an erection develops, along with potential problems that get in the way. Erections begin in the brain with a thought related to sexual desire. Then a chemical message travels from the brain to the penis. Blood flow to the penis increases as blood vessels leading to the reproductive system relax and allow for increased circulation.
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
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Classically the neuro-physiology of ejaculation traces the 3 Phases in which ejaculation is a complex event involving the (I) the propulsion of sperm and seminal plasma into the prostatic urethra which is accompanied by (II) bladder neck closure and (III) coordinated contractions of the bulbocavernosus and ischiocavernosus muscles, striated muscles of the pelvic floor, lower limbs and trunk. In the Asian Society of the Aging Male Study [2004] 63% have reduced erection, 68% reduced or absent ejaculation and 19% pain or discomfort at ejaculation. Disorders of ejaculation can be due to: (I) disorders of production of sperm or seminal plasma/prostatic secretions (II) disorders of propulsion. In the case of anejaculation (absence of ejaculatory) which is the ultimate disorder of ejaculation, the causes can be best classified as (I) primary or secondary. After covering psychogenic causes of ejaculation failure, the organic causes due to non-dynamic and obstructive etiologies in the prepubertal and post pubertal male will be highlighted. More details will be given on retarded ejaculation, premature ejaculation, aspermia, painful and weak (poor propulsive force) ejaculation. The evaluation of the patient must include a detailed history taken from the patient and often his partner. Aside from haematologic tests, various forms of radiological and ultrasonic imaging, neurophysiologic studies may be required. For the general practitioner the commonest scenario will be in the ED Clinic with abundant men with performance anxiety presenting with premature ejaculation. In the male aging clinic lack of arousal is the commonest cause of retarded orgasm and ejaculation but this group is plagued by decreased touch sensitivity, the need for more direct stimulation, reduced drive to orgasm, a less intense orgasm, ejaculation being weaker and of reduced quantity and disturbing complaints of a longer recovery period and less number of attainable orgasms per day or week. Thus it is not mere rumor that “by the time a man reaches 55, the refractory period to ‘do it again for a man’ increases to 12 hours or even up to a week”. In the STD clinic, painful or bloody ejaculation is frequently seen. The Condom may cause condom retarded orgasm/ejaculation.

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.
The medicinal plants used in male-related conditions will be very significant in the present and future generations. From the researchers point of view, the usage of herbal remedies in managing sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction is useful because of long history of utilisation of some herbs that are perceived as effective. Thus, the establishment of rapport between modern health workers through collaborative ventures with traditional healers, relevant NGOs like Rukararwe in Bushenyi by having close supervision and monitoring of herbal treatments in such conditions is noble. Ministry of Health through its research wing in traditional medicine the Natural Chemotherapeutics Research Laboratory in Wandegeya has role to play in advocacy of traditional medicine. In addition, Public-Private Partnership in Health Care Delivery Desk Office in Ministry of Health and distinguished researchers in herbal medicine need to network, collaborate and have policy in place for herbal medicine as an alternative form of health care in Uganda. The traditional herbal medicines, relevant to the needs of ailing Ugandans can be tried out after being licensed by the National Drug Authority. In our view, sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction are real silent conditions affecting Ugandan men. Additionally, further investigations into the safety and efficacy of these traditional herbal remedies used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction and other male-related conditions are recommended in Uganda.

Usually patients will try less invasive alternatives to treat impotence before opting for surgery. These alternatives may include supplements, herbs, lifestyle changes and even medications. In cases where other treatments do not work to resolve ED, surgery might be a last-resort option. Surgery involves implanting a penile prosthesis. This is a saline-filled silicone device or a malleable device. Although the likelihood of serious side effects is considered to be low, certain risks are associated with surgery to correct erectile dysfunction. These side effects may include: anesthetic risk, device infection, and device malfunction or mechanical failure. Some studies have found that five years following surgery around 10–20 percent of men experience device malfunction and failure. Infection rates are low. Around one percent of men who opt for this type of surgery get an infection.


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).
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!
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