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.
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.”
W somnifera (ashwagandha), also referred to as winter cherry (family Solanaceae), grows in Africa, the Mediterranean, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Congo and Jordan . The roots of the plant contain steroid alkaloids and steroidal lactone, which are the main constituents of ashwagandha; these compounds are referred to as withanolides. Among the various alkaloids, withnine is the main constituent. The other alkaloids are somniferin, somnine, somniferine, withananine, pseudowithanine, tropine, pseudotropine, cuscohygrine, anferine and anhydrine. Two acyl steryl glucosides (sitoindoside VII and sitoindoside VIII) have been isolated from the root. The withanolides contain a C28 steroidal nucleus with a C9 side chain and six-membered lactone rings. Ashwagandha root also contains flavonoids and many ingredients of the withanolide class. It has several medicinal applications (aphrodisiac, liver tonic, anti-inflammatory agent, astringent), and is used to treat bronchitis, asthma, ulcers, insomnia, senility and dementia. Clinical trials and studies involving animal models support the use of ashwagandha for anxiety, cognitive and neurological disorders, inflammation and Parkinson’s disease. It also provides cryoprotective benefits to patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, and shows beneficial effects for nervous exhaustion. W somnifera is used as an aphrodisiac, sedative and rejuvenative, and is also used to treat chronic fatigue, dehydration, bone weakness, muscle weakness, loose teeth, impotency, premature ejaculation, debility, constipation, senility, rheumatism, nervous exhaustion, memory loss, drug withdrawal symptoms, anxiety and arthritis pain in the knee. Extracts from W somnifera inhibit transcription factor nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB); thus, it acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. This has been attributed to its ability to interact with IKKB, a kinase that is responsible for the nuclear translocation of NF-κB and activation of inflammatory signalling pathways .
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.
Many stores sell herbal supplements and health foods that claim to have sexual potency and fewer side effects. They’re also often cheaper than prescribed medications. But these options have little scientific research to back up the claims, and there’s no uniform method on testing their effectiveness. Most results from human trials rely on self-evaluation, which can be subjective and difficult to interpret.
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.
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.
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."
In modern medication of erectile dysfunction, the oral prescription medication of popular Viagra (Sildenafil) is effective, but in some men it is not compatible and Sildenafil works in less than 70% of men with various etiologies and has certain side effects23. The availability of Viagra has brought millions of couples to ED treatment. Oral testosterone can reduce ED in some men with low levels of natural testosterone, but it is often ineffective and may cause liver damage34. Other drugs such as Yohimbine, papaverine hydrochloride [used under careful medical supervision]5, phentolamine, and alprostadil (marketed as Caverject) widen blood vessels. However, this available modern medication for the ED in men is very expensive for most of the rural people in Ugandan and other developing countries. Yet, in traditional medicine, there are several medicinal plants that have been relied on for use in the treatment of ED. This ethnobotanical indigenous knowledge has not been earlier documented and scientifically validated for efficacy and safety, future drug discovery and development.
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.
Gecko (Gejie): this toad-headed lizard (Gekko gecko L.) is caught in summer. The internal organs are removed, and the eyes are cut and drained. Pieces of bamboo are used to fix the body, and then the gecko is baked and put in a dry place. It is used to treat Impotence due to kidney efficiency. Gecko (Gejie) is used with Ginseng (Renshen), Pilose antler (Lurong) and Epimedium (Yinyanghuo). It can be used alone for this treatment.
Ashwagandha’s reputation as a sexual enhancement herb is supported by research. One animal study showed that extracts of ashwagandha increased production of sex hormones and sperm, presumably by exerting a testosterone-like effect. In another clinical trial, the herb (taken at a dose of 3 gm per day for 1 year) was given to healthy male adults 50–59 years of age. Among benefits noted: serum cholesterol levels decreased, gray hair was reduced, and a vast majority (over 70%) reported improvement in sexual performance.
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.
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.
In a 2005 study, three months of twice-daily sets of kegel exercises combined with biofeedback and advice on lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and limiting alcohol, worked far better than just giving the participants advice. “Wearing tight pants will affect impotence along with some other medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease,” which can also affect a man’s degree of impotence, Dr. Jennifer Burns, specializing in family practice with an emphasis on gastrointestinal health at the BienEtre Center, told Medical Daily.
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.
3. Testosterone replacement. Before oral medications like Viagra, testosterone was routinely used to treat erectile dysfunction as it is central in the male sexual response, including the desire for sex and the process of getting an erection. Testosterone can be administered in a number of ways, for example orally, by means of an injection, skin patch, or subcutaneous (under the skin) pellet.
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).
Older age. A man’s risk increases past the age of 40, as age is the variable most strongly associated with impotence. This is due to changing hormones, higher risk for heart problems and those affecting circulation, and decreased sexual desire that often occurs with increasing age. For example, based on findings from the National Health and Social Life Survey, it’s been found that “men between 50–60 years old are more than 3 times as likely to experience erection problems and to report low sexual desire compared to men aged 18 to 29 years.” (3)
This calls for serious conservation strategies of plant targets in drug development borrowing from the indigenous knowledge of the local people. For instance, medicinal plants documented in this study like Warburgia ugandensis and Cirtopsis articulata used in erectile dysfunction and sexual impotence and ED need to be conserved based on their demand and medicinal value to the people. In the event of increased biotechnology and the use of modified living organisms in agriculture, health and environment, most people will go for natural products18,26. Furthermore, research in natural products is on the increase in both developed and developing nations to show that there is renewed interest in medicines of natural origin.
Generally, erectile dysfunction (ED) is a neurovascular condition directly involving the endothelium of the corpora cavernosal arterial blood vessels in the penis, and is indirectly linked to cardiovascular diseases. The underlying mechanisms of ED are, however, complex and involve psychogenic, neurogenic, hormonal and vascular factors. ED occurs in aging men, with a prevalence of 52% in men 40 to 70 years of age [1-3]. Conditions that may cause ED include hypertension, diabetes, diseases of the prostate and heart, and obesity. ED may also be caused by the effects of certain medications as well as physical injury or anatomical deformity of the penis , or may result from endocrine disorders such as low testosterone, hypogonadism, adrenal insufficiency and hypothyroidism. Changes in blood flow to the male reproductive organs as a result of hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia may result in ED. It is generally accepted that there are vascular and neuropathic components to the pathophysiology of the disease, and ED has been recognized as a potential indicator of underlying cardiovascular disease. Chronic infections and/or inflammation of the prostate and irritation of the bladder may contribute to the pathogenesis of ED.
From the researchers' point of view, the usage of herbal remedies in managing male sexual disorders is useful because of long cultural history of utilisation and the current renewed interest in natural products to sustain health globally. As a way recognising the values and roles of traditional medical knowledge in health care provision, further research into the efficacy and safety of herbal remedies in male sexual disorders is precious in Uganda and beyond. More so, the establishment of rapport between relevant government department in Ministry of Health, modern health workers through collaborative and networking ventures with traditional healers under close supervision and monitoring of herbal treatments is noble.
This study was carried out in areas in and around Queen Elizabeth Biosphere Reserve (QEBR) and some other sub counties such as Katerera, Kichwamba and Kitagata in Bushenyi and Munkunyu, Kayonza and Kitsinga in Kasese districts in Western Uganda. The sampling sites were located in the parishes around the biosphere reserve, and in the selected fishing villages within the biosphere reserve. These included, Katwe, Mweya, Katunguru, Hamukungu, Kahendero and Kayanja Fishing Villages and many other villages.
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.
L-arginine: L-arginine is an amino acid present in the proteins of all life forms. Also, referred to as arginine, this amino acid is required to carry out the synthesis of nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels and allows more blood to flow through arteries (13). L-arginine has shown promise in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease and in the treatment of male infertility (13). With its anti-oxidant properties, L-arginine can be an integral part of any sexual wellness supplement.
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