The Plant: A low-growing flowering annual that’s originally from southern Europe but is now an invasive weed in parts of the United States and Australia. The plant’s common names, like puncturevine or devil’s thorns, tells you exactly why most people hate it: it drops sharp, spiny seed pods that lie in wait for unsuspecting victims to step on them. It’s also toxic to grazing livestock like sheep.

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.
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).
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.
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.
Red Ginseng — One small randomized trial found evidence that red ginseng may offer modest improvements in ED symptoms (as compared with placebo). A meta-anaylsis published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology states, “Traditionally red ginseng has been used to restore and enhance normal well-being, and is often referred to as an adaptogenic….Possible mechanisms of action of red ginseng include hormonal effects similar to those of testosterone. Others have postulated that red ginseng might induce relaxation of the smooth muscles.”  (5)
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.

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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).
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.
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.

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.
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.
A number of nonprescription products claim to be herbal forms of Viagra. Some of these products contain unknown amounts of ingredients similar to those in prescription medications, which can cause dangerous side effects. Some actually contain the real drug, which should be given by prescription only. Although the Food and Drug Administration has banned many of these products, some potentially dangerous erectile dysfunction remedies remain on the market.
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