Erectile dysfunction supplements and other natural remedies have long been used in Chinese, African and other cultures. But unlike prescription medications for erectile dysfunction, such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn), tadalafil (Cialis, Adcirca) and avanafil (Stendra), erectile dysfunction herbs and supplements haven't been well-studied or tested. Some can cause side effects or interact with other medications. And the amount of the active ingredient can vary greatly from product to product.
Do herbs work to rectify ED in the Aging Male? We will take some of these and discuss their properties. These herbals can be found throughout Asia and range from Eurycoma longifolia (Tongkat Ali), Ginseng and Tribulus etc. Those that act as Testosterone releasers have some value especially if the male has andropause and those containing some-pick-me-ups and energizers like Ginseng helps the tired and fatigued male and possibly those with asthenia. Deer horn contains growth factors and taking these do help improve nocturnal erections in the male with somatopause. Popular in historic Singapore was Penis soup and Snake meat (Figure 2), whilst Surabaya was known for Cobra meat and Cobra blood (Figure 3) which had claims of improving erectogenic prowess-the myths and realities concerning these and other Village doctor remedies are what they are—myths!
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.
Deer antlers (Cervi pantotrichum): the most popular of sexual tonics. In the Chinese medical teaching, kidneys control sexual function; hence foods and herbs such as this can invigorate impotency and infertility increasing semen production as well (5). Best quality are from young bucks with new horn still in velvet with blood visible in the cartilage.
The Science: Chemicals inside these plants called ginsenosides are thought to ramp up the physiological pathway that makes nitric oxide, the neurotransmitter that gets the blood flowing during penile erection. Some studies support that idea: one found that ginsenoside-rich ginseng berry extracts relaxed smooth muscle inside rabbit erectile tissue. But so far there haven’t been high-quality double-blind and randomized trials of the chemicals’ effect on humans. The jury’s still out on whether ginsenosides have any effect on people at all, or (if they do) whether they work as well as medications like Viagra.
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.
However, you might actually be better off going one step back in the chain reaction and taking an L-citrulline supplement. While your body converts L-arginine to nitric oxide, it also metabolizes it too fast when the amino acid is taken in an oral supplement, according to a 2011 study from the University of Foggia in Italy. L-citrulline, which the body converts to L-arginine, is actually a better option to follow the same metabolic pathway and serve as a treatment for ED, the same study found.
Conventional impotence treatments typically involve the use of medications which work with the body's natural chemistry in order to promote the ability to have an erection. Oral medications such as Viagra, Levitra and Cialis are commonly prescribed; injectable medications such as the impotence drug Caverject are also used for treating male impotence.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
There have been some studies to suggest that a placebo effect that improves ED may work for some men. One study found that men taking an oral placebo pill showed as much improvement in ED symptoms as men who took actual medication to improve ED. Conversely, men who were given therapeutic suggestions to improve ED did not see signs of symptom improvement.
In the East, many herbal tonics and preparations are used to assist the aging male improve his sexual drive or ability to perform penetrative sex by increasing sexual stimulation, erectile, ejaculatory, orgasmic and other responses for sexual function and satisfaction. The herbs and tonics act as or as “pick-me-ups” and energizing tonics which help the tired and fatigued male and those with sexual asthenia. The myths and realities concerning Tongkat Ali, sea horse, cobra meat and blood, animal penises and testicles amongst many other herbs and portions for oral intake or local application used by traditional “medical” practitioners and village doctors will be discussed.

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
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