Vitamins and minerals are used in systems all over the body. Everywhere from your cardiovascular to your nervous system. It’s a lot to understand. So to help dispel some of the myths and outlandish claims, we’ll take a look at how five common vitamins and nutrients affect one very specific aspect of men’s health—erections. Turns out, vitamins can do more than just ward off the common cold.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In fact, one common reason many younger men visit their doctor is to get erectile dysfunction medication. Often, men with erectile dysfunction suffer with diabetes or heart disease, or may be sedentary or obese, but they don’t realize the impact of these health conditions on sexual function. Along with erectile dysfunction treatment, the doctor may recommend managing the illness, being more physically active, or losing weight.
The estimated range of men worldwide suffering from ED is from 15 million to 30 million23. According to the National Ambulatory Medical Care Survey (NAMCS), for every 1,000 men in the United States, 7.7 physician office visits were made for ED in 1985. By 1999, that rate had nearly tripled to 22.3. This is in USA, where statistics are clearly compiled, the level of awareness and education is high as compared to sub Saharan countries like Uganda. This is a clear indication that there are many silent men, particularly couples affected by ED.
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 . 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 . Reports also suggest that E longifolia extract reverses the inhibitory effects of estrogen on testosterone production and spermatogenesis in rats . Oral administration of E longifolia extract to inexperienced castrated male rats produced dose-dependent increases in sexual performance . Zakaria et al  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  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 .
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.
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)
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.
How common is impotence? According to findings from several studies, including “The Massachusetts Male Aging Study,” overall prevalence for men between 40–70 years old is around 52 percent (or around 30 percent of all men between 18–60 years old). That’s right — nearly half of all men over 40 experience erectile dysfunction symptoms at some point. Not surprisingly, research demonstrates that impotence is increasingly prevalent with age. Around 40 percent of men in their 40s experience sexual dysfunction. Up to 70 percent of men in their 70s experience ED. (1) Every year more than 617,000 new cases of impotence occur in the United States alone.
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.