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.

From the conservation point of view, medicinal plants usage will continue to grow in popularity as people seek ways to support health naturally and gently31. So far, over 72% of these medicinal plants used in ED conditions were harvested from the wild. Yet, there is increasing trend in usage of traditional medicine in developed countries30. The dramatic increase in herbal remedies usage will continue to rise since WHO has taken on monitoring of all unconventional medicine according to the traditional medicine strategic plan of 2002 to 200533. Most medicinal plants have proved successful sources or have acted as leads of effective ingredients that today's drug companies often look first to traditional places such as the rain forests, forest animals and traditional healers for clues to guide their drug development efforts. Furthermore, the harvesting of medicinal plants from the wild places such as the forest reserves, national parks in QEBR is a point of concern whereby no viable mechanisms have been put in place to propagate them. The plant parts harvested especially those of wild medicines such as roots and stem, pose threat to the future survival of natural reservoirs if domestication strategies are not adopted in the near future.


Therefore, this particular study was carried out purposely to document medicinal plants used by traditional medical practitioners to treat ED and sexual impotence and other male erectile related conditions in western Uganda. This manuscript only covers the ethnobotanical documentation of medicinal plants used in the management of erectile dysfunction excluding the socio-cultural aspects. The socio-cultural aspects in details will be presented in the next manuscript covering the broad range of reproductive health ailments management using the indigenous knowledge in western Uganda.
The medicinal plants used such as Citropsis articulata, Cannabis sativa, Cleome gynandra and Cola acuminata are frequently utilized. Some of these plants (Citropsis articulata, Cola acuminate) are already under sale for treating these conditions. Their propagation is on-going in western Uganda in places like Rukararwe Partnership Workshop for Rural Development Centre in Bushenyi District36 and researchers personal experience at Rukararwe. Rukararwe is a non-governmental organisation that is processing herbs, running a famous herbal clinic and with a medicinal plants arboretum and medicinal plants agro-forestry.
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.
Long considered an aphrodisiac by the Chinese, ginseng may do more than just rev your engine. A 2013 South Korean study found that taking the herb for just a few weeks improved guys’ performance in the bedroom, including helping them last longer before finishing. Meanwhile, a study in Spermatogenesis found that ginseng can also help make for harder, longer-lasting erections and improve testosterone levels, which in turn boosts libido. “Ginseng is a promising herbal therapy for ED because it helps promote relaxation of smooth muscle in the penis, increase dopamine levels in the brain, and increase pressure in the cavernosal nerves of the penis which helps nitric oxide synthesis,” Walker explains.

Some natural viagra supplements have been shown to increase nitric oxide levels and increase blood flow to the penis. But there are no true natural alternatives to prescription ED medication, like Viagra. But healthy food and (some) vitamins and supplements can improve your overall health and blood flow. And anything that improves blood flow can treat some of the causes of erectile dysfunction (as well as making you healthier).
Ginkgo biloba. Ginkgo is an herb that is used in Chinese medicine that’s thought to improve blood flow. "Any ED treatment that improves blood flow may help," explains Dr. Harris. "An erection is just blood in and blood out." However, the evidence that ginkgo can improve blood flow in ED is limited, and most experts say the jury is still out. In addition, ginkgo can increase the risk for bleeding problems if combined with certain medications, such as warfarin (Coumadin).
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.
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)
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.
With wide-ranging action, ginseng (Panax ginseng), also called Asian ginseng, has been shown in human studies to have an anti-stress effect; improve physical and mental performance, memory, and reaction time; and to enhance mood. Ginseng increases physical working capacity in humans in many ways, including by stimulating the central nervous system, and regulating blood pressure and glucose levels. A 2015 study found that active constituents in ginseng had significant benefit for ED in men with diabetes.
Animal testicles: derived from bulls and wild boars, the orchic substance has been used as a way to possibly increase testosterone levels and sperm counts. In Singapore, testis soap was once very popular (Figure 2). It is still sold in parts of China and Japan. The dried Dog testis and penis (canis familiaris) is believed to tonify the kidneys and strengthen the yang II. Kidney deficiency is believed to be the cause of impotency in Chinese literature.
Physical and emotional stress — whether over-exercising, under-sleeping or just dealing with everyday stressors like work and a busy schedule — causes an increase in “stress hormones,” including cortisol and adrenaline. Stress can lower desire for sex. This is because stress can contribute to fatigue or preoccupation with other tasks. It can also significantly affect blood flow by increasing inflammation.
Although there are few men who are born absolutely impotent, the number of men with erectile problems are many especially those tending to 50 years and above. Pfizer28 reported that about 40% of men above years, 50% of men above 50 years, 60% of men above 60 years and in any population are affected by ED. ED has profound effect on psychological well being, it can be devastating, it can lead to low self-esteem, depression, negative effect on relationships and reduced life satisfaction28. Among several other causes, aging is one of the factors leading to ED. There are some other social causes of ED such as high unemployment rates, and diseases like diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, high cholesterol levels, stress, smoking and obesity28. ED is slowly creating adverse problems in homes in Uganda and particularly, among the mid-aged and old men. The men with sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction deserve proper diagnosis of the conditions and treatment. Thus, the plant remedies described may be healthy if administered

The art of acupuncture has become the new treatment for everything from back pain, depression, and even ED. Impotence could be more of a state of mind, and acupuncture may help. Through this alternative therapy, fine needles are placed in various parts of the body to relieve pain or stress. Although there are many mixed studies for acupuncture and ED, many tend to confirm positive results. A 1999 study found acupuncture improved the quality of erection and even restored sexual activity in 39 percent of participants.

Animal testicles: derived from bulls and wild boars, the orchic substance has been used as a way to possibly increase testosterone levels and sperm counts. In Singapore, testis soap was once very popular (Figure 2). It is still sold in parts of China and Japan. The dried Dog testis and penis (canis familiaris) is believed to tonify the kidneys and strengthen the yang II. Kidney deficiency is believed to be the cause of impotency in Chinese literature.


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.
From the conservation point of view, medicinal plants usage will continue to grow in popularity as people seek ways to support health naturally and gently31. So far, over 72% of these medicinal plants used in ED conditions were harvested from the wild. Yet, there is increasing trend in usage of traditional medicine in developed countries30. The dramatic increase in herbal remedies usage will continue to rise since WHO has taken on monitoring of all unconventional medicine according to the traditional medicine strategic plan of 2002 to 200533. Most medicinal plants have proved successful sources or have acted as leads of effective ingredients that today's drug companies often look first to traditional places such as the rain forests, forest animals and traditional healers for clues to guide their drug development efforts. Furthermore, the harvesting of medicinal plants from the wild places such as the forest reserves, national parks in QEBR is a point of concern whereby no viable mechanisms have been put in place to propagate them. The plant parts harvested especially those of wild medicines such as roots and stem, pose threat to the future survival of natural reservoirs if domestication strategies are not adopted in the near future.
Cistanche is usually consumed in stem form, which grows in an extremely arid area with intensive sunshine. It contains various chemical constituents that have some bio-activities such as antioxidation, neuroprotection and overall antiaging. It is shown in a study to shorten erectile latency and prolong erectile duration in castrated rats. Cistanche extract also improves sex hormone levels, improving overall sexual health. The constituent known as echinacoside, promotes relaxation of aortic rings through the NO-cGMP pathway, in other words, it relaxes blood vessels in the penis and improves Nitric Oxide flow.
×