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 [4], 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.
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.

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.


The Claim: If you squint and have an excellent imagination, mature ginseng roots vaguely resemble a human body. That ties into folk ideas for finding medicines–in this case, the idea that a plant that looks like a person must contain materials that help sick people. Ginseng was traditionally used as a tonic to treat erectile dysfunction and low sexual drive in men (as well as many other complaints).
If you can't take one of these oral medications, your physician may have you try Caverject (alprostadil for injection), a hormone that you inject into your penis using a fine needle, or Muse (alprostadil urogenital), a tiny suppository that you insert into the tip of the penis. Both of these will bring on an erection within five to 15 minutes without sexual stimulation.
The informal conversations were held with the specialist resource users and other knowledgeable people on particular ailments. The meeting places were the gardens, women group meetings, at their homes, and any other places convenient to them. Through conversations, the sources of knowledge of the healers on medicinal plants, the medicinal plants used and changes in the availability of medicinal plants were established. Those who were more knowledgeable were later followed and interviewed further especially the TBAs, and some knowledgeable men healers. Focused discussions were held with them later for formal recording. In some instances, young mothers were visited too. This was done to verify the information gathered and the spread of the indigenous knowledge (IK) in reproductive health care among the different reproductive groups particularly on ED management.
A study published in May 2014 in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that some men can reverse erectile dysfunction with healthy lifestyle changes, such as exercise, weight loss, a varied diet, and good sleep. The Australian researchers also showed that even if erectile dysfunction medication is required, it's likely to be more effective if you implement these healthy lifestyle changes.
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!
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 [17]. 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 [26]. Reports also suggest that E longifolia extract reverses the inhibitory effects of estrogen on testosterone production and spermatogenesis in rats [27]. Oral administration of E longifolia extract to inexperienced castrated male rats produced dose-dependent increases in sexual performance [28]. Zakaria et al [29] 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 [19] 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 [30].
There are so many potential reasons a man might develop erectile dysfunction (ED), it's nearly impossible to generalize the best ways to treat it. What works for one man may not work for another simply because they are having problems for different reasons. That said, it may encouraging to hear that there are a variety of options that may be considered, from psychological counseling to lifestyle changes, medications to treatments and devices.
Ginseng (Figures 4,​,55): this is an adaptogenic herb touted to have boosted the potency of Ottoman sultans. It increases the body’s ability to handle environmental stresses and combat biochemical imbalances. It energizes when one is fatigue and calms when overanxious. It also increases sex related hormones like testosterone and enhances sexual responses in men and women. It thus acts as a tonic, stimulant and aphrodisiac (4,5).
In diabetes, vasoconstrictors and vasoactive factors are increased in addition to structural changes and attenuation of relaxation responses in the corpus cavernosum. A shifting of the balance of vasoactive factors occurs such that relaxation factors (eg, nitric oxide [NO]) are inhibited and contractile factors are induced in microvascular disease. With epidemiological predictions suggesting that the incidence of diabetes mellitus will increase to 300 million by 2025, management of diabetes-induced ED is increasingly important.

The field visits and excursions were arranged with the healers for places far from their homesteads or took place concurrently with the interviews and discussions. When going to the forests, game reserves or other areas where herbalists collect plant specimens, prior arrangements were made with the community leaders and park staff. This was done with individuals or groups depending on where the herbs are collected. In the shared areas such as the fishing villages, or the multiple use areas, group and individual excursions were conducted. Some of the medicinal plants that are harvested from distant places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, other districts and unsafe areas within the reserve were not collected but their local names were recorded. The data collected were to supplement the information on plant names, plant parts used, collection of the herbarium voucher specimens and conservation status of these medicinal plants. The medicinal plants collected were given the voucher numbers and then later identified in Botany Department herbarium of Makerere University.
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.
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 [4], 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.
^Efficacy and safety of pomegranate juice on improvement of erectile dysfunction in male patients with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction: a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study. - Author: The Male Clinic, Beverly Hills, CA, USA and David Geffen School of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles, CA, USA. (14 June 2007)
Acupuncture. Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat ED and impotence in China. A recent review of studies on acupuncture for erectile dysfunction was published in the British Journal of Urology International. After reviewing four studies, the authors concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to say that acupuncture worked. However, some experts believe it's worth trying. "Acupuncture can work," says Gilbert. "It probably works best to treat the psychological component of ED. There is very little downside to trying it."
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.
The informal conversations were held with the specialist resource users and other knowledgeable people on particular ailments. The meeting places were the gardens, women group meetings, at their homes, and any other places convenient to them. Through conversations, the sources of knowledge of the healers on medicinal plants, the medicinal plants used and changes in the availability of medicinal plants were established. Those who were more knowledgeable were later followed and interviewed further especially the TBAs, and some knowledgeable men healers. Focused discussions were held with them later for formal recording. In some instances, young mothers were visited too. This was done to verify the information gathered and the spread of the indigenous knowledge (IK) in reproductive health care among the different reproductive groups particularly on ED management.

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.
Experts feel that treating erectile dysfunction on your own, without consulting a doctor, is unsafe. "If you have ED, the first thing you need is a diagnosis," says impotence expert Steven Lamm, MD, a New York City internist and the author of The Hardness Factor (Harper Collins) and other books on male sexual health. He says men with severe erectile dysfunction probably need one of the prescription ED drugs, which include Levitra (vardenafil) and Cialis (tadalafil) as well as Viagra. But, he says, mild ED -- including the feeling that "you're not as hard as you could be" -- often responds to natural remedies.
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.

The Claim: If you squint and have an excellent imagination, mature ginseng roots vaguely resemble a human body. That ties into folk ideas for finding medicines–in this case, the idea that a plant that looks like a person must contain materials that help sick people. Ginseng was traditionally used as a tonic to treat erectile dysfunction and low sexual drive in men (as well as many other complaints).
The semi-structured interviews and discussions were held with the specialist resource users and other knowledgeable people on particular ailments by use of interview schedules for each respondent. Interviewed people were mainly the herbalists (both men and women) and TBAs. In this selection to some extent, ethnic groups were recorded where possible because different people use the same plants differently. The time and place of interviews were arranged according to the schedules of the respondent. Depending on where the interviews and discussions were held, recording was done immediately or afterwards or appointments were made for more details in a more convenient place arranged with the respondent. Key informants were identified and later interviewed separately and even followed for further details. Some of the key questions asked included, name of the respondents, the village or parish or sub-county he or she was coming from, diseases treated, plant local names used, parts harvested, methods of preparation and administration. In addition, ingredients and incantations with which the plants are used for preparation and where the herbal medicines were harvested were documented.
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.
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