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.
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.
“Obecalp” is “placebo” spelled backwards. It might help – treatment with inactive placebos (inert substances used in evaluation of new drug treatments) works about one-third of the time in scientific studies when patients don’t know they’re getting a fake drug. Placebos are generally safe since they contain no known active agent. (However, I personally never give patients inactive placebos, and many physicians regard them as unethical.)
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.
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.
Erectile dysfunction, sometimes, which also may imply to refer to “impotence,” is the repeated inability to get or keep an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse23,34. The word “impotence” may also be used to describe other problems that interfere with sexual intercourse and reproduction, such as lack of sexual desire and problems with ejaculation or orgasm23. Roper29 defines erectile dysfunction as the total inability to achieve erection, an inconsistent ability to do so, or a tendency to sustain only brief erections (premature ejaculation). Pamplona-Roger27 defines impotence as the inability to finish sexual intercourse due to lack of penile erection. These variations make defining ED and estimating its incidence difficult. For purposes of this publication, since ethnobotanical indigenous knowledge (IK) cannot clearly distinguish between these two terms, then erectile dysfunction and sexual impotence are both used. The local people who are providers of this information are not in position to classify these two conditions.
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.
The proved herbal remedies with therapeutic values such as Prunus africana used in the treatment of hypertrophy in male genitalia is indicative that some herbals may be potent though not yet studied comprehensively5,13. However, most of the herbal remedies used in male ailments are not well documented and researched. The dangers of loosing valuable indigenous knowledge (IK) on sexual impotence and ED are likely to occur because westernization in the present generation. This indigenous knowledge in medicine ought to be documented for future use and sustainable utilisation19. According to the convention on biological diversity (CBD)6, specific reference is made to the need to protect the world's indigenous cultures and traditions (Art. 8 of CBD). This article points out that national legislation need to respect, preserve and maintain knowledge, innovations and practices of indigenous and local communities encompassing traditional life styles relevant for the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity. UNEP argues nations to have an urgent action to safeguard indigenous cultures and their knowledge.

In a 2005 study, three months of twice-daily sets of kegel exercises combined with biofeedback and advice on lifestyle changes, such as quitting smoking, losing weight, and limiting alcohol, worked far better than just giving the participants advice. “Wearing tight pants will affect impotence along with some other medical conditions like diabetes and heart disease,” which can also affect a man’s degree of impotence, Dr. Jennifer Burns, specializing in family practice with an emphasis on gastrointestinal health at the BienEtre Center, told Medical Daily.
A list of 33 medicinal plants both cultivated and wild-harvested generated show that herbal remedies are greatly utilized by men for managing sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction in western Uganda. Erectile dysfunction and sexual impotence are old problem and traditionally the indigenous knowledge had ways of treating or managing these conditions associated with male reproductive system. These plants in the tables we are discussing have been in use for centuries in treating or managing conditions in male reproductive organs.
Move a muscle, but we're not talking about your biceps. A strong pelvic floor enhances rigidity during erections and helps keep blood from leaving the penis by pressing on a key vein. In a British trial, three months of twice-daily sets of Kegel exercises (which strengthen these muscles), combined with biofeedback and advice on lifestyle changes — quitting smoking, losing weight, limiting alcohol — worked far better than just advice on lifestyle changes.
The herbal medicines used in the management of sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction are mainly prepared by pounding, chewing and boiling and are mainly orally administered. The traditional healers treat sexual impotence and ED by prescribing some of these herbs in tea or using local beers, fermented milk and porridge. Some herbs are herbs are roasted or smoked such as coffee before administration. The dispensing of herbal medicines used in sexual impotence and ED using local beers, fermented milk and porridge possibly the alcoholic content improves on the kind of active chemicals extracted than water alone12.
Six herbs for treating erectile dysfunction Erectile dysfunction can be an embarrassing condition that can leave men unable to achieve an erection or a full orgasm. This MNT Knowledge Center article talks about six different herbal supplements that could help people with erectile dysfunction, including ginkgo biloba, horny goat weed, and red ginseng. Read now
Having your current medication checked – if you are taking medication already, it could be that your erection problems are a side effect. Have a doctor check whether this is the cause of your problems and if it is, you might be able to switch medications and then find that your erectile dysfunction goes away completely – or at least improves. Medications that can cause erection problems include:

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).
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."
The Science: There’s only been one double-blind placebo-controlled trial of the stuff: it found that men taking fenugreek extract reported that they felt more sexual arousal and experienced better orgasms. But testosterone levels in those same men didn’t change, and the study was also tiny–only 60 participants–so it’s not clear whether there’s actually a biochemical reason for the shift or whether it was all psychological. The experiment needs to be repeated with a larger group of people to find out whether those results can be reproduced.

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.
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DHEA. Testosterone is essential for a healthy libido and normal sexual function, and erectile dysfunction sufferers known to have low testosterone improve when placed on prescription testosterone replacement therapy. Similarly, studies have shown that taking over-the-counter supplements containing DHEA, a hormone that the body converts to testosterone and estrogen, can help alleviate some cases of ED. But DHEA can cause problems, including suppression of pituitary function, acne, hair loss and its long-term safety is unknown, says McCullough. For this reason, many experts discourage use of the supplements.

Pumpkin seed: besides having a pleasant flavor, pumpkin seeds are revered by the Chinese for its antidepressant properties (5). More importantly, pumpkin seed ingestion can impact prostate health, which is very important for male sexual health. It is commonly used to strengthen the prostate gland and promote healthy hormone function in men. Myosin, an amino acid found in pumpkin seeds, is known to be essential for muscular contractions.

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.
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.
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