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.

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.
Cayenne: cayenne is also known as capsicum and plays a very large role in blood circulation. When cayenne is ingested, it acts to dilate blood vessels, allowing blood flow to increase to all areas of the body, especially major organs (5). The male penis benefits greatly from the ingestion of cayenne. It is a widely held belief that cayenne aids in longer lasting erections, with stronger ejaculations and more intense orgasms (5).
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).
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.
It doesn’t look good for the herbs. So far, there’s no data from controlled human trials that support the erection-promoting claims for any 5 of the most frequently used herbs. The icariin in the horny goat weed can help get it up, but since you’re getting the herb rather than a purified molecule, the concentration probably isn’t high enough to have much of an effect. Worse, it turns out that Viagra is much better at blocking that erection-killing enzyme than icariin is.
Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.
ED can be caused by a handful of things, but one thing’s for sure: You need a healthy supply of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide (NO) to get and maintain an erection. NO is produced in nerve tissue and helps jolt your Johnson by relaxing the smooth muscle so blood can fill the penis. After the initial release of NO, your body releases a cascade of chemicals—including more of the neurotransmitter—to help keep you hard and happy, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Ginkgo biloba. Known primarily as a treatment for cognitive decline, ginkgo has also been used to treat erectile dysfunction -- especially cases caused by the use of certain antidepressant medications. But the evidence isn't very convincing. One 1998 study published in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy found that it did work. But a more rigorous study, published in Human Pharmacology in 2002, failed to replicate this finding. "Ginkgo has come out of fashion in the past few years," says Ronald Tamler, MD, assistant professor of medicine and codirector of the men's health program at Mount Sinai Medical Center in New York City. "That's because it doesn't do much. I can say that in my practice, I have not seen ginkgo work -- ever."
Erectile dysfunction is a common problem in men of all ages than publicly perceived. Since, I started the research in reproductive health care; the commonest question asked by men is related with medicinal plants that empower male sexuality. So far, several males have been consulting on the treatment of ED using herbal remedies, either by themselves or through friends12.

In the East, many herbal tonics and preparations are used to assist the aging male improve his ability to have sexual drive or perform penetrative sex by increasing sexual stimulation, erectile, ejaculatory, orgasmic and other responses for sexual function and satisfaction. Currently available herbals, tonics and therapies range from Tongkat Ali, Ginseng, Tribulus etc. Those that act as testosterone releasers have some value especially if the male has andropause and those containing some pick-me-ups II and energizers like ginseng help the tired and fatigued male and possibly those with asthenia. Deer horn contains growth factors and taking these may help improve nocturnal erections in the male with somatopause. Popular in historic Singapore were remedies such as “Penis Soup II” (Figure 2) and Snake Meat, whilst Surabaya was known for Cobra meat (Figure 3) and Cobra Blood which had claims of improving erectogenic prowess-these myths including that of taking dog, cow, wild boar, bull and ostrich testicles (Figures 10,​,11)11) are mainly Village doctor remedies still being practiced widely in the developing regions of Asia. In China, the horny goat weed (Figure 9) is currently still popular and may have some scientific merit (11) for enhancing sexual drive.
^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)

In one study, men with a Vitamin D deficiency were nearly 33% more likely to have ED. But you don’t need that much sun exposure to get a healthy amount of Vitamin D. As little as 15–20 minutes a day is enough. Taking Vitamin D is a good idea, especially if you are over 65. Vitamin D can also help if you’re obese or dark-skinned (dark skin limits the amount of Vitamin D you naturally, produce)
Between 2001–2006, one-third of the US population had insufficient amounts of vitamin D, according to the Institute of Medicine. Risk factors for vitamin D deficiency include obesity and high BMI, not enough sun exposure or outdoor activity, having darker skin and suffering from certain from inflammatory conditions like Crohn’s disease. You can get a blood test to find out if you’re vitamin D deficient.
The Plant: It’s true, the name’s hilarious. But as it turns out, it’s not just one plant: supplement manufacturers might put any one of 15 different species from this genus of shade-loving perennials inside that pill. That’s important to keep in mind, because the types and amounts of biologically active molecules the plant contains can differ from species to species.
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.

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.

"The problem with alternative treatments for any medical problem, including erectile dysfunction, is that until you have about 20 well-controlled studies over several years, you really don't know what you are working with," cautions Richard Harris, MD, a urologist at Gottlieb Memorial Hospital, part of the Loyola University Health System in Chicago.
The neurovascular mechanism of erection is complex and involves multiple factors including hormones, neurotransmitters, elements of the autonomic nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic) and vasodilators such as NO. The common causes of ED include psychogenic disturbance with failure to relax cavernous smooth muscle, arterial insufficiency as a result of atheromatous disease, damage to the parasympathetic nervous system, spinal cord injury, diabetes or following pelvic surgery such as radical prostatectomy, radical cystectomy or bowel resection [4]. It is important to note that cavernous nerves are unique in that although they belong to the autonomic nerves system they do not release either acetylcholine (Ach) or norepinephrine; however, they release NO in the penis. NO relaxes the smooth muscle of the corpora cavernosa via cyclic GMP (cGMP), allowing expansion of the cavernosal lacunar spaces, blood flow and erection. Thus, NO is not a direct dilator of the smooth muscle of cavernosal bodies, but it is an important mediator in this process. Erectile function may also be adversely affected by cigarette smoking, excess alcohol consumption, obesity and systemic diseases such as mononucleosis, hepatitis, HIV and cancer. Some men are prone to develop an erection that fails to subside after ejaculation (ie, priapism). The condition is associated with sickle-cell disease and leukemia, or may be a result of intracavernosal injection of drugs such as prostaglandin E1 [4]. Peyronie’s disease causes a physical bend in the erect penis and also contributes to ED.
Yohimbe (Pausinystalia yohimbe): again an Asian favorite which originates from an evergreen tree native to the West African Countries of Congo, Cameroon and Gabon, it is the only herb listed in the Physician’s Index Reference as supporting sexual function. Its Latin name is Pausinystalia yohimbe. The USA FDA approved yohimbe as the first plant derived drug for treating impotency long ago and was dubbed the herbal viagra II in the February 1999 edition of Environmental Nutrition. Alkaloid in yohimbe i.e., Iso Yohimbine, allo-yohimbine, yohimbinine, yohimbane, yohimbenine and corynantheine blocks alpha-2 adrenergic activity allowing vasodilation. It also acts as a monoamine oxidase inhibitor increasing serotonin in the brain. Yohimbine has a dual aphrodisiac function: it improves sexual function (10) by displacing epinephrine from alpha-2 adrenergic receptors in the pelvic area and it increases proneness to arousal thru supplying the epinephrine from the alpha-2 receptors to the central nervous system (brain) where it is active as a neurotransmitter. Side effects include nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, and possibly mild hypertension (5).

Just because a product claims to be natural doesn't mean it's safe. Many herbal remedies and dietary supplements can cause side effects and dangerous interactions when taken with certain medications. Talk to your doctor before you try an alternative treatment for erectile dysfunction — especially if you're taking medications or you have a chronic health problem such as heart disease or diabetes.

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