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.
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.
Cordyceps (Dongchongxiacao): this Chinese caterpillar fungus and the carcass of the larvae of various insects are collected in the period of the Summer Solstice (tenth solar term). They are cleaned and dried in the sun or baked and used for treating deficient kidneys manifested as impotence, seminal emissions and soreness and pain in the lower back and knees (17). Cordyceps (Dongchongxiacao) is used with Dogwood fruit (Shanzhuyu), Dioscorea (Shanyao) and Dadder seed (Tusizi). The herb can also be used alone.
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.

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.
Acupuncture. Though acupuncture has been used to treat male sexual problems for centuries, the scientific evidence to support its use for erectile dysfunction is equivocal at best. In 2009, South Korean scientists conducted a systematic review of studies on acupuncture for ED. They found major design flaws in all of the studies, concluding that "the evidence is insufficient to suggest that acupuncture is an effective intervention for treating ED."
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.
Wild oats: a study in 1986 by the Institute for Advanced Study of Sexuality in San Francisco reported effects like heightened sexual awareness, increased sexual thoughts, more orgasms (36% in men and 29% in women) and some male subjects showed increased levels of testosterone attributed to unbinding of testosterone from TBG. Oats supply steroidal saponins which modulate hormonal balance (5).
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.
Arginine. The amino acid L-arginine, which occurs naturally in food, boosts the body's production of nitric oxide, a compound that facilitates erections by dilating blood vessels in the penis. Studies examining L-arginine's effectiveness against impotence have yielded mixed results. A 1999 trial published in the online journal BJU International found that high doses of L-arginine can help improve sexual function, but only in men with abnormal nitric oxide metabolism, such as that associated with cardiovascular disease. In another study, published in 2003 in the Journal of Sex & Marital Therapy, Bulgarian scientists reported that ED sufferers who took L-arginine along with the pine extract pycnogenol saw major improvements in sexual function with no side effects. Arginine can be helpful, says Geo Espinosa, ND, director of the Integrative Urological Center at NYU Langone Medical Center. Espinosa says that men with known cardiovascular problems should take it only with a doctor's supervision; L-arginine can interact with some medications.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the “inability to reach and maintain erection during the intercourse” (1) leading to the victim’s experience of inadequate libido, inefficient orgasm and retarded or premature ejaculation. In Recent times, ED has been labeled as the most common sexual problem among pleasure-seeking males and a complaint of all men irrespective of their age, race and culture but age is the most important risk factor for ED (2). It is reported that nearly 100 million people around the world are living with erectile dysfunction. Yet, only 10% of these 100 million, i.e., 10 million are opting for treatment, despite enormous advancements and treatment facilities in all parts of the world (2). To cite a few countries, in China and Korea only 9% and 30% males voluntarily admit to having ED (2) and in most of the other countries in Asia, it is still considered very sensitive with considerable social stigma and secretly will resort to herbal remedies and tonics before seeking conventional medical help.

Deer antlers (Cervi pantotrichum): the most popular of sexual tonics. In the Chinese medical teaching, kidneys control sexual function; hence foods and herbs such as this can invigorate impotency and infertility increasing semen production as well (5). Best quality are from young bucks with new horn still in velvet with blood visible in the cartilage.

A recent study tested whether ginseng extract would influence exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation responses. Male college students took either ginseng or a placebo, and then performed a high-intensity uphill treadmill running task. In those taking ginseng, inflammation markers were significantly decreased during recovery, suggesting that ginseng could reduce exercise-induced muscle damage.
Antioxidants  boost nitric oxide production and prevent NO breakdown. Ascorbic acid has direct effects on the bioactivity of NO, and augments NO production in a variety of body processes. The effects are actually synergistic with Vitamin E. Both vitamins are not usually measured, and a reasonable dose of Vitamin C is 500 to 1,000 mg daily. Vitamin E supplementation should be limited to <400 IU per day because of potential adverse long-term health effects of higher doses.
However, you might actually be better off going one step back in the chain reaction and taking an L-citrulline supplement. While your body converts L-arginine to nitric oxide, it also metabolizes it too fast when the amino acid is taken in an oral supplement, according to a 2011 study from the University of Foggia in Italy. L-citrulline, which the body converts to L-arginine, is actually a better option to follow the same metabolic pathway and serve as a treatment for ED, the same study found.
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).
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.

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.


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.
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.
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.

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Sildenafil citrate, tadalafil and vardenafil hydrochloride are contraindicated in patients with a known hypersensitivity to any organic nitrates (oral, sublingual, transdermal or by inhalation) due to the risk of developing potentially life-threatening hypotension. Concomitant use of PDE-5 inhibitors is contraindicated with HIV protease inhihibitors (indinavir, ritinovir, saquinavir) as well as ketoconazole, itraconazole, cimetidine and erythromycin, because these drugs are potent inhibitors of cytochrome P450 3A4 and can raise the plasma levels of PDE-5 inhibitors. Coadministration of PDE-5 inhibitors to patients taking alpha-adrenergic blockers such as alfluzocin or tamsulosin may lead to symptomatic postural hypotension, including dizziness and lighheadedness in some individuals.
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.

Historically, it has been shown that herbal medicines may cure or prevent certain ailments. However, there are very little recorded data available to support the dose, efficacy, side effects and interactions. Because the safety and efficacy of herbal remedies have not been assessed, unlike synthetic drugs, well-controlled and randomized studies are warranted to establish the therapeutic efficy and safety of such products. Determination of side effects and interactions with prescription medicines are also needed. The amount of active ingredients in herbals may vary among preparations; thus, standardization of herbal medicines is required.
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.
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.
^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)

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.


The Institute of Medicine recommends cumulative daily vitamin D intake of 600 international units (IU) for adults between 18 and 70 years of age , and 800 IU for those over 80. A 3oz serving of salmon contains about 450IU, while an 8oz. glass of milk only has about 100IU. Low vitamin D levels may be an independent, potentially modifiable risk for ED, so it’s worth taking Vitamin D supplements for your “D.” However, keep your daily vitamin D supplement intake below 4,000IU, as too much vitamin D can be toxic.
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