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. 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.

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.


Yohimbine: The main component of an African tree bark, yohimbine is probably one of the most problematic of all natural remedies for ED. Some research suggests that yohimbine can improve a type of sexual dysfunction that is linked with a drug used to treat depression. However, studies have linked yohimbine to a number of side effects, which can include anxiety, increased blood pressure, and a fast, irregular heartbeat. Like all natural remedies, yohimbine should only be used after advice and under supervision from a doctor.
Tribulus terrestris (6): this plant has long been used as a folk medicine in Eastern Europe and Bulgaria for sexual deficiency (5). The properties of this powerful ingredient have been associated with an increase in sperm production, sexual endurance, and testosterone levels. Also known as puncture vine, this herb has gained popularity over the past few years. Since testosterone plays a huge role for men, the addition of this herb can prove to be very beneficial. It is not a hormone as some believe. It is said that Tribulus terrestris can also help build muscle and strength, which enhances performance (5,7).
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."
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.
Dadder seed (Tusizi): there are 2 species i.e., (I) Cuscuta chinensis Lam and (II) Cuscuta japonica. The ripe seeds are collected in autumn, and then they are dried in the sun or boiled. Used to treat deficient kidneys manifesting as impotence, nocturnal emissions, premature ejaculation; Dadder seed (Tusizi) can be used with Schisandra fruit (Wuweizi), Cnidium fruit (Shechuangzi), Flattened milkvetch seed (Shayuanzi) and Grossy privet fruit (Nuzhenzi) for impotence.
There’s no bedroom bummer quite like having to fly at half mast, but your penis problems are likely more common than you think: As many as 30 million American men suffer from erectile dysfunction, and one in four who seek treatment for ED are actually under the age of 40, according to a study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. We all know there’s a little blue pill that can fix the failure to launch—but you don’t necessarily have to fill a ‘script to save your stiffy.
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.
“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.)
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.
And just because you’re using a “natural” herb doesn’t mean you won’t feel any side effects. Ginseng can cause hypoglycemia or bleeding in some people, and at high doses puncturevine can damage the kidneys. Plus, the FDA has found that a lot of supplement companies make sure their erection-enhancing products actually produce erections by tossing in some Viagra off-label. If you really need it, it’s probably better–and safer–to go see your doctor for a prescription.
What are the alternatives to viagra? Erectile dysfunction, when a man cannot achieve or maintain an erection, is a common condition that causes much distress. Viagra is just one of several drug treatments that can help relieve the problem. Other methods and treatments can help, too, including alternative herbal remedies that people may wish to try. Read now
A plant like Cleome gynandra is a popular vegetable used all over Uganda and is on sale in most markets. Other medicinal plants that are food stuff include Allium cepa (onions), Allium sativum (garlic), Rhus vulgaris, Capsicum frutescens(red pepper) and Zingiber officinale (Ginger) are also on sale in most markets of Uganda and internationally. In addition, the roots of Mondia whiteii are used as an aphrodisiac for males and for improving female sexuality (women's Viagra) in most areas of Uganda11 particularly in urban centres and the Kampala City. To date, Mondia whiteii has been an old traded medicinal plant in most in Kampala. Recently the patented ‘Mulondo Wine’ a drink flavoured by the roots of Mondia whiteii has hit the national and international markets35. The Mulondo Wine is also believed to be an aphrodisiac for both men and women.
Yohimbine. This chemical is found in the bark of an African tree called yohimbe. It has been used as a male aphrodisiac in Africa, and under medical supervision it has been used as a prescription drug to treat ED. Supplements made from yohimbe bark are also available without a prescription, but they can be life-threatening if used at high doses, according to the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. The supplement can interact in a harmful way with certain drugs, such as blood pressure medications, and should be avoided by anyone with liver, kidney, heart, or diabetes problems or problems with anxiety or depression. Like DHEA, yohimbine should not be taken without a doctor's supervision.
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.
W somnifera (ashwagandha), also referred to as winter cherry (family Solanaceae), grows in Africa, the Mediterranean, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, South Africa, Egypt, Morocco, Congo and Jordan [36]. The roots of the plant contain steroid alkaloids and steroidal lactone, which are the main constituents of ashwagandha; these compounds are referred to as withanolides. Among the various alkaloids, withnine is the main constituent. The other alkaloids are somniferin, somnine, somniferine, withananine, pseudowithanine, tropine, pseudotropine, cuscohygrine, anferine and anhydrine. Two acyl steryl glucosides (sitoindoside VII and sitoindoside VIII) have been isolated from the root. The withanolides contain a C28 steroidal nucleus with a C9 side chain and six-membered lactone rings. Ashwagandha root also contains flavonoids and many ingredients of the withanolide class. It has several medicinal applications (aphrodisiac, liver tonic, anti-inflammatory agent, astringent), and is used to treat bronchitis, asthma, ulcers, insomnia, senility and dementia. Clinical trials and studies involving animal models support the use of ashwagandha for anxiety, cognitive and neurological disorders, inflammation and Parkinson’s disease. It also provides cryoprotective benefits to patients undergoing radiation and chemotherapy, and shows beneficial effects for nervous exhaustion. W somnifera is used as an aphrodisiac, sedative and rejuvenative, and is also used to treat chronic fatigue, dehydration, bone weakness, muscle weakness, loose teeth, impotency, premature ejaculation, debility, constipation, senility, rheumatism, nervous exhaustion, memory loss, drug withdrawal symptoms, anxiety and arthritis pain in the knee. Extracts from W somnifera inhibit transcription factor nuclear factor kappa B (NF-κB); thus, it acts as an anti-inflammatory agent. This has been attributed to its ability to interact with IKKB, a kinase that is responsible for the nuclear translocation of NF-κB and activation of inflammatory signalling pathways [37].
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.
Ashwagandha’s reputation as a sexual enhancement herb is supported by research. One animal study showed that extracts of ashwagandha increased production of sex hormones and sperm, presumably by exerting a testosterone-like effect. In another clinical trial, the herb (taken at a dose of 3 gm per day for 1 year) was given to healthy male adults 50–59 years of age. Among benefits noted: serum cholesterol levels decreased, gray hair was reduced, and a vast majority (over 70%) reported improvement in sexual performance.
C borivilianum (family Liliaceae) is native to India. Analysis of C borivilianum root revealed a composition of 12% to 17% saponins, 1.9% to 3.5% stigmasterol, 0.79% arabinose, 3.8% galactose, 0.73% glucose and 0.78% rhamnose [31]. For dried root powder, the recommended dose is 5 g and the extract dose is 500 mg. It is used as an aphrodisiac and to cure ED, improve semen quality and volume. It eliminates premature ejaculation, improves general well-being and vitality, and increases stamina and libido. Visavadiya and Narasimhacharya [31] have demonstrated that administration of C borivilianum (0.75 g and 1.5 g root powder per rat per day for four weeks) to hypercholesteremic rats significantly increased highdensity lipoprotein cholesterol levels and decreased plasma and hepatic lipid profiles. Furthermore, the treatments also resulted in increased excretion of fecal cholesterol, sterols and bile and increased superoxide dismutase levels. Kenjale et al [32] evaluated the aphrodisiac and spermatogenic potential of the aqueous extract of dried roots of C borivilianum in rats. C borivilianum was given orally at doses of 125 mg/kg/day and 250 mg/kg/day. Viagra 4 mg/kg/day (sildenafil citrate) was administered as a control. Sexual behaviour was monitored 3 h later using a receptive female. Their sexual behaviour was monitored on days 1, 7, 14, 21 and 28 of treatment by pairing with proestrous female rats. For sperm count, the treatment was continued further in all groups except for the Viagra group for 60 days. At 125 mg/kg, C borivilianum had marked aphrodisiac action, as demonstrated by increased libido, sexual vigour and sexual arousal in the rats. Similarly, at the higher dose (250 mg/kg), all the parameters of sexual behaviour were enhanced, but showed saturation effect after 14 days. On day 60, the sperm count increased significantly in both the C borivilianum-treated groups (125 mg/kg/day and 250 mg/kg/day) in a dose-dependent manner. The administration of C borivilianum extract has been found to be useful for the treatment of premature ejaculation and oligospermia [32]. Supplementation with C borivilianum root 250 mg/kg/day and 500 mg/kg/day to streptozoticin-induced diabetic male rats for 28 consecutive days improved sperm morphology, and reduced oxidative stress and formation of free radicals [33]. In case of streptozotocin- and alloxan-induced hyperglycemia, the aqueus extracts from C borivilianum resulted in improved sexual performance compared with diabetic control [34,35].

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.
In modern medication of erectile dysfunction, the oral prescription medication of popular Viagra (Sildenafil) is effective, but in some men it is not compatible and Sildenafil works in less than 70% of men with various etiologies and has certain side effects23. The availability of Viagra has brought millions of couples to ED treatment. Oral testosterone can reduce ED in some men with low levels of natural testosterone, but it is often ineffective and may cause liver damage34. Other drugs such as Yohimbine, papaverine hydrochloride [used under careful medical supervision]5, phentolamine, and alprostadil (marketed as Caverject) widen blood vessels. However, this available modern medication for the ED in men is very expensive for most of the rural people in Ugandan and other developing countries. Yet, in traditional medicine, there are several medicinal plants that have been relied on for use in the treatment of ED. This ethnobotanical indigenous knowledge has not been earlier documented and scientifically validated for efficacy and safety, future drug discovery and development.
Does drinking water improve erectile dysfunction? Erectile dysfunction or ED is a common concern for men. Everyday factors, such as hydration levels, may affect a person's ability to get or maintain an erection. Drinking water may, therefore, help some men with ED. In this article, learn about the link between hydration and ED, and other factors that can cause ED. Read now
Ginseng is the root of some Araliaceae plants, which grows in northeast China. Ginseng is the number one herb in TCM that is used to maintain the balance of the body and enhance the vital Qi energy. ED is said to be caused by Qi deficiencies in the Kidney and Liver and Ginseng helps to improve Qi flow to these organs, especially when used with acupuncture. It has been confirmed clinically to enhance erectile function. The ginsenosides are the main active components in ginseng that give it anti-inflammation, anti-tumor, antioxidant, as well as apoptosis inhibition and preventing the degeneration of neurons in dorsal penile nerves while reducing the oxidative stress in the corpus cavernosum. 1
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