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.
How common is impotence? According to findings from several studies, including “The Massachusetts Male Aging Study,” overall prevalence for men between 40–70 years old is around 52 percent (or around 30 percent of all men between 18–60 years old). That’s right — nearly half of all men over 40 experience erectile dysfunction symptoms at some point. Not surprisingly, research demonstrates that impotence is increasingly prevalent with age. Around 40 percent of men in their 40s experience sexual dysfunction. Up to 70 percent of men in their 70s experience ED. (1) Every year more than 617,000 new cases of impotence occur in the United States alone.
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.
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.
“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.)
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.
Usually patients will try less invasive alternatives to treat impotence before opting for surgery. These alternatives may include supplements, herbs, lifestyle changes and even medications. In cases where other treatments do not work to resolve ED, surgery might be a last-resort option. Surgery involves implanting a penile prosthesis. This is a saline-filled silicone device or a malleable device. Although the likelihood of serious side effects is considered to be low, certain risks are associated with surgery to correct erectile dysfunction. These side effects may include: anesthetic risk, device infection, and device malfunction or mechanical failure. Some studies have found that five years following surgery around 10–20 percent of men experience device malfunction and failure. Infection rates are low. Around one percent of men who opt for this type of surgery get an infection.
Nettle leaf (Urtica dioica): amongst its many properties, nettle leaf has lately shown itself possibly effective for prostate health and prevention of prostate conditions, especially prostatitis, which is an inflammation of the prostate gland (16). There is speculation that nettle leaf may help with male pattern baldness. Prostate health is essential for men, no matter how young or old. Prevention starts when men are young, so as to avoid problems associated with aging. Prostate problems can interfere with a healthy sex life. Nettle is also considered to be an overall restorative for the body, as well as a natural diuretic and anti-inflammatory remedy (16). It is rich in iron, zinc, and chlorophyll.
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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 . 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 . A small proportion of autonomic nerves do not release either Ach or norepinephrine . 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 . 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 . 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.
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.
If you’ve been to the health food store lately, you’ve seen shelves lined with vitamins and “organic” supplements, each claiming to boost immunity, revitalize organ function, or “promote health.” And it’s working. Supplements are currently a $30 billion industry in the US, with more than 90,000 products on the market, and vitamin use is on the rise. In fact, a recent survey in Journal of American Medicine Association showed that “52% of US adults reported use of at least 1 supplement product.”
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.
If you bike a lot and have a very narrow saddle on your bicycle, consider switching to a "no-nose seat" which is wider at the back than a conventional saddle, allowing more of your weight to be distributed to the sitting bones. Make sure the seat is level or angled slightly downward and at a height that allows your knee to be just slightly bent at the bottom of the pedal cycle. Raising the handlebars on your bike so that you're sitting upright may also help.
"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.
Another important natural source of non-essential amino acid, L-Arginine is well studied to support many bodily functions even though its usually present in low quantities, especially as we started to age it is one of the most . One of the biggest benefits to our body is L-arginine or L Citruline (Our body converts L-citrulline to L-arginine, another type of amino acid) is converted into nitric oxide (proven), which causes blood vessels to open wider is its capability to improve blood flow and better circulation for Erectile Dysfunction.
Catuaba (Erythroxylum catuaba): in Brazil, Catuaba Extract is considered to be a central nervous system stimulant (5), without the side effects of caffeine. This is used in some Asian remedies for sexual weakness and lowered libido. European herbalists have found that Catuaba may have aphrodisiac properties and can be used to combat sexual weakness.
The utilisation of ethnobotanical indigenous knowledge is vital in male sexual reproductive health care delivery in western Uganda. Reproductive health care is the second most prevalent health care problem in Africa. However, this concept of reproductive health care has been focusing mainly on women disregarding men. Thus, some diseases such as sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction that deserve mention are regarded as petty though important in economic productivity, family stability and sexually transmitted diseases control including HIV/AIDS.
Red Ginseng — One small randomized trial found evidence that red ginseng may offer modest improvements in ED symptoms (as compared with placebo). A meta-anaylsis published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology states, “Traditionally red ginseng has been used to restore and enhance normal well-being, and is often referred to as an adaptogenic….Possible mechanisms of action of red ginseng include hormonal effects similar to those of testosterone. Others have postulated that red ginseng might induce relaxation of the smooth muscles.” (5)
Oyster meat: totally natural, oyster extract is excellent for men’s reproductive health and endurance. It is a rich source for the amino acid taurine, which is used for cardiac health and nerve transmission. Historically known as an aphrodisiac, flavonoids in oyster meat have been shown to stimulate the reproductive system. However, still its potency is under question (5).
In this day and age, there is a wide spectrum of innovative drug and other methods of treatment including psychosexual therapy and counseling, topical and systemic drug therapy, device-assisted therapy, electromagnetic stimulation to improve nerve and vascular function of the pelvis and perineal muscles. Electro-ejaculation and the less often done surgical techniques are currently available. The simpler electrovibration can help create or maintain erection or stimulate ejaculation. Although we give so much emphasis on ejaculation, in the Chinese traditional medical teaching, there is reference to improving health by ejaculatory control and abstaining from ejaculating during sexual activity—hence the popular belief that EJACULATING TOO MUCH will lead to WEAKNESS and ILL HEALTH!
Many products contain undocumented “fillers” that can cause allergic reactions. In recent years, the FDA has found over 300 herbal products that contain hidden, deceptively labeled, or dangerous ingredients4. And since 2015, the FDA has released public warnings on more than 160 ED supplements and “male enhancement” products found to contain dangerous ingredients and contaminants5 . An independent study of FDA data, conducted in 2018, found almost 800 herbal supplements that contained unlisted ingredients6.
^Effects of Korean ginseng berry extract on sexual function in men with erectile dysfunction: a multicenter, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical study. - Author: Department of Urology and Urological Science Institute, Yonsei University College of Medicine, Seoul, and R&D Center, Amorepacific Corporation, Gyeonggi-do, South Korea (20 Dec 2012)
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.