These three versatile herbs, used for centuries in Chinese and Ayurvedic medicine, have a variety of health benefits for both men and women. However, they work in several ways to address health issues of top concern to men, such as erectile dysfunction (ED) and high blood pressure, and I believe they should be a part of every man’s long-term plan for overall health.
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)
In diabetes, vasoconstrictors and vasoactive factors are increased in addition to structural changes and attenuation of relaxation responses in the corpus cavernosum. A shifting of the balance of vasoactive factors occurs such that relaxation factors (eg, nitric oxide [NO]) are inhibited and contractile factors are induced in microvascular disease. With epidemiological predictions suggesting that the incidence of diabetes mellitus will increase to 300 million by 2025, management of diabetes-induced ED is increasingly important.
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.
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The study was conducted between April 2000 and March 2003 in western Uganda. To collect this data indirect asking of questions and investigations that do not refer or offend anyone were used since nobody especially men can say openly that they have this problem. These methods are explained in the textbook of ethnobotany and others have been used in the field for this kind of studies in Uganda and elsewhere in the world10,12,13,14,21. These methods included visiting the traditional healers to document the indigenous knowledge (IK), regarding medicinal plants used, gender and socio-cultural aspects and where the plants are harvested. Informal and formal conversations, discussions and interviews, market surveys and field visits were conducted.
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).
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 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.
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.
The key respondents were mainly old men, male traditional healers, traditional birth attendants and young women and all in total about 160 traditional healers were interviewed. To document male related ailments men are particularly more knowledgeable and most men share their problems with men. In addition, the old men and healers are the ones in charge of administering these herbal remedies. Young women through the informal discussions, interviews and market surveys are particularly more dynamic in the use of herbs for themselves, husbands and children besides being the most active reproductive age group. The medical ethnobotanical data collected has been analysed, medicinal plants from the study areas have been listed and methods of administering the herbal drugs were also documented. In checking for the proper updated naming, spellings and authors of the medicinal plants, besides using voucher specimens in Makerere University Herbarium, several reference books were used1,3,9,15,16,20,22,27.
Gingko biloba: this is an example of a tonic herb that equilibrates our body systems. When tired it energizes and when stressed it relaxes the individual. It increases blood circulation which better prepares the male for the heart-racing excitement of sex. Early reference to its medicinal use was in 2900 BC Chinese Materia medica which believed it increased sexual energy. Gingko’s circulation enhancer called terpene lactone increases cerebral as well as genital blood flow and its significantly increased production of dopamine, adrenaline and other neurotransmitters in the brain improves pleasure arousal and alertness (5).
There have been some studies to suggest that a placebo effect that improves ED may work for some men. One study found that men taking an oral placebo pill showed as much improvement in ED symptoms as men who took actual medication to improve ED. Conversely, men who were given therapeutic suggestions to improve ED did not see signs of symptom improvement.
The truth is medication or psychosexual counselling are the first treatments a doctor will suggest because they’ve been proven to work. If a doctor has approved a medication for you then it’s safe. If you would still like to see if herbal supplements work for you, then there is a list below of supplements thought to work for erectile dysfunction. Just before you invest your money in them, remember they aren’t proven to work:
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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.
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.
While these side effects mainly create discomfort, some individuals are at risk for more serious, even life-threatening reactions to these drugs. Some men have reported fainting after taking impotence medications, and priapism (a painful condition involving an erection that does not subside after more than four hours) has also occurred as an effect of impotence drugs. This condition can lead to permanent nerve damage; injectable drugs may also cause irreversible damage to the penis if used incorrectly.
There is no single cause for erectile dysfunction. Achieving an erection involves a complex series of physiological events; in order for an erection to occur, the body is required to coordinate nervous system responses with tactile sensations, emotional triggers, and signals from certain hormones. If any of these events are disrupted, impotence is likely to occur.
Your doctor may also choose to lower your dose of certain medications. Or your provider may switch the type of drug you’re taking if it’s interfering with your sex life. Some medicines used for managing blood pressure, insomnia, anxiety, depression, seizures and prostate problems increase the risk for erectile dysfunction. Beta-blockers (for high blood pressure), SSRIs (often used to treat depression) and the class of drugs called benzodiazepines (like Ativan, Xanax, Librium and Valium) are commonly tied to ED. You may want to speak to your doctor about this.
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According to the Cleveland Clinic, “because erectile dysfunction is caused by a complex set of psychosocial, neurologic, and vascular factors, a specific cause in a patient may remain ambiguous.” The root causes are often related to a blockage or dysfunction of blood vessels. For example, ED can be due to conditions like atherosclerosis or diabetes, hormonal imbalances or problems related to mental health. It’s been found that common causes typically include one or more of the following factors: (2)
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 . 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 .
Prescription drugs called “oral phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) inhibitors” are considered the “first-line non-invasive treatment” options for patients with ED. These include the drugs that go by brand names: Sildenafil, Vardenafil or Tadalafil. They work by helping the smooth muscle cells lining the blood vessels that supply the penis with blood to work properly. This allows a man to maintain an erection more easily.
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.