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.

Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for intercourse. Because ED can have a strong psychological component, counseling with a psychotherapist or sex therapist often works. However, more often ED is a symptom of cardiovascular disease and diabetes, both of which can impair blood supply to the penis. In addition, many medications interfere with sexual functioning.
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.
Melissa Conrad Stöppler, MD, is a U.S. board-certified Anatomic Pathologist with subspecialty training in the fields of Experimental and Molecular Pathology. Dr. Stöppler's educational background includes a BA with Highest Distinction from the University of Virginia and an MD from the University of North Carolina. She completed residency training in Anatomic Pathology at Georgetown University followed by subspecialty fellowship training in molecular diagnostics and experimental pathology.
L-arginine: L-arginine is an amino acid present in the proteins of all life forms. Also, referred to as arginine, this amino acid is required to carry out the synthesis of nitric oxide, which relaxes the blood vessels and allows more blood to flow through arteries (13). L-arginine has shown promise in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease and in the treatment of male infertility (13). With its anti-oxidant properties, L-arginine can be an integral part of any sexual wellness supplement.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) or male impotence is defined as inability of a man to achieve or maintain penile erection sufficient for sexual activity. It is primarily a neuronal and endothelial dysfunction of the corpus cavernosum of penile tissue, and is partly characterized by reduced production of nitric oxide (NO). Other factors that may contribute to the pathogenesis of ED include androgen deficiency in aging men, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, atherosclerosis, diabetes mellitus, diseases of the prostate and heart, and anatomical deformity of the penis. ED may also be caused by some medications, prostate surgery and spinal cord injury. Psychological and social conditions such as stress, depression and unhappy marital relationship may contribute to the problem. Chronic infections and inflammation can also contribute to the disease process. ED is linked to an increased risk for cardiovascular diseases and stroke. Several orally active drugs (sildenafil, vardenafil, tadalafil, avanafil) are currently prescribed for treating ED to improve the arterial blood flow to the penile tissue. Medicinal plants and their extracts have been used in traditional medicine in southwest Asia and other countries to treat ED. The current review focuses on four medicinal plants that have been used as aphrodisiacs for enhancing sexual performance and for the treatment of ED. These plants include Eurycoma longifolia Jack (tongkat ali); Chlorophytum borivilianum (safed musli); Withania somnifera (ashwagandha); and Pausinystalia johimbe (formerly known as Corynanthe johimbe). Suggested mechanisms of action for each of the plant extracts will be discussed.

Although there are few men who are born absolutely impotent, the number of men with erectile problems are many especially those tending to 50 years and above. Pfizer28 reported that about 40% of men above years, 50% of men above 50 years, 60% of men above 60 years and in any population are affected by ED. ED has profound effect on psychological well being, it can be devastating, it can lead to low self-esteem, depression, negative effect on relationships and reduced life satisfaction28. Among several other causes, aging is one of the factors leading to ED. There are some other social causes of ED such as high unemployment rates, and diseases like diabetes, hypertension, HIV/AIDS, high cholesterol levels, stress, smoking and obesity28. ED is slowly creating adverse problems in homes in Uganda and particularly, among the mid-aged and old men. The men with sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction deserve proper diagnosis of the conditions and treatment. Thus, the plant remedies described may be healthy if administered


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.
The informal conversations were held with the specialist resource users and other knowledgeable people on particular ailments. The meeting places were the gardens, women group meetings, at their homes, and any other places convenient to them. Through conversations, the sources of knowledge of the healers on medicinal plants, the medicinal plants used and changes in the availability of medicinal plants were established. Those who were more knowledgeable were later followed and interviewed further especially the TBAs, and some knowledgeable men healers. Focused discussions were held with them later for formal recording. In some instances, young mothers were visited too. This was done to verify the information gathered and the spread of the indigenous knowledge (IK) in reproductive health care among the different reproductive groups particularly on ED management.
For a male, sexual performance carries an identity and the sense of self-esteem in his society. Thus, Sexual performance in the male has an unprecedented importance depending on the erectile function of the male sex organ. In daily life, it is very easy for men to admit having a sore throat or hemorrhoids. However, admitting to having erectile dysfunction is contrary to the male ego and especially so if the dysfunction occurs when he is at mid-life and is getting older and there any suspicion of him entering the phase of male menopause.
Much of the evidence shows high rates of vitamin D deficiency in patients with erectile dysfunction. In fact, one study of 3,400 participants found that men with vitamin D deficiency were 32% more likely to have trouble with erections when all other risk factors were controlled for. It’s a little on the nose that you need vitamin D for your “D,” but hey—science can be funny too.

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.
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
Yohimbine is the principal alkaloid of the bark of the West African evergreen P johimbe (formerly known as C johimbe), family Rubiaceae. The main active chemical present in P johimbe bark is yohimbine hydrochloride (an indole alkaloid), which has stimulant and aphrodisiac effects. However, the levels of yohimbine that are present in P johimbe bark extract are variable and often very low. Therefore, although P johimbe bark has traditionally been used to treat ED [38], there is insufficient scientific evidence to form a definitive conclusion in this area. It is an antagonist of α2-receptors and has no direct relation to erection. It acts as a sex motivation stimulant. Yohimbine has been used as both an over-the-counter dietary supplement in the form of an herbal extract, and as a prescription medicine in purified form for the treatment of sexual dysfunction. Yohimbine 20 mg or adjusted dose has been found to be effective in the treatment of orgasmic dysfunction. Yohimbine was recently associated as a treatment for type 2 diabetes mellitus in animal and human models carrying polymorphisms of the alpha-2A adrenergic receptor gene [39]. The National Institutes of Health states that yohimbine hydrochloride is the standardized form of yohimbine that is available as a prescription medicine in the United States, and has been shown in human studies to be effective in the treatment of male impotence. Yohimbine hydrochloride USP has been used to treat ED. Controlled studies suggest that it is not always an effective treatment for impotence, and evidence of increased sex drive (libido) is anecdotal only. It cannot be excluded that orally administered yohimbine can have a beneficial effect in some patients with ED. The conflicting results available may be attributed to differences in drug design, patient selection and definition of positive response. Yohimbine has been shown to be effective in the reversal of sexual satiety and exhaustion in male rats, and has also been shown to increase the volume of ejaculated semen in dogs, with the effect lasting at least 5 h after administration. Yohimbine has also been shown to be effective in the treatment of orgasmic dysfunction in men, and has also been used for the treatment of sexual side effects caused by some antidepressants, and female hyposexual disorder. Yohimbine has significant side effects, such as anxiety reactions. Higher doses of oral yohimbine may create numerous side effects, such as rapid heart rate, high blood pressure, overstimulation, insomnia and/or sleeplessness. More serious adverse effects may include seizures and renal failure. Yohimbine should not be consumed by individuals with liver, kidney or heart disease, or psychological disorders. The therapeutic index of yohimbine is low; the range between an effective dose and a dangerous dose is very narrow. Side effects include gastrointestinal upset, increased blood pressure, headache, agitation, rash, tachycardia and frequent urination [40].
ED may occur at any age, but tends to have a greater psychological effect when it occurs in midlife. ED invokes stress related to midlife intimacy and the physiological realities of aging. Although the prevalence of ED increases with age, it is not an inevitable consequence of aging. Rather, ED becomes more prevalent as men grow older because of its relationship with various age-related diseases. Several studies have found that age is an independent risk factor for severe ED, even after adjustment for other age-related diseases. The aging male requires more penile stimulation; it takes longer to get an erection and the erection may not be hard enough for vaginal penetration. Also, it takes more time to reach ejaculation in elderly individuals. Absence of sexual interest in the partners of older men can lead to ED simply by the man not receiving sufficient direct penile stimulation. Testosterone replacement therapy for aging men has become a topic for discussion among health care providers. There are no established norms for testosterone levels in aging men. Studies in healthy men show that testosterone levels, particularly free bioactive testosterone levels, decline with age although there is considerable interindividual variation. The percentage of men who actually become ‘testosterone deficient’ is unknown. The diagnosis of androgen deficiency in aging men is associated with a wider range of symptoms than a mere impact on hormone levels per se. If the patient has no clinical signs of an androgen deficiency, testosterone replacement therapy will have no clinical effect.
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).

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.
Generally, erectile dysfunction (ED) is a neurovascular condition directly involving the endothelium of the corpora cavernosal arterial blood vessels in the penis, and is indirectly linked to cardiovascular diseases. The underlying mechanisms of ED are, however, complex and involve psychogenic, neurogenic, hormonal and vascular factors. ED occurs in aging men, with a prevalence of 52% in men 40 to 70 years of age [1-3]. Conditions that may cause ED include hypertension, diabetes, diseases of the prostate and heart, and obesity. ED may also be caused by the effects of certain medications as well as physical injury or anatomical deformity of the penis [4], or may result from endocrine disorders such as low testosterone, hypogonadism, adrenal insufficiency and hypothyroidism. Changes in blood flow to the male reproductive organs as a result of hardening of the arteries or atherosclerosis, hypertension and hypercholesterolemia may result in ED. It is generally accepted that there are vascular and neuropathic components to the pathophysiology of the disease, and ED has been recognized as a potential indicator of underlying cardiovascular disease. Chronic infections and/or inflammation of the prostate and irritation of the bladder may contribute to the pathogenesis of ED.
Impotence, also called erectile dysfunction (ED), can be a very frustrating problem. Some men are able to achieve an erection but are not able to maintain one. Others are not able to achieve one at all. Causes of impotence can be both physiological (affecting mostly the body and organs) or psychological (affecting the mind). Luckily, there are natural remedies for impotence you can try.

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).
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.
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.
Most sincere gratitude to the sponsors, Third World Organisation for Women in Sciences (TWOWS), NUFU Medicinal plants Project through Botany Department, Faculty of Science, Makerere University, UNESCO-MAB Young Scientist Research Award, 2000, Gender studies, Makerere University and WHO-Uganda. The Staff of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Field assistants, local leaders, the resource users and all respondents, particularly the TBAs and traditional healers in Bushenyi, Mbarara and Kasese Districts who provided the information.
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.
Only the few elite (educated) and with money seek modern medical care privately and secretly. The description of impotent men in western Uganda among the Banyankore ethnic grouping is literally translated as the persons having no legs (Kifabigyere, Runyankore Dialect) to imply that the penis is dead (cannot bear children). There are other various terms used to describe such men with sexual impotence and ED like the one trampled by a goat, [Akaribatwa embuzi (empene), Kinyankore dialect]. In other places they called, such men who were unable reproduce as “Ekifera in Kinyankore meaning worthless). The men who were unable to have children were not supposed to be given the positions of responsibility or leadership because they were regarded as abnormal. Socially these men were excluded from society, even on drinking joints for the local brew or beer, they are not expected to talk and if they talked, they are hushed. Even women and children always taunted the suffering individuals. Socio-economically, sexual impotence and ED is demeaning and tortures the sufferers by reducing their self-esteem and worthiness in the society. Culturally, in olden days, the impotent men married wives and entrust their wives to very close friends and or relatives to bear them children. In central Uganda, the men with erectile problems are equalled to car engines that cannot start on their own [non-starters] or cars whose batteries have no or low charge (‘Takuba self’, Luganda dialect).

There are so many potential reasons a man might develop erectile dysfunction (ED), it's nearly impossible to generalize the best ways to treat it. What works for one man may not work for another simply because they are having problems for different reasons. That said, it may encouraging to hear that there are a variety of options that may be considered, from psychological counseling to lifestyle changes, medications to treatments and devices.
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.
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The Plant: A low-growing flowering annual that’s originally from southern Europe but is now an invasive weed in parts of the United States and Australia. The plant’s common names, like puncturevine or devil’s thorns, tells you exactly why most people hate it: it drops sharp, spiny seed pods that lie in wait for unsuspecting victims to step on them. It’s also toxic to grazing livestock like sheep.
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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