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.


A variety of personal habits and lifestyle choices have been linked to ED. In some ways, this is a good thing, since habits can be broken and choices reconsidered. What's more, many of the lifestyle factors that contribute to sexual problems are ones that affect overall health and well-being, both physical and mental. Addressing these factors, therefore, can have benefits beyond improving erectile dysfunction.
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)

Maca root (Lepedium meyenii W): this native Peruvian root has been cultivated for thousands of years. Considered an integral part of the diet, the Incans found maca root so potent (14), it was restricted to royal use only. Known for its energy enhancing abilities, maca root enjoys a special place amongst herbalists and health seekers. Like ginseng, this plant is employed to increase strength, libido and sexual function (14). Clinically its effects have been proved with experimental animals (5,15).
The search for a cure for erectile dysfunction (ED) dates back way before the introduction of Viagra in the 1990s. Natural aphrodisiacs, from ground rhinoceros horn topa chocolate, have long been used to increase libido, potency, or sexual pleasure. These natural remedies are also popular because they’re said to have fewer side effects than prescribed medications.
L-arginine. L-arginine is an important amino acid that the body needs to build proteins. Because L-arginine has been shown to improve blood flow, some alternative practitioners have recommended that the supplements be used to treat ED. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database, which is a reliable authority on alternative medicines, says L-arginine is possibly effective for treating erectile dysfunction. But Harris warns that "although this supplement could improve blood flow, side effects can be dangerous." L-arginine can cause an allergic reaction or worsen asthma in some people; it can also lower blood pressure.

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.

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].

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.

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.
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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