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.
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.
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.
Historically, it has been shown that herbal medicines may cure or prevent certain ailments. However, there are very little recorded data available to support the dose, efficacy, side effects and interactions. Because the safety and efficacy of herbal remedies have not been assessed, unlike synthetic drugs, well-controlled and randomized studies are warranted to establish the therapeutic efficy and safety of such products. Determination of side effects and interactions with prescription medicines are also needed. The amount of active ingredients in herbals may vary among preparations; thus, standardization of herbal medicines is required.
Despite the name, horny goat weed actually helps improve your erection, not libido. Botanically known as epimedium, this herb has been used by the Chinese for centuries to treat, among other things, low libido and erectile dysfunction. “A growing body of research shows that isolated icariin—the extract of epimedium—inhibits the enzyme phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) and significantly increases nitric oxide synthase, helping to improve erectile function,” says Fisch. In fact, this is the same mechanism that Viagra works through (but the herb comes with a way better name).
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).
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 art of acupuncture has become the new treatment for everything from back pain, depression, and even ED. Impotence could be more of a state of mind, and acupuncture may help. Through this alternative therapy, fine needles are placed in various parts of the body to relieve pain or stress. Although there are many mixed studies for acupuncture and ED, many tend to confirm positive results. A 1999 study found acupuncture improved the quality of erection and even restored sexual activity in 39 percent of participants.
Muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides): although used in Asia, this potency wood is actually the best known Amazonian folk medicine which increases libido and penile hardness. It acts as a nerve stimulant to heighten receptiveness to sexual stimuli as well as physical sensation of sex (9). Rich in sterols e.g., sitosterol, campesterol and lupol it activates the body’s receptors for hormones like testosterone to heighten libido and enhance performance (5). Also present are volatile oils like champor which helps restore sex drive and inner depth of libido and mental ability to be aroused.
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."
Ginkgo biloba may increase blood flow to the penis. Researchers discovered the effect of gingko on ED when male participants in a memory enhancement study reported improved erections. Another trial saw improvement in sexual function in 76 percent of the men who were on antidepressant medication. This is why researchers believe that ginkgo may be effective for men who are experiencing ED due to medication.