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.
The Science: Male rats with damaged penile nerves had better erectile responses after they were given large doses of purified icariin, but as of yet no one has done the experiments to see whether the compound works in humans. Still, as far as the herb goes, it doesn’t really matter: horny goat weed doesn’t contain enough icariin to get even the smallest rise out of a rat.
Nitric oxide is made internally from L-arginine, which is an amino acid found in red meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. In other words, L-arginine is the building block for nitric oxide, which is essential for erections. A lack of one can lead to a lack of the other. However, there’s a problem when it comes to treating L-arginine deficiency with supplements.
Eleuthero, a distant relative of Panax ginseng, has been used in Chinese medicine for 2,000 years. Eleuthero, also called Siberian ginseng, has been shown to enhance physical performance in several studies. Research shows it has antioxidant, immune-boosting, and cholesterol-lowering properties. A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology concludes that the active constituents, eleutherosides, alleviate both physical and mental fatigue.
Many stores sell herbal supplements and health foods that claim to have sexual potency and fewer side effects. They’re also often cheaper than prescribed medications. But these options have little scientific research to back up the claims, and there’s no uniform method on testing their effectiveness. Most results from human trials rely on self-evaluation, which can be subjective and difficult to interpret.
In one study, men with a Vitamin D deficiency were nearly 33% more likely to have ED. But you don’t need that much sun exposure to get a healthy amount of Vitamin D. As little as 15–20 minutes a day is enough. Taking Vitamin D is a good idea, especially if you are over 65. Vitamin D can also help if you’re obese or dark-skinned (dark skin limits the amount of Vitamin D you naturally, produce)
Shape up. Because ED is often linked with restricted blood flow to the penis, keep your heart and arteries in good condition by maintaining a healthy weight, and following a diet high in fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Avoid saturated fats and trans fats. Regular aerobic exercise can improve blood flow to the genitals and reduce any stress that contributes to your ED.
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.
However, you might actually be better off going one step back in the chain reaction and taking an L-citrulline supplement. While your body converts L-arginine to nitric oxide, it also metabolizes it too fast when the amino acid is taken in an oral supplement, according to a 2011 study from the University of Foggia in Italy. L-citrulline, which the body converts to L-arginine, is actually a better option to follow the same metabolic pathway and serve as a treatment for ED, the same study found.
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.