Dr. Niket Sonpal is the Associate Program Director of the Internal Medicine Residency at Brookdale Hospital Medical Center in Brooklyn and an Associate Professor at Touro College of Osteopathic Medicine. He’s a practicing Gastroenterologist and Hepatologist with a focus on Men’s and Women’s Health, and a regular contributor to Women’s health, Shape and Prevention Magazine.
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.
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.
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.

L-arginine is used by the body to increase and precursor to the production of human growth hormone, prolactin and several amino acids It even increases our sensitivity to insulin, analogously to body when we exercise, by accepting more glucose to enter into our cells and improve better cellular energy therefore less fatigue with much more stamina. L-arginine’s function in supporting our metabolic health are also extremely important for building stronger muscle tissue and potentially to help fight inflammation.


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.

It doesn’t look good for the herbs. So far, there’s no data from controlled human trials that support the erection-promoting claims for any 5 of the most frequently used herbs. The icariin in the horny goat weed can help get it up, but since you’re getting the herb rather than a purified molecule, the concentration probably isn’t high enough to have much of an effect. Worse, it turns out that Viagra is much better at blocking that erection-killing enzyme than icariin is.
The semi-structured interviews and discussions were held with the specialist resource users and other knowledgeable people on particular ailments by use of interview schedules for each respondent. Interviewed people were mainly the herbalists (both men and women) and TBAs. In this selection to some extent, ethnic groups were recorded where possible because different people use the same plants differently. The time and place of interviews were arranged according to the schedules of the respondent. Depending on where the interviews and discussions were held, recording was done immediately or afterwards or appointments were made for more details in a more convenient place arranged with the respondent. Key informants were identified and later interviewed separately and even followed for further details. Some of the key questions asked included, name of the respondents, the village or parish or sub-county he or she was coming from, diseases treated, plant local names used, parts harvested, methods of preparation and administration. In addition, ingredients and incantations with which the plants are used for preparation and where the herbal medicines were harvested were documented.
The field visits and excursions were arranged with the healers for places far from their homesteads or took place concurrently with the interviews and discussions. When going to the forests, game reserves or other areas where herbalists collect plant specimens, prior arrangements were made with the community leaders and park staff. This was done with individuals or groups depending on where the herbs are collected. In the shared areas such as the fishing villages, or the multiple use areas, group and individual excursions were conducted. Some of the medicinal plants that are harvested from distant places such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, other districts and unsafe areas within the reserve were not collected but their local names were recorded. The data collected were to supplement the information on plant names, plant parts used, collection of the herbarium voucher specimens and conservation status of these medicinal plants. The medicinal plants collected were given the voucher numbers and then later identified in Botany Department herbarium of Makerere University.
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.
Currently, there are four orally active drugs are available to treat ED. These include: sildenafil citrate (Viagra [Pfizer, USA]), vardenafil hydrochloride (Levitra [Bayer, Germany]), tadalafil (Cialis [Eli Lilly, USA]) and avanafil (Stendra, Spedra [Vivus Inc, USA]). These drugs inhibit the enzyme phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE-5), which is responsible for the hydrolysis of cGMP. PDE-5 inhibitors and cGMP act as effectors of dilation of smooth muscle of cavernosal bodies. PDE-5 inhibitors are contraindicated in patients taking any kind of nitrate therapy for angina, and may not be appropriate for men with certain health conditions, such as severe heart disease, heart failure, history of stroke or heart attack, uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes, and patients with pigmental retinopathy. PDE-5 inhibitors are less effective in men with diabetes and men who have been treated for prostate cancer. PDE-5 inhibitors are also not effective in men with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease involving PDE-5 deficiency. The common side effects of PDE-5 inhibitors include gastrointestinal upset, headache, nasal congestion, back pain and dizziness. The PDE-5 inhibitors may interact with other medications including antihypertension drugs. Nonetheless, the PDE-5 inhibitors are generally safe and effective for most men. The primary mechanism of action of these drugs is through the mediation of NO. NO is one of the key molecules involved in ED. It is a short-lived, highly permeable, pleiotropic, gaseous molecule, secreted from the postganglionic cavernosal parasympathetic nerves, endothelium of the cavernosal blood vessels, platelets in the cavernosal sinuses and phagocytic cells (monocytes, macrophages and neutrophils). NO acts on platelets to inhibit platelets adhesion and aggregation. NO causes relaxation of the smooth muscle of the cavernosal blood vessels of the penis, leading to vasodilation, tumescence and stimulation. Release of NO in the corpus cavernosum of the penis during stimulation activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase, which results in increased levels of cGMP, producing smooth muscle relaxation in the corpus cavernosum and resulting in increased blood flow (5). NO is mainly produced from cavernosal nerves, which are nonadrenergic, noncholinergic nerves within the penis, and acting via its second messenger cGMP. It has been suggested that maintaining normal body weight and mild exercise, as well as dietary supplementation of folic acid, zinc, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin E and L-arginine, a precursor of NO, can support the biochemical pathway leading to NO release [6]. NO is an effector molecule that is involved in a number of intracellular functions such as vasorelaxation, endothelial regeneration, inhibition of leukocyte chemotaxis and platelet adhesion [7]. A small proportion of autonomic nerves do not release either Ach or norepinephrine [8]. For example, the cavernous nerves predominantly release NO in the penis. The exact mechanism is not known, but it is believed to be through increased intracellular calcium. Another gaseous molecule produced in the corpora cavernosa is hydrogen sulphide (H2S), which is also known to be involved in erectile function [9]. H2S activates ATP-sensitive potassium channels in smooth muscle cells. Some reports indicate that NO acts in large vessels and H2S in small vessels. A high level of tumour necrosis factor-alpha has been shown in ED patients [10]. Although current ED therapies using PDE-5 inhibitors are safe and effective, approximately 40% of ED patients do not respond to currently available treatment [11,12]. For these patients, herbal therapy may be useful.

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 Claim: If you squint and have an excellent imagination, mature ginseng roots vaguely resemble a human body. That ties into folk ideas for finding medicines–in this case, the idea that a plant that looks like a person must contain materials that help sick people. Ginseng was traditionally used as a tonic to treat erectile dysfunction and low sexual drive in men (as well as many other complaints).
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.
The Science: Some studies have implied that feeding maca to domestic cattle increases sperm production, but there is very little data about any sexual effect on humans. One very small randomized double-bind trial of men with erectile dysfunction found that men taking maca extract reported a small increase in their ability to get erections. But so did the control group. As with the fenugreek study, a similar study with a larger group of people is needed to see whether any differences between the controls and the maca-eaters are real.
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.
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.

Ginseng (Figures 4,​,55): this is an adaptogenic herb touted to have boosted the potency of Ottoman sultans. It increases the body’s ability to handle environmental stresses and combat biochemical imbalances. It energizes when one is fatigue and calms when overanxious. It also increases sex related hormones like testosterone and enhances sexual responses in men and women. It thus acts as a tonic, stimulant and aphrodisiac (4,5).
Researchers at Johns Hopkins University last year looked at 3,400 healthy Americans and found that men who were vitamin D deficient were 32% more likely to have trouble getting it up than those with sufficient levels, even after adjusting for other ED risk factors. In fact, the connection is so common, Walker says D levels are something he always checks in ED patients. Why? The sunshine vitamin is crucial for keeping the endothelial cells that line blood vessels healthy. Without enough of the stuff, blood flow is inhibited, affecting everything from your heart to your hard-on.
Uses and risks of viagra Viagra treats erectile dysfunction and pulmonary arterial hypertension. For sexual purposes, it helps someone with erectile dysfunction achieve and maintain an erection. However, Viagra can have unpleasant side effects, and an overdose can be serious. We cover everything you need to know about Viagra in this article. Read now
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.
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.
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.
Acupuncture. Acupuncture has been used for centuries to treat ED and impotence in China. A recent review of studies on acupuncture for erectile dysfunction was published in the British Journal of Urology International. After reviewing four studies, the authors concluded that there was not sufficient evidence to say that acupuncture worked. However, some experts believe it's worth trying. "Acupuncture can work," says Gilbert. "It probably works best to treat the psychological component of ED. There is very little downside to trying it."
About 70 – 80% of the Ugandan population still rely on traditional healers for day-to-day health care. In some rural areas the percentage is around ninety compared to 80% reported world-wide10,13,14. WHO32 had earlier estimates that the usage of traditional medicine in developing countries is 80 %. This is an indication that herbal medicine is important in primary health care provision in Uganda. There are several reproductive ailments that local communities have been handling and treating for ages such as sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction (ED). The concept of reproductive health care has been focusing mainly on women disregarding men and yet men are part.
The basis of ED herbal therapies is that they are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and immunomodulatory, and can stimulate testosterone production. On the other hand, the synthetic drugs act via NO. The principal mediator of the relaxation of corporal smooth muscle of the penis has been shown to be NO, which is released mainly from parasympathetic nerves and endothelium [13]. NO is believed to relax the corporal smooth muscle by activating soluble guanylate cyclase to increase cGMP content [14,15]. Penile rigidity depends on maximizing inflow of blood while minimizing outflow [6]. The increased blood flow in the cavernous sinuses puts pressure on the walls of the surrounding veins, causing the lumen of the veins narrow, temporarily interfering with the flow of blood but causing tumescence. Normally, the parasympathetic nerve produces Ach. Ach acts on muscarinic receptors and nicotinic cholinergic receptors. When the parasympathetic nerve is stimulated, preganglionic neurons release Ach at the ganglion, which acts on nicotinic receptors on postganglionic receptors. Postganglionic neurons then release Ach to stimulate muscarinic receptors of the target organs. The muscarinic receptor M3, present in the endothelial cells and smooth muscle, is activated, and the M2 receptor in the heart may also be activated. This may result in the production of Ach, which can cause endothelial cells to produce NO. Ach released from postganglionic parasympathetic nerves acting through G-protein-mediated muscarinic receptors and nicotinic cholinergic receptors helps to release NO. Normally, M1, M2 and M3 receptors are found in secretory glands, heart, smooth muscle and endothelial cells, respectively. M1, M2 and M3 receptors cause activation of phospholipase C and generate inositol trisphosphate and diacylglycerol, which increase calcium. Activation of M4 may inhibit adenylate cyclase, decreasing the messenger cyclic AMP. This mechanism may be involved in the relaxation and contraction of cavernosal smooth muscle cells.
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.
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