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Natural Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction

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Updated April 01, 2014

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Erectile dysfunction, formerly called impotence, is the inability to obtain an adequate erection for satisfactory sexual activity. Research suggests that 50% of men have ED. It's more common in men over age 50, but it can occur at any age.

Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction:

Here are five natural remedies that are used for erectile dysfunction.

1) L-Arginine

L-arginine is an amino acid that increases nitric oxide levels in the body. Nitric oxide is a molecule that signals smooth muscle surrounding blood vessels (including those in the penis) to relax, which dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow – a necessity for maintaining erections.

Found naturally in protein foods such as meat, chicken, fish, walnuts and peas, L-arginine is also a fairly popular supplement for sports concerns and bodybuilding as it is used for protein synthesis in the body.

There have only been two studies evaluating the effectiveness of L-arginine for ED. One small study published in the British Journal of Urology International found that L-arginine supplementation (5g daily) was not beneficial for men with ED, however there was improvement in the subset of men who had low urinary nitrate and nitrite levels (markers for nitric oxide levels in the body). Further research is needed -- it may be that L-arginine is effective for this subset of men with ED. The second study used a smaller dose of L-arginine, 500mg daily, and shorter treatment duration of 17 days and found no benefit.

Several studies have used a combination supplement that includes L-arginine. In one study, a combination of L-arginine, glutamate and yohimbine was used and in another, a combination supplement including L-arginine, carnitine, acetyl carnitine and ginseng was used. Although there were improvements, the effect of L-arginine isn't clear because the studies used combination products.

Find out more about using L-Arginine.

2) Red Korean Ginseng

Red Korean ginseng is Panax ginseng, generally from Korea, that has been prepared in a special way by steaming and then drying. In herbal medicine, this type of ginseng is used to stimulate sexual function and boost energy more so than “cooler” types of ginseng such as white or North American ginseng. It is also different from Asian ginseng due to its preparation.

Red Korean ginseng may boost blood flow to the penis. Although study quality has generally been low, human trials suggest that red ginseng may improve erection quality in men with ED. Studies have typically used three divided doses daily providing a daily total of between 1.8g and 3g ginseng per day.

3) Zinc

Zinc is a mineral involved in regulating many enzymes and hormones. It is found in a wide variety of foods such as red meat, poultry, oysters, beans, and fortified cereal. Low levels of zinc have been associated with sexual dysfunction. Certain medical conditions and medications put people at risk of zinc deficiency and may lead to sexual dysfunction. These conditions include digestive disorders (such as ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, short bowel syndrome), chronic liver or kidney disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes, cancer, alcoholism, and chronic diarrhea. People on a vegetarian diet are more susceptible because of reduced bioavailability of zinc and also because of greater intake of phytates from legumes and whole grains, which bind zinc and inhibit its absorption.

Zinc deficiency has been associated with reduced serum testosterone levels. Mild zinc deficiency is often overlooked because symptoms, such as impaired immune function, weight loss, hair loss, altered sense of taste and smell, and reduced appetite, can be overlooked. Zinc supplementation appears to increase serum testosterone, dihydrotestosterone, and insulin-like growth factor-I levels in human studies. It appears to only raise testosterone levels in people who are deficient in zinc.

4) L-Carnitine

L-carnitine is a compound involved in energy metabolism in the body. It is produced naturally in the body but it is also found in food, particularly in animal products, and in supplement form. Although there are various forms of carnitine supplements, propionyl L-carnitine has been used for blood flow issues and has been explored for erectile dysfunction.

Two forms of L-carnitine (propionyl-L-carnitine and acetyl-L-carnitine) may benefit men with erectile dysfunction according to a study published in Urology. The study compared testosterone undecanoate, L-carnitine and placebo in the treatment of male aging symptoms, including erectile dysfunction. Testosterone and the carnitines significantly improved symptoms.

Another study published in Current Medical Research and Opinion examined the effectiveness of propionyl-L-carnitine supplements plus sildenafil (Viagra) in men with erectile dysfunction and diabetes who were previously unresponsive to Viagra alone. After 24 weeks of treatment with propionyl-L-carnitine (2g daily) plus Viagra (50mg twice weekly) or Viagra alone, therapy with propionyl-L-carnitine plus Viagra was more effective than Viagra alone. Further research is needed, as the effect of L-carnitine isn’t clear when it is given as a combination treatment.

5) Niacin

According to a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine, niacin, or vitamin B3 – found in chicken, fish and grains — may help men with erectile dysfunction if they also have high cholesterol. The results indicate that the men in the study, who had moderate or severe erectile dysfunction, reported an improvement in their ability to maintain an erection after taking a niacin supplement for 12 weeks. The initial dose was 500mg niacin taken nightly to ensure that they had no adverse side effects from taking the vitamin. The dose was increased to 1000mg daily and then to 1500mg at week six, if tolerated, and then continued until the end of the study. The most common side effect was skin flushing and itching. Further studies are warranted.

READ MORE: Niacin

6) Muira Puama

Used historically as a folk remedy in Brazil for erectile dysfunction, joint pain and digestive complaints, muira puama is a flowering bush or tree native to the Brazilian Amazon. It is now mainly used as a treatment for erectile dysfunction and as a male aphrodisiac.

Three preliminary case-series (by the same author) suggest that it may be effective, but well-designed studies on the effectiveness and safety of muira puama are lacking.

READ MORE: Muira Puama

7) Cure Gum Disease to Treat ED

Bad breath, bright red, swollen or tender gums are all signs of periodontal disease, also known as gum disease. Gum disease can trigger inflammation that can result in erectile dysfunction. According to one study, 53% of men with ED had chronic periodontitis compared to 23% of men without it. Men who treated their periodontal disease had significantly improved erectile dysfunction after three months. Professional cleaning and dental treatment and daily brushing and flossing is recommended for gum disease. Natural remedies for gum disease may also help.

8) Weight Loss and ED

Excess body fat appears to be involved in erectile dysfunction, by promoting inflammation and converting testosterone to estrogen. According to one study, one-third of obese men with erectile dysfunction regained sexual function after participating in a two-year weight loss program.

Regular exercise appears to reduce the risk of erectile dysfunction. Research shows that men who exercise more in midlife have a 70% lower risk of erectile dysfunction compared to sedentary men.

9) ED and Heart Disease

  • ED may be a sign of heart disease.
  • Men with Ed are more likely to have heart disease and diabetes.
  • Diuretics and alpha blockers for high blood pressure may worsen ED; angiotensin receptor blockers may improve it.

10) Low Testosterone and ED

Men in midlife who have ED accompanied by low libido may have testosterone deficiency. Testosterone products should only be used under a doctor’s guidance, as it’s important to monitor one’s testosterone levels. Too much and the body’s own production of testosterone declines.

Not Recommended: Yohimbe

Found naturally in the bark of the west African yohimbe tree, yohimbine is a herbal supplement that was used as a folk remedy for ED. However the bark extract often contains very low concentrations of yohimbine. More importantly, yohimbine has the potential for serious side effects and drug interactions, even at small doses. Common side effects include a drastic changes in blood pressure, heart arrhythmias, respiratory depression, heart attach and death. The United States’ Food and Drug Administration has deemed yohimbe extract unsafe for over-the-counter sale.

There is a prescription drug available in the United States, yohimbine hydrochloride, that is a standardized form. A meta-analysis of seven clinical trials of the yohimbine drug demonstrated that yohimbine hydrochloride was more effective than a placebo in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. It is thought to enhance blood flow to the penis. 

Sources

Cavallini G, Modenini F, Vitali G, Koverech A. Acetyl-L-carnitine plus propionyl-L-carnitine improve efficacy of sildenafil in treatment of erectile dysfunction after bilateral nerve-sparing radical retropubic prostatectomy. Urology. 66.5 (2005): 1080-1085.

Chen J, Wollman Y, Chernichovsky T, Iaina A, Sofer M, Matzkin H. Effect of oral administration of high-dose nitric oxide donor L-arginine in men with organic erectile dysfunction: results of a double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled study. BJU Int. 83.3 (1999): 269-273.

Choi HK, Seong DH, Rha KH. Clinical efficacy of Korean red ginseng for erectile dysfunction. Int J Impot Res. 1995 Sep;7(3):181-6.

de Andrade E, de Mesquita AA, Claro Jde A, de Andrade PM, Ortiz V, Paranhos M, Srougi M. Study of the efficacy of Korean Red Ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Asian J Androl. 2007 Mar;9(2):241-4.

Ernst E, Pittler MH. Yohimbine for erectile dysfunction: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized clinical trials. J Urol. 1998 Feb;159(2):433-6.

Gentile V, Vicini P, Prigiotti G, Koverech A, Di Silverio F. Preliminary observations on the use of propionyl-L-carnitine in combination with sildenafil in patients with erectile dysfunction and diabetes. Curr Med Res Opin. 20.9 (2004): 1377-1384.

Kernohan, A. F., McIntyre, M., Hughes, D. M., Tam, S. W., Worcel, M., and Reid, J. L. An oral yohimbine/L-arginine combination (NMI 861) for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction: a pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic and interaction study with intravenous nitroglycerine in healthy male subjects. Br J Clin.Pharmacol. 2005;59(1):85-93.

Kim TH, Jeon SH, Hahn EJ, Paek KY, Park JK, Youn NY, Lee HL. Effects of tissue-cultured mountain ginseng (Panax ginseng CA Meyer) extract on male patients with erectile dysfunction. Asian J Androl. 2009 May;11(3):356-61. doi: 10.1038/aja.2008.32.

Klotz T, Mathers MJ, Braun M, Bloch W, Engelmann U. Effectiveness of oral L-arginine in first-line treatment of erectile dysfunction in a controlled crossover study. Urol Int. 63.4 (1999): 220-223.

Morgante, G., Scolaro, V., Tosti, C., Di, Sabatino A., Piomboni, P., and De, Leo, V. [Treatment with carnitine, acetyl carnitine, L-arginine and ginseng improves sperm motility and sexual health in men with asthenopermia]. Minerva Urol.Nefrol. 2010;62(3):213-218.

Ng, C. F., Lee, C. P., Ho, A. L., and Lee, V. W. Effect of niacin on erectile function in men suffering erectile dysfunction and dyslipidemia. J.Sex Med. 2011;8(10):2883-2893.

Vecchio M, Navaneethan SD, Johnson DW, Lucisano G, Graziano G, Saglimbene V, Ruospo M, Querques M, Jannini EA, Strippoli GF. Interventions for treating sexual dysfunction in patients with chronic kidney disease. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2010 Dec 8;(12):CD007747. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007747.pub2.

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