Natural Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction

There's not much evidence showing these remedies' effectiveness

Man Sitting on Edge of Bed, Wife Consoling Him
LWA/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images

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

Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction:

So far, there's very little scientific support for the claim that any natural remedy can safely treat erectile dysfunction.

If you're considering the use of any such remedy, it's important to consult your physician first and avoid self-treating with alternative medicine. Here are ten natural remedies to consider, and what the research has (or hasn't found).

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 and bodybuilding, where it is used for protein synthesis in the body.

There have been very few studies evaluating the effectiveness of L-arginine for ED, and neither one found significant benefit, except among men with low urinary nitrate and nitrite levels.

Several studies have used a combination supplement that includes L-arginine. In one study, combining 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 followed by 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 of 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 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. The study compared testosterone undecanoate, L-carnitine, and placebo in treating male aging symptoms, including erectile dysfunction. Testosterone and the carnitines significantly improved symptoms.

Another study 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

Niacin, or vitamin B3 – found in chicken, fish, and grains — may help men with erectile dysfunction if they also have high cholesterol. Men 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. 

Read more about 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 suggest that it may be effective, but well-designed studies on the effectiveness and safety of muira puama are lacking.

Read more about 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 percent of men with ED had chronic periodontitis compared to 23 percent 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 are 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 percent 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.

Sources:

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.

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.

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.

Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen.

Continue Reading