If you are among the estimated 30 million men in the United States who have erectile dysfunction (ED), then you might be considering trying some natural remedies for erectile dysfunction as well as making diet and lifestyle changes to improve your sexual health. Many men are turning to natural remedies for erectile dysfunction instead of the medications and other treatments for ED that are available on the market.
If you are among the growing number of men who are considering using natural treatments or making lifestyle changes, the first step is to consult with a doctor. Obtaining a professional diagnosis of erectile dysfunction is important because most cases are associated with medical conditions such as atherosclerosis, vascular disease, or diabetes. You and your doctor should know your health status before you try any natural remedies for erectile dysfunction to avoid any side effects or complications.
Natural Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction: Nutrients and Herbs
- Carnitine: Carnitine is an amino acid that plays a major role in producing energy, but it also is a key player as an erectile dysfunction treatment. In a head-to-head study comparing carnitine and testosterone in men who had low libido, depression, and fatigue, six months of treatment improved sexual performance in both groups of men, but carnitine was a more effective treatment for erectile dysfunction than was testosterone. (Cavallini) Carnitine should be used only under the supervision of a knowledgeable healthcare professional. Taking more than 3 grams daily may cause diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and a fishy body odor.
- Catuaba: The herb catuaba is derived from a tree that grows in Brazil. Three alkaloids in catuaba named catuabine A, B, and C are credited with its ability to serve as one or the natural remedies for erectile dysfunction. Although catuaba is short on scientific evidence regarding its potency for treating impotence, there are many positive anecdotal reports and a long history of its use among native peoples. A standard dose is 1 to 2 grams in capsules daily.
- Ginkgo biloba: The seeds of the ginkgo biloba tree contain terpenoids, a compound that improves blood flow, a characteristic that is important for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Scientific evidence supports claims that ginkgo produces satisfactory results, including a study published in Human Psychopharmacology, in which the researchers reported “some spectacular individual responses” among men who took the herbal remedy. (Wheatley) A standard dose for treatment of erectile dysfunction is 120 to 240 mg daily, standardized to contain 24 to 32% glycosides and 6 to 12% terpenoids.
- Ginseng: Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) has long been valued as one of the natural remedies for erectile dysfunction. A review of seven randomized clinical trials of red ginseng used to treat erectile dysfunction reported that overall, use of ginseng provided a significant benefit in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, even for men whose erection difficulties were related to psychological issues. (Jang) A suggested dose of ginseng is 200 mg twice daily, standardized for 4 to 7% ginsenosides.
- Horny goat weed: Studies of horny goat weed suggest that this herbal remedy owes its effect to a flavonoid called icariin. Research indicates icariin relaxes penile tissue by nitric oxide and by inhibiting the activity of PDE-5, which is how erectile dysfunction drugs like Viagra work. (Chen; Chiu; Shindel) Horny goat weed also reportedly enhances sexual desire. Thus far no studies have identified a safe dose of horny goat weed.
- Maca: Incan folklore has praised the ability of maca to improve sexual desire and sexual function. Maca, which belongs to the same family as broccoli and cauliflower, has proven itself in studies to be among the natural remedies for erectile dysfunction. One study, conducted at Massachusetts General Hospital, found 3,000 mg daily to be a reliable dose. (Dording) Although this dose of maca appears to be safe, it is best to consult your healthcare provider before using the herb for erectile dysfunction.
- Muira puama: The muira puama tree is the source of this herbal remedy for impotence. The stems and roots of muira puama appear to increase blood flow to the pelvic region. According to 62% of men who participated in one study of muira puama for erectile dysfunction, the herb “had a dynamic effect,” while more than half of men in another study said muira puama improved their erectile function. (Waynberg 1990, 1995) A typical dose of muira puama is 0.5 to 1.5 grams daily, but consult your healthcare provider before taking this herbal remedy.
- Tongkat ali: The tongkat ali (Eurycoma longifolia) tree is a native of the Far East and has roots that have a long history of use as a natural treatment for erectile dysfunction. Scientific studies of tongkat ali have been done in animals, and they have revealed an improvement in sexual performance and sexual arousal in rats. (Ang; Zanoli) Tongkat ali appears to work by increasing levels of testosterone. Because of this feature, it is best to talk to your healthcare provider before taking tongkat ali.
- Tribulus terrestris: The herb tribulus terrestris has been a part of traditional medicine in China and India for centuries, where it has been valued as a treatment for erectile dysfunction, low sex drive, and infertility. Animal studies indicate that tribulus terrestris raises testosterone levels and increases sexual behavior and pressure within the penis. (Gauthaman) Although studies in men have provided less convincing results, some men take tribulus terrestris as a remedy for erectile dysfunction. Because tribulus terrestris acts on hormones, consult your healthcare provider before using this herbal remedy.
Other Natural Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction
In addition to herbal supplements, there are other natural remedies for erectile dysfunction. These natural approaches are in the form of lifestyle choices. Incorporating these lifestyle habits into your routine can give you added peace of mind because you know you will be supporting your sexual health with natural remedies for erectile dysfunction.
- Pick plant protein rather than animal protein. Protein from plant sources offers all the nutrients and health benefits you need for optimal erectile function and prostate health. More on the best sources of protein for men.
- Focus on fruits and vegetables. The antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, fiber, and polyphenols provided by fruits and vegetables can promote and support prostate health and erectile function.
- Select healthy fats. Omega-3 fatty acids and monounsaturated fats should make up the majority of the fats included in an overall low-fat diet in order to support sexual health.
- Drink green tea. Catechins in green tea provide potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits that support prostate and sexual health.
- Limit alcohol. You may think having a drink or two improves your sexual performance, but it actually hinders it. If you are looking for erectile dysfunction remedies, alcohol is not one of them.
- Limit or avoid caffeine. Coffee, chocolate, energy drinks, and other sources of caffeine can irritate the prostate and affect sexual function.
- Drink pure water. Staying hydrated with pure water is essential for optimal blood circulation, which can help prevent erectile dysfunction.
- Avoid foods and additives that can harm sexual health. Some foods, supplements, additives, and nutrients can be harmful to the prostate (e.g., meat, calcium, foods high in sugar) or effect hormones and thus have a negative impact on sexual health.
- Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight or obese can be detrimental to erectile function.
- Keep exercising. Regular physical activity improves overall health, energy level, and self-esteem, all of which can be positive influences on sexual function.
- Manage stress. Stress can have a significant impact on erectile dysfunction. Chronic stress can weaken the immune system, change your hormone balance, and have a negative impact on sexual function.
- Maintain hormone balance. Erectile function depends in part on maintaining balanced hormone levels.
- Avoid constipation. Having constipation makes sexual activity and an erection less desirable. A high-fiber diet and sufficient water intake can help prevent constipation.
- Avoid injury to the perineal area. Activities that can restrict blood flow to the perineal area, such as riding a bicycle or a horse, can affect the ability to achieve and maintain an erection. Read more on injury and erectile dysfunction.
- Maintain communication with your partner. One of the best natural remedies for erectile dysfunction may be communication with your partner. Men who share their concerns and erectile dysfunction treatment program with their partner often have better results.
Erectile dysfunction can be distressing. Fortunately there are a wide variety of natural remedies for erectile dysfunction available. Men should consider all their options when looking for ways to manage erectile disorders and consult a knowledgeable professional about the risks and benefits of both medical and natural remedies for erectile dysfunction.
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Cavallini G et al. Carnitine versus androgen administration in the treatment of sexual dysfunction, depressed mood, and fatigue associated with male aging. Urology 2004 Apr; 63(4): 641-46
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Dording CM et al. A double-blind, randomized, pilot dose-finding study of maca root (L. meyenii) for the management of SSRI-induced sexual dysfunction. CNS Neurosci Ther 2008 Fall; 14(3): 182-91
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Shindel AW, et al. Erectogenic and neurotrophic effects of icariin, a purified extract of horny goat weed (Epimedium spp) in vitro and in vivo. J Sex Med 2010 Feb 5
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Zanoli P et al. Influence of Eurycoma longifolia on the copulatory activity of sexually sluggish and impotent male rats. J Ethnopharmacol 2009 Nov 12; 126(2): 308-13