Do Herbal Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction Work?
There’s a wide variety of herbal remedies on the market to treat erectile dysfunction. Their manufacturers often promote them as “natural Viagra” or “herbal Viagra” and claim that they can improve sexual potency, just as the drug of the same name (sildenafil) does. But do they really work?
The truth of the matter is that it’s quite a controversial topic, as some claim they do and others claim they don’t. Moreover, while some of these supplements contain ingredients that do have a positive effect, others are doubtful and may have hidden contaminants.
Meanwhile, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not approve or regulate their use, so it’s difficult to know which are quality and which aren’t. Also, that’s not to mention the fact that the evidence on their properties is still limited. Do you want to know more about it? Here are all the details!
What is erectile dysfunction, and what causes it?
Erectile dysfunction (ED), also called “male sexual impotence,” is the inability to achieve or maintain a firm penile erection for satisfactory sexual intercourse. Although this can occur on an occasional basis, it’s considered pathological when it persists for 6 or more months.
According to information shared at the National Center for Biotechnology Information, it’s more common in men over the age of 40. In fact, age and the presence of some diseases increase their risk.
Thus, its occurrence is linked to the following factors:
- Diabetes mellitus
- Endothelial dysfunction
- Hormonal disorders
- Muscular disorders
- Cardiovascular diseases
- Nervous system disorders
- Psychological problems (cultural expectations, loss of self-esteem, embarrassment, anxiety, and depression)
Like this article? You may also like to read: How a Man’s Diet Impacts His Quality of Sperm
Is it a good idea to treat erectile dysfunction with herbal remedies?
Since there are many possible triggers of erectile dysfunction, medical consultation is essential to get adequate treatment. Once the diagnosis is made, the practitioner will indicate an approach for the underlying condition.
After doing this, he or she may suggest specific medications to stimulate penile erection. Of these, the best known is sildenafil (Viagra®), but there are other options, such as tadalafil, vardenafil, and avanafil. Testosterone replacement therapies, penis pumps, and surgeries can also help.
So, is it a good idea to use herbal remedies? Well, many may consider it a viable option.
Several formulations of these supplements are helpful in relaxing blood vessel walls and improving circulation. In doing so, they improve erection.
The problem is that there is not enough evidence on the safe and effective doses of these products. Some even induce a decrease in blood pressure, which is dangerous in men already taking prescription nitrate, for example.
In addition to the above, given the lack of regulation and control in their manufacturing process, some products may contain contaminating substances that lead to mild to serious side effects. That is why they are not considered a first-choice treatment.
Types of herbal remedies for erectile dysfunction
In online stores or herbalists, many herbal supplements claim to treat erectile dysfunction. However, by no means should they replace conventional treatment. In case of opting for any of them, they should be merely a complement to other treatments.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is often used in oriental medicine as a natural energizer. According to a review published in the Cochrane Library: Cochrane Reviews, this plant may have positive effects in the management of erectile dysfunction. In addition, it also appears to improve satisfaction with sexual intercourse.
Other possible benefits include the following:
- Stress reduction
- Better physical performance
- More mental concentration
- General sense of well-being
Yohimbine is an indole alkaloid obtained from the bark of the Pausinystalia johimbe tree, which usually grows in Africa. In folk medicine, it’s one of the most widely used herbal remedies against erectile dysfunction and other sexual problems.
In particular, it’s believed to provide the following benefits:
- Stimulate penile erection
- Increase libido
- Prolong erections
- Increase energy
- Stimulate adrenaline
- Dilate blood vessels and improve circulation
In relation to this, a meta-analysis reported in Turkish Journal of Urology determined that yohimbine supplementation and its combination with other treatments does indeed improve erectile function. In turn, a small investigation in Pharmacognosy Reviews reported that men who received this supplement were able to ejaculate and reach orgasm after completing the treatment.
In any case, more research is required to corroborate its efficacy and safety. There are also concerns about the side effects of adrenaline stimulation from the consumption of this plant:
- Sleep problems
- Increased blood pressure
In several South American cultures, especially in Peru, maca (Lepidium meyenii) is recognized as one of the best herbal remedies for dealing with erectile dysfunction. Its intake increases energy level and provides essential nutrients such as iodine, magnesium, and amino acids.
In relation to this, a research through BMC Complementary Medicine and Therapies reported that a combination of maca extract and Chinese chives (Allium tuberosum Rottl.) was helpful in improving male sexual function.
In turn, a study shared in 2013 revealed that men who consumed maca extract for 8 weeks had an improvement in sexual desire. As in the above cases, however, more evidence is still needed.
In traditional medicine, another popular supplement against sexual problems is the ginkgo biloba. Its high flavonoid content is associated with improved blood flow to the penis, which can help to improve erections.
To date, studies supporting these effects are limited. In animal research reported in the journal Urology, ginkgo biloba helped improve erectile function in rats after nerve injury. However, human trials are lacking to corroborate these same effects.
In another study shared through Human Psychopharmacology, it was determined that this supplement can improve sexual function in men taking antidepressants. However, more recent and stronger evidence is needed.
Cnidium monnieri belongs to the apiaceae family. It’s a medicinal plant that is often used to increase male sexual performance and combat erectile dysfunction.
According to research reported in Translational Andrology and Urology , it has an active substance called osthol, which is a coumarin with a vasodilator effect. This contributes to the release of nitric oxide and to the relaxation of the smooth muscle of the corpus cavernosum, which allows the erection to be firmer and more powerful.
Doses of 5 grams daily are suggested. However, scientific evidence to prove its efficacy is lacking.
Tribulus terrestris belongs to the Zygophyllaceae family. In a randomized controlled trial reported in Integrative Medicine Alert , this plant exhibited positive effects in the treatment of erectile dysfunction when 500 mg of supplementation was given 3 times daily for 12 weeks.
However, results on its effects are mixed. Via Actas Urológicas Españolas it was reported that “Tribulus terrestris was no more effective than placebo in improving symptoms of erectile dysfunction or total serum testosterone.”
White ginger (Mondia whitei) is a folk remedy used in the treatment of low sexual desire and erectile dysfunction. A report shared in Pharmacognosy Reviews compared its effects to those of Viagra®, as it increased nitric oxide production and erections. In addition, it was associated with balanced testosterone levels.
The risks of herbal remedies for erectile dysfunction
Some believe that herbal remedies for erectile dysfunction are better simply because they’re natural. There’s a misconception that they don’t cause side effects because of this.
However, this is not the case. There are potential risks to consider before using these supplements.
Due to their lack of regulation by bodies such as the FDA, some may contain traces of toxic chemicals. Also, their components may cause drug interactions or unwanted reactions, especially in patients with chronic diseases.
It’s important to avoid taking them in the following cases:
- Renal insufficiency
- Recent or upcoming surgeries
- Hepatic insufficiency
- Cardiovascular diseases
- People who are receiving treatment with anticoagulants
Are there natural ways to treat erectile dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction problems should be addressed by medical professionals, such as a general practitioner, urologist, or endocrinologist. After making the diagnosis, they will determine an appropriate approach.
In general, some natural strategies are suggested to cope with this condition, such as the following:
- Regular physical exercise
- Getting a psychological consultation to reduce sexual anxiety or any emotional problem that may result in this situation
- Adopting a healthy diet, abundant in omega 3 fatty acids, proteins, vitamins, and minerals
- Limiting your consumption of processed foods
- Reducing your stress
- Losing weight (in the case of being overweight or obese)
- Limiting your consumption of alcohol, tobacco, and other toxic substances
We think you may be interested in reading this, too: How to Interpret the Results of a Spermogram
What to remember about herbal remedies for erectile dysfunction?
Although there are a wide variety of herbal supplements on the market that promise to help relieve erectile dysfunction, the truth is that there’s still not enough evidence to prove their safety and efficacy.
For this reason, they’re not the most recommended option to address this condition. Instead, it’s best to consult a physician to evaluate your case individually and choose effective treatments.It might interest you...
All cited sources were thoroughly reviewed by our team to ensure their quality, reliability, currency, and validity. The bibliography of this article was considered reliable and of academic or scientific accuracy.
- Sooriyamoorthy T, Leslie SW. Erectile Dysfunction. [Updated 2022 Feb 14]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2022 Jan-. Available from: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK562253/
- Beware of Contaminated “All-natural” Erectile Dysfunction Products. (08/25/2015). U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Available in https://www.fda.gov/consumers/health-fraud-scams/beware-contaminated-all-natural-erectile-dysfunction-products
- Lee HW, Lee MS, Kim TH, et al. Ginseng for erectile dysfunction. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021;4(4):CD012654. Published 2021 Apr 19. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD012654.pub2
- Wibowo DNSA, Soebadi DM, Soebadi MA. Yohimbine as a treatment for erectile dysfunction: A systematic review and meta-analysis. Turk J Urol. 2021 Nov;47(6):482-488. doi: 10.5152/tud.2021.21206. PMID: 35118966.
- Kotta S, Ansari SH, Ali J. Exploring scientifically proven herbal aphrodisiacs. Pharmacogn Rev. 2013;7(13):1-10. doi:10.4103/0973-7847.112832
- Zhang, Yi et al. “Effects of combined extracts of Lepidium meyenii and Allium tuberosum Rottl. on erectile dysfunction.” BMC complementary and alternative medicine vol. 19,1 135. 18 Jun. 2019, doi:10.1186/s12906-019-2542-4
Wu YN, Liao CH, Chen KC, Liu SP, Chiang HS. Effect of Ginkgo biloba Extract (EGb-761) on Recovery of Erectile Dysfunction in Bilateral Cavernous Nerve Injury Rat Model. Urology. 2015 May;85(5):1214.e7-1214.e15. doi: 10.1016/j.urology.2015.01.026. Epub 2015 Mar 13. PMID: 25772481.
- Kang BJ, Lee SJ, Kim MD, Cho MJ. A placebo-controlled, double-blind trial of Ginkgo biloba for antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction. Hum Psychopharmacol. 2002 Aug;17(6):279-84. doi: 10.1002/hup.409. PMID: 12404672.
- Kiefer, D. Tribulus: An RCT Supporting Its Use for Erectile Dysfunction. Integrative Medicine Alert. 2017, October 1, https://www.reliasmedia.com/articles/141517-tribulus-an-rct-supporting-its-use-for-erectile-dysfunction
- Santos CA Jr, Reis LO, Destro-Saade R, Luiza-Reis A, Fregonesi A. Tribulus terrestris versus placebo in the treatment of erectile dysfunction: A prospective, randomized, double blind study. Actas Urol Esp. 2014 May;38(4):244-8. English, Spanish. doi: 10.1016/j.acuro.2013.09.014. Epub 2014 Mar 14. PMID: 24630840.