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A Natural Approach to Erectile Dysfunction that Improves Vascular Health

November 2009

By Robert Haas, MS

Icariin: Sustaining Erectile Function

Icariin is a flavonoid compound extracted from plants in the Epimedium family, which are also known as Yin Yang Huo. Chinese medicine practitioners claim that these plants produce aphrodisiac effects and help restore erectile function.

Researchers agree there is good evidence that icariin is the primary active component of Epimedium extracts. Like Viagra®, Cialis®, and Levitra®, icariin blocks the action of PDE5, the enzyme that causes erections to subside.32,39-41

Icariin enhances the production of nitric oxide in human endothelial cell culture and in animal models.42-44 Additionally, scientists have noted that icariin behaves similarly to testosterone—a significant feature, since testosterone is crucial for healthy sexual function.45 Animal research has shown that administration of Epimedium extracts improves erectile function in aged rats.46

Together, these multiple mechanisms of action suggest that icariin can help support healthy erectile function.

The Role of Nitric Oxide in Penile Erection and Vascular Health
The Role of Nitric Oxide in Penile Erection and Vascular Health

Nitric oxide (NO) is a short-lived gas that acts as a signaling molecule in the body. Among its many other functions, NO acts in concert with acetylcholine and prostaglandins as a neuro-transmitter for sexual stimulation and to dilate the small arteries in the penis that support erection.47

In addition to its role in erectile function, scientists now believe that NO deficiency may contribute to numerous degenerative diseases such as cardiovascular disease.

The arterial endothelium uses NO to signal surrounding smooth muscle cells to relax, thus dilating arteries, increasing blood flow, and maintaining normal blood pressure. NO, among its many roles, performs the following functions:

  • Relax and widen blood vessels.48
  • Facilitates the development and maintenance of erectile function.49
  • Acts as a neurotransmitter that is involved in long-term memory.50-52
  • Modulates the release of neurotransmitters.53
  • Maintain blood pressure within the normal range.54
  • Promote a healthy immune system.55
  • Play a critical role in blood clotting through its modulation of vascular tone, coagulation, fibrinolysis, and overall endothelial and vascular smooth muscle function.56

Nitric oxide can’t be taken in supplement form because it is a gas. However, nutritional ingredients such as Pycnogenol®, L-arginine aspartate, and icariin can together increase production of nitric oxide in the endothelium, and in doing so, may promote general health as well as improved erections, libido, performance, and male fertility.


Erectile dysfunction not only compromises intimate relationships; it can also be a harbinger of serious and potentially deadly cardiovascular disease.

Erectile Performance
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Scientists have found that certain nutrients not only restore erectile performance but also improve endothelial function caused by oxidative stress and diminished levels of nitric oxide. Studies and clinical trials have shown that these nutrients can potentially reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and erectile dysfunction.

In addition to their ability to correct erectile dysfunction, these nutrients have been shown to improve libido and boost sperm viability, quantity, and motility, all of which significantly increase male fertility. Drugs prescribed to treat ED have no positive effect on fertility.

Individually and collectively, these nutrients promote systemic endothelial health and provide a consistent supply of compounds that can prevent and reverse erectile dysfunction. An estimated 330 million men worldwide will be facing vascular disease and erectile dysfunction in the near future. These clinically proven nutrients offer welcome benefits of vascular health and improved sexual function to millions of men and their partners.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.


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