What is Erectile Dysfunction?
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability to achieve or sustain a penile erection for satisfactory sexual performance. ED can cause emotional distress by negatively impacting intimate relationships, self-esteem, and quality of life.
Maintaining an erection requires coordination between multiple body systems, therefore dysfunction can be caused by several factors: cardiovascular disease, decline in hormone levels, diabetes, and some medications, as well as psychological disorders like depression, can all contribute to ED.
Natural interventions such as Kaempferia parviflora and L-arginine may improve erectile function and male sexual health.
What are the Causes and Risk Factors for Erectile Dysfunction?
- Cardiovascular disease
- Men with ED should discuss screening for cardiovascular disease with their doctor, as the two conditions are often linked.
- Hormonal imbalance
- Low testosterone is often associated with ED. Men with ED should consider having a blood test for total and free testosterone.
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Psychological factors (eg, depression, anxiety, stress, low self-esteem, and others)
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for Erectile Dysfunction?
- Phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) inhibitors such as sildenafil (Viagra), vardenafil (Levitra), and tadalafil (Cialis)
- Intracavernosal medications (delivered via self-injection into the penis)
- Vacuum erection devices
- Behavioral interventions (eg, group psychotherapy)
- Shock wave therapy
- Hormone therapy (testosterone and/or DHEA)
What Dietary and Lifestyle Changes Can Be Beneficial for Erectile Dysfunction?
- Exercise regularly
- Maintain a healthy body weight
- Eat a diet rich in antioxidants (eg, Mediterranean diet)
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Erectile Dysfunction?
- Kaempferia parviflora. This plant is a member of the ginger family traditionally used for improving male sexual health. Multiple clinical studies have established that Kaempferia can improve erectile function, erectile response time, penile size, and intercourse satisfaction.
- L-arginine. L-arginine is an essential amino acid that plays a significant role in erectile function by helping form nitric oxide, a vasodilator. Supplementation with L-arginine has been shown to restore erectile quality and increase sexual satisfaction. L-arginine, in combination with Pycnogenol, has also been shown to improve male sexual function.
- Epimedium. Epimedium is a genus of plants that includes over 50 distinct species, colloquially referred to as “horny goat weed.” Icariin, a component derived from one of the plants, improves erectile and sexual function when administered orally.
- Yohimbine. Yohimbine, a compound derived from the bark of the Yohimbe tree, has been used to treat erectile dysfunction for over 70 years. Clinical studies of yohimbine, alone or in combination with L-arginine, have shown improved erectile function.
- Ginseng. Ginseng, which was first used in ancient China as a treatment for ED, continues to be a popular natural aphrodisiac. Several clinical studies have shown ginseng supplementation improved erectile function and overall sexual satisfaction among men with ED.
- Maca. Maca is a root vegetable from the mustard family that can stimulate metabolism, help control body weight, increase energy, improve memory, and reduce stress and depression. Clinical studies suggest maca enhances the production of sex hormones and increases libido.
- Ginkgo biloba. The sexual benefits of ginkgo biloba were discovered serendipitously when male geriatric patients taking it for memory enhancement reported improved erections. Ginkgo biloba contributes to increased blood flow by increasing nitric oxide bioavailability to vascular smooth muscles of the penis.
- Muira Puama. Muira Puama is an herb used to enhance erectile function and orgasm in aging men. One study reported that over 60% of men who used the supplement saw improvement.
- Other natural interventions that may improve male sexual health include chrysin, carnitines, vitamin D, B vitamins, and vitamin E.
Note: Adulterated “natural” sexual health products are a serious concern. Several “natural” products have been found to contain illegal drug-like compounds. Be sure to choose high-quality supplements from trusted sources.