Erectile dysfunction (ED) is the inability of a man to achieve an erection suitable for sexual intercourse. The condition can be difficult for a man to deal with because it can cause embarrassment and insecurity due to an inability to perform sexually.
Fortunately for men with ED, there are a number of medications, treatments, and therapies that may prevent ED from becoming a long-term condition.
The most common natural remedies for ED include those derived from plants and herbs, which some cultures have used for many years. Although there have been very few studies conducted on the safety of these natural remedies, some of them have been found to have side effects that vary from mild to severe.
Ginkgo may work as a natural remedy for erectile dysfunction as it may increase blood flow to the penis.
Some natural remedies include:
- L-arginine: Some evidence suggests high doses of L-arginine improve erectile dysfunction by helping blood vessels to open wider, which improves blood flow to the penis. Side effects are generally considered mild but may include cramps, diarrhea, and nausea. L-arginine should not be taken with Viagra, a prescription drug that treats ED.
- Propionyl-L-carnitine: Some studies show that propionyl-L-carnitine, when combined with Viagra, could improve erectile function better than when taking Viagra alone. Propionyl-L-carnitine is generally considered safe when used under supervision of a doctor.
- Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): There is some evidence that suggests that DHEA increases libido in women and has a positive effect on men with ED. DHEA appears to be safe at low doses, however, it may cause acne in some cases.
- Ginkgo: Ginkgo may increase blood flow to the penis, which could improve sexual desire and ED. However, this supplement might increase the risk of bleeding. People who are taking blood thinners or who have a bleeding disorder should speak to their doctor before taking gingko.
- Ginseng: There are several types of ginseng available. Many of them have been shown to have a positive effect on ED. Some forms of ginseng may have negative side effects including insomnia.
- Yohimbine: The main component of an African tree bark, yohimbine is probably one of the most problematic of all natural remedies for ED. Some research suggests that yohimbine can improve a type of sexual dysfunction that is linked with a drug used to treat depression. However, studies have linked yohimbine to a number of side effects, which can include anxiety, increased blood pressure, and a fast, irregular heartbeat. Like all natural remedies, yohimbine should only be used after advice and under supervision from a doctor.
- Horny goat weed (epimedium): Supposedly, there are substances in the leaves of this herb that improve sexual performance. Epimedium has not been studied in people, and there are some suggestions that it might affect heart function.
Certain activities or lack of activity can have an impact on ED, so before trying medications or natural remedies for ED, a man could consider making some lifestyle changes.
Some lifestyle changes to consider include:
- Exercising regularly: Regular exercise has proven to be effective in improving overall health. For ED, the improved blood pressure, blood flow, and overall health benefits may drastically reduce the risk of a man having or developing ED.
- Eating healthful food: In a similar way to exercise, eating nutritious food may help reduce the risk of heart disease, clogged arteries, and diabetes, which are known risk factors for ED.
- Quitting smoking and reducing alcohol intake: Both of these activities bring a number of potential health risks, including ED. Reducing or eliminating these activities may help stop ED problems.
- Reducing stress: A man can have issues with sexual performance if he is overly stressed. Stress can come from a variety of circumstances including work, finances, and relationship troubles. Finding ways to cope with these issues can help reduce stress and may improve ED.
- Continuing to engage in sexual activities: Stimulating sexual activities that lead to even partial erections may have a positive impact on ED. The increased blood flow to the penis may help to stimulate and improve function over time.
Alternative therapies and medications
Currently, there are few studies available to suggest the effectiveness of complementary and alternative therapies and medications. One study compared database samples of different alternative therapies and medications including acupuncture, ginseng, maca, and yohimbine.
The study indicated that there is some evidence to suggest that ginseng and yohimbine may offer some benefits to ED. However, insufficient evidence exists to prove either acupuncture or maca have a positive impact on ED.
There have been some studies to suggest that a placebo effect that improves ED may work for some men. One study found that men taking an oral placebo pill showed as much improvement in ED symptoms as men who took actual medication to improve ED. Conversely, men who were given therapeutic suggestions to improve ED did not see signs of symptom improvement.
Some of the most common medical treatments for ED are prescription medications that target the problem area and increase blood flow to the penis.
Commonly prescribed medications include Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and Vardenafil. A doctor is the best person to talk to about possible side effects, treatment, and benefits of the available medications. If a doctor thinks that a man's medication is causing the ED, they may change the medications.
Causes of ED
Drinking alcohol to excess may be a cause of erectile dysfunction.
There are a number of potential causes of ED for men of nearly all ages, but the chances of developing ED increase as a man ages.
Causes of ED can include the following:
- certain medications
- chronic illness, such as diabetes or multiple sclerosis
- excessive alcohol consumption
- poor blood flow
- chronic stress
Like many medical conditions, there is not necessarily only one means to cure or reduce symptoms of ED. For men wishing to avoid the use of medication, there are a number of lifestyle changes that can be tried first, followed by some potential natural remedies and additional therapies.
It is important for any man suffering from ED to consider lifestyle changes and talk to a doctor before starting new medications, herbal remedies, or stopping a prescription medication suspected of causing ED.