Erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs when someone struggles to achieve or maintain an erection. Some evidence suggests that certain vitamins may help with ED. However, this may only be true for people with a vitamin deficiency.
Many health conditions can contribute to ED, including:
- hormonal disorders
- cardiovascular disease (CVD)
- nerve damage, which can occur due to diabetes
- anxiety or depression
- certain medications
The National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) reports that ED is also more likely to occur in older adults, people with obesity, and people who smoke.
In this article, we look at the vitamins that may help with ED. We will also look at other ED remedies.
Vitamins and minerals help the body function properly, including the reproductive system. Getting enough vitamins can improve general health. However, there is no firm evidence that specific vitamins can cure ED.
However, there are a few studies that suggest a link between specific vitamin deficiencies and ED. These include:
People with low levels of these nutrients will benefit from getting more of them. The following section looks at what the research says about the connection between certain vitamins and ED.
A 2020 meta-analysis in Nutrientsfound a direct link between vitamin D deficiency and severe ED. Another study of young men with low vitamin D status found that those with a vitamin D deficiency had worse erectile function. This suggests a link between vitamin D deficiency and ED.
However, scientists are not sure what the relationship between this vitamin and ED is. Vitamin D may reduce inflammation, improve blood flow, or stimulate nitric oxide production, which is an important part of the erectile response.
The main source of vitamin D for humans is sunlight. A person can get more vitamin D by regularly exposing their skin to the sun while using an SPF to protect the skin from UV damage. It is also possible to get some vitamin D from foods, such as:
- oily fish, such as salmon or sardines
- portobello mushrooms
- fortified milk
- fortified cereal
- egg yolk
People with vitamin D deficiency who cannot get regular sunlight may benefit from taking a vitamin D3 supplement.
Vitamin B9, or folic acid, may also play a role in ED. A 2014 study found that many participants with ED also had a folic acid deficiency.
Another 2020 study found that folic acid supplementation may be a useful part of ED treatment, with all 50 participants experiencing some improvement in their symptoms. However, the supplement did not cure ED completely.
Folic acid comes in two forms: a synthetic version that manufacturers add to food products, and folate, which is naturally-occurring and easier for some people to absorb. The following foods are rich in folate:
- greens, such as spinach, kale, brussels sprouts, and broccoli
- broccoli and asparagus
- citrus fruits and bananas
- beans, peas, lentils, and other legumes
A person can also find the synthetic form of vitamin B9 in fortified cereals.
Vitamin B3, or niacin, may also improve erectile function. A 2011 study found that niacin alone could improve symptoms in people with moderate to severe ED. The following foods are rich in vitamin B3:
- meat, such as turkey, chicken, pork, and beef
- brown rice
A 2017 review says that vitamin C helps improve blood flow and increase testosterone, both of which are important for sexual function. However, there is no evidence that vitamin C supplements can improve ED.
However, it is a good idea to get an adequate amount of vitamin C every day. Foods that contain vitamin C include:
- greens, such as broccoli, brussels sprouts, spinach, cabbage, and cauliflower
- sweet potatoes
- thyme and parsley
- guava and citrus fruits
- red and green peppers
General physical and mental health has a significant impact on ED. As such, making lifestyle changes may also benefit a person’s symptoms. These changes could include:
Diet and exercise
A 2019 review notes that obesity is associated with a 40% increased risk of ED. Maintaining a moderate weight through eating a balanced diet and getting physical exercise is a key way to reduce the symptoms or progression of ED.
This may also help when managing underlying conditions that can contribute to ED, such as diabetes or hypertension.
According to a 2017 review, chronic stress can cause ED. This may occur because stress reduces blood flow to the penis, reducing the firmness or duration of erections. Learning to manage and relieve stress may help ED.
ED itself can also cause stress or anxiety. Someone with persistent worries or a low mood can speak to a doctor or therapist for support.
Smoking can damage blood vessels and decrease blood flow. A 2020 study found that erectile function was directly proportional to participants’ exposure to tobacco smoke, and that quitting smoking improved sexual function in males between 30–60.
Some people use herbs and other complementary therapies for ED. While companies market many herbs and supplements as ED remedies, only a few have scientific evidence to show they work. A few examples include:
- Ginseng: A small study on 52 participants found that ginseng and vitamin E improved ED scores over 6 weeks.
- Arginine: A systemic review from 2019 found evidence that arginine may help with mild to moderate ED when compared to a placebo or no treatment. However, 8.3% of the participants experienced side effects.
- Acupuncture: According to a 2019 meta-analysis, acupuncture at key acupoints may improve nerve sensitivity and promote blood circulation.
Researchers will need to study these approaches further to prove they are safe and effective treatments and understand how they work.
It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate herbal supplements, and some may not be safe. During a 2004 investigation, the FDA found that numerous products companies marketed as “natural” ED remedies contained undisclosed or illegal drugs.
People should always discuss any supplements they take with their doctor before trying them.
Some people may find it difficult to talk about ED. However, understanding the cause of ED is the best way of finding a treatment or approach that helps. If someone has persistent difficulty maintaining an erection, they can speak to a doctor for advice on their treatment options.
ED is a common condition with a range of possible causes. A person may find that getting enough vitamins and minerals improves their health, but there is no evidence that vitamins can cure ED.
Vitamins B3, B9, D, and C are particularly important for male sexual health. A person can usually get these vitamins through safe sun exposure and a balanced diet.