Many Men Suffer from Erectile Dysfunction
According to the Massachusetts Male Aging Study, a little over half of men experience erectile dysfunction (ED). At age 40, about 40 percent struggle with the condition, and by 70 years old, about 70 percent of men have ED.
Standard treatments include pharmaceutical medications, pumps, implants, and surgery, but many men prefer natural options. Fortunately, scientific research has found that some natural options are effective at improving symptoms of ED.
What Is Erectile Dysfunction?
Also called “impotence,” erectile dysfunction is a condition in which a man is unable to achieve or sustain an erection during sexual performance. Symptoms may also include reduced sexual desire or libido.
These kinds of issues can happen at any time, to any man mainly because of fatigue, stress, relationship issues, or even alcohol consumption. However, if the condition lasts for more than a few weeks or months, your doctor is likely to diagnose it as true ED, and will recommend treatments.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
A number of different factors can increase your risk of ED. Since attaining an erection involves the brain, hormones, muscles, and blood vessels, a problem with any of these can block the normal functioning of the penis.
Some common causes of ED include:
- heart disease
- multiple sclerosis
- tobacco use
A 2007 study found that persistent alcohol use induced ED as well. Seventy-two percent of men diagnosed with alcohol dependence syndrome were also diagnosed with sexual dysfunction, including premature ejaculation and ED.
Why You Need to See Your Doctor
ED may be a sign of additional health problems, so it’s important to check with your doctor. For example, if you have heart disease, lowering your cholesterol, reducing your weight, or taking medications to open up your blood vessels will likely improve both your heart health and your ED.
If other health issues aren’t found to be the cause of your ED, your doctor will likely prescribe some common treatments. However, you may also choose natural options.
Common Treatments for ED: Medications
Standard treatments for ED include lifestyle changes, such as exercising, losing weight, stopping smoking, or curbing alcohol intake. Medications like Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra increase blood flow to the penis, but can cause nasal congestion, headache, upset stomach, and vision changes. Men who have experienced a stroke, have uncontrolled diabetes, or suffer low blood pressure should not take ED medications.
Testosterone replacement and erection-inducing injections are also available, but side effects may include acne, breast enlargement, increased urination, aching in the penis, and scarring.
Common Treatments for ED: Non-Drug Options
Non-drug treatments for ED include penis pumps, penile implants, and blood vessel surgery. A pump is used right before intercourse to pull blood into the penis. However, this method can cause bruising. Implants must be surgically inserted into the penis, but then can be inflated when necessary. Risks include those typically associated with surgery, such as infections.
Blood vessel surgery is recommended only when leaking vessels cause ED. Even though all these methods may help some men, natural alternatives can be just as effective, but less invasive.
Natural Solution #1 and #2: Panax Ginseng and Rhodiola Rosea
Called the “herbal Viagra,” Panax ginseng (“red ginseng”) has solid research behind it. In 2008, researchers reviewed seven studies of red ginseng and ED. Dosages ranged from 600 to 1,000 mg three times daily. They concluded there was “suggestive evidence for the effectiveness of red ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.”
One small study published in 2005 also indicated Rhodiola rosea may be helpful. Twenty-six out of 35 men were given 150 to 200 mg a day for three months, and experienced substantially improved sexual function.
Natural Solution #3: DHEA
A natural hormone produced by the adrenal glands, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) can be converted to both estrogen and testosterone in the body. Scientists make the dietary supplement from wild yam and soy.
The Massachusetts Male Aging Study showed that men with ED were more likely to have low levels of DHEA. Forty men with ED participated in another study published in 1999, in which half received 50 mg DHEA and half received a placebo once a day for 6 months. Those receiving the DHEA were more likely to achieve and sustain an erection.
Natural Solution #4: L-Arginine
An amino acid naturally present in the body, L-arginine helps make nitric oxide, which relaxes blood vessels to support a successful erection. In 1999, researchers studied men with ED. Thirty-one percent of those taking 5 grams a day of L-arginine experienced significant improvements in sexual function.
A second study published in 2003 showed that L-arginine (1.7 grams/day) combined with pycnogenol, a plant product from tree bark (40 mg, 2 to 3 times a day), restored sexual ability to 80 percent of participants after two months, and to 92.5 percent after three months.
Natural Solution #5: Acupuncture
Though studies are mixed, many show positive results when acupuncture is used to treat ED. A 1999 study, for example, found that acupuncture improved the quality of erection and restored sexual activity in 39 percent of participants.
A later study published in 2003 reported that 21.05 percent of ED patients who received acupuncture had improved erections. Other studies have shown conflicting results, but this treatment has potential and may work for you.
Other Potential Natural Treatments
Other alternative therapies for thought to help ED may include zinc supplements (especially for men who are low in zinc), the herb ashwagandha (also called Indian ginseng), and gingko, but more studies are needed to know for sure.
In the meantime, talk with your doctor about your options, and don’t give up. ED is a common condition that is very treatable, and with some trial and error, you’re likely to find what works for you and your partner.