Vitamins, amino acids, and herbs may help reduce erectile dysfunction (ED) symptoms, though more research is needed to support their use. Ask your doctor before trying such treatments.
It’s estimated that erectile dysfunction (ED) will affect 322 million men worldwide by 2025 (
ED is characterized as a symptom, not a condition. Though it has many causes, the most common are health conditions such as diabetes, sleep disorders, and heart disease and lifestyle habits such as smoking and alcohol misuse (2).
You cannot prevent some causes of ED, such as aging. However, research suggests that a healthy lifestyle can lower the risk of ED. For example, maintaining a moderate body weight through physical activity has been associated with lower rates of ED (
Though ED is treatable with prescription medications or medical procedures, there has been an increased interest in alternative remedies to reduce ED symptoms.
In particular, many people may wonder whether certain supplements and vitamins are effective. This article tells you which supplements and vitamins may help manage ED.
Though there’s no conclusive data to support taking supplements to treat ED, some research suggests that certain vitamins and herbal remedies may reduce ED symptoms.
Vitamin D is one of the most studied vitamins in treating ED. It’s a steroid hormone that has been linked with sexual function and cardiovascular health.
One 2020 analysis showed a significant association between low vitamin D levels and ED severity. This suggests that low levels may make symptoms worse compared with adequate vitamin D levels (5).
A 2016 study of 92 males with type 2 diabetes showed higher rates of ED and more severe ED symptoms in those with low vitamin D levels than in those with adequate levels (
Other studies have also shown an association between vitamin D deficiency and ED (
One 2019 analysis showed no significant association between vitamin D deficiency and ED. However, the authors suggested that ED symptoms may be heightened in those who have chronic health conditions such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease in addition to low vitamin D levels (
It’s believed that vitamin D may support ED by improving blood flow to the penis and supporting the production of sex hormones such as testosterone. While this theory is promising, more research is needed to confirm it (10, 11).
If you or a loved one suspects a vitamin D deficiency, you can ask a healthcare professional to check your levels. For most people, vitamin D levels can be easily balanced with a vitamin D supplement.
Red ginseng, or panax ginseng, is also known as “herbal Viagra” as a result of its ability to help with ED.
Red ginseng contains compounds called ginsenosides, which may help relax smooth muscle in the penis to support an erection. Plus, it’s believed to improve cardiovascular risk factors commonly associated with ED (12).
One 2018 analysis showed significant improvements in International Index of Erectile Dysfunction (IIEF) scores in people who used red ginseng, compared with a placebo. There were also significant improvements in erectile function and sexual satisfaction (
A 2021 review showed minor improvements in ED symptoms, but the authors suggested that the effects may not be clinically relevant (12).
That said, more research is needed.
L-arginine is a naturally occurring amino acid that increases nitric oxide production, which can help stimulate an erection.
One 2019 analysis showed that supplementing with 1,500–5,000 milligrams (mg) of L-arginine led to significant improvements in IIEF scores. The authors concluded that L-arginine may be effective in treating mild to moderate ED (
A 2020 study showed similar improvements in ED when L-arginine was used by itself or combined with tadalafil (
L-carnitine is an amino acid derivative that supports fat metabolism, sperm production, and cardiovascular health. It may support ED by improving penile blood flow (
In a 2022 study in rats, researchers found that L-carnitine enabled nerve recovery, prevented penile scarring, and improved penile erection (
A 2019 study suggested that people who do not respond to sildenafil (Viagra) might have low L-carnitine and vitamin D levels, meaning supplementation may improve the medication’s effectiveness (
While this is promising, more clinical research is needed before L-carnitine can be recommended as a stand-alone remedy.
Tribulus terrestris is a small, leafy plant that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine and Ayurvedic medicine as an aphrodisiac. Research on it is mixed (19).
In a randomized, double-blind study in 2017, researchers saw significant improvements in IIEF scores after supplementing with Tribestan (Tribulus terrestris, 1,500 mg per day) for 12 weeks. They suggested that it may be an effective option to treat mild to moderate ED (
A 2016 review suggested that although research on Tribulus terrestris in treating ED is inconclusive, it may provide modest improvements in symptoms. The authors concluded that more human trials are needed (
However, a 2022 study in older males with partial androgen deficiency did find more robust evidence that Tribulus terrestris can help elevate testosterone levels and improve sexual function (
While these remedies may help reduce ED symptoms, it’s important to speak with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement to make sure it’s a good option for you and will not interact with any medications you may be taking.
Certain supplements, such as vitamin D, red ginseng, L-alanine, L-carnitine, and Tribulus terrestris, may be beneficial for ED treatment. That said, more research is needed.
Though some causes of ED, such as aging and neurological conditions, are not preventable, you or a loved one may be able to improve sexual health by making certain lifestyle changes.
In particular, these factors contribute to ED (
Smoking damages blood vessels throughout the body, reducing their ability to dilate and send blood to the penis to produce an erection (
Smoking, obesity, physical inactivity, and alcohol misuse are all associated with an increased risk of chronic conditions that may result in ED, such as metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, and heart disease (
Stress and mental health difficulties are also associated with ED. Therefore, finding positive coping mechanisms and working with a trained mental health professional may be helpful (
If you or a loved one is still living with ED after making these lifestyle changes, you can talk with a healthcare professional who specializes in this area. They can go over the many available treatment options.
Some lifestyle factors are highly associated with ED, including smoking, alcohol misuse, physical inactivity, and stress. Therefore, making certain lifestyle changes may reduce ED symptoms.
ED affects millions of people worldwide. While effective medications and medical interventions are available, some people may seek alternative remedies to treat or reduce ED symptoms.
Some research supports supplementing with vitamin D, red ginseng, L-alanine, L-carnitine, and Tribulus terrestris to treat mild to moderate ED. In some cases, supplements may also improve the effectiveness of ED medications such as Viagra.
While promising, research into vitamins and supplements to treat ED is still in its infancy. This means more research is needed before these supplements can be recommended as stand-alone treatments.
If you or a loved one wants to try using supplements to help with ED, it’s best to talk with a healthcare professional first.