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“Herbal” or “natural Viagra” is a name given to a variety of supplements by their manufacturers. They’re sold for the purpose of improving erectile function or sexual desire in people with a penis.

Some of these supplements contain ingredients that may be beneficial for erectile function and erectile dysfunction (ED). However, despite labeling, you may not know what is in the supplements you’re taking.

Many of these supplements contain hidden ingredients or contaminants. Unlike prescription medications for ED such as Viagra, Cialis, and Levitra, these supplements are not Food and Drug Administration approved for ED.

The FDA also doesn’t test supplements for purity or quality like it does for drugs. Supplements have not gone through rigorous human trials, either.

The search for a cure for erectile dysfunction (ED) dates back way before the introduction of Viagra in the 1990s. Natural aphrodisiacs, from ground rhinoceros horn to chocolate, have long been used to increase libido, potency, or sexual pleasure. These natural remedies are also popular because they’re said to have fewer side effects than prescribed medications.

Research shows that certain herbs have varying degrees of success for ED. These herbs include:

  • Panax ginseng
  • maca
  • yohimbine
  • ginkgo
  • Mondia whitei

Read on to discover what studies say about these herbs and how they might treat ED.

ED is often a symptom, instead of a condition. An erection is a result of complex multisystem processes in the body. Sexual arousal involves interaction between your:

  • penis
  • nervous system
  • muscles
  • hormones
  • emotions

A health condition like diabetes or stress can affect these parts and their functions in the body, causing ED. Atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries) is a leading cause of ED, especially in men over 50.

Physical or psychological? Take the erection self-test

In some instances, products labeled as “herbal” or “natural Viagra” may help ED by relaxing the walls of blood vessels, which improves blood flow.

But since the dosage of the herbs they contain is not prescribed, these supplements can cause very low blood pressure to occur. This can be dangerous, especially for people who take prescription nitrate.

There’s also the risk of ingesting dangerous, unlisted ingredients or contaminants that can cause gastric distress and other side effects.

In some instances, herbal Viagra has been found to contain undisclosed prescription medications and substances like amphetamines. These may cause side effects or interactions with drugs your doctor has prescribed to you.

For example, the FDA has issued a warning against Herb Viagra because it was found to contain undisclosed sildenafil. Sildenafil is the active ingredient in prescription Viagra.

That said, there are herbs that may have benefits for reducing or eliminating ED. Read on to find out about specific herbs which may work for you.

According to claims from some supplement manufacturers and health food store owners, certain herbal supplements and health foods may increase sexual potency with fewer side effects than prescribed medications. They may also be less expensive.

Herbal treatments for ED have little scientific research to back up the claims, and there’s no uniform method for testing their effectiveness. Most results from human trials rely on self-evaluation, which can be subjective and difficult to interpret.

Always talk with your doctor before trying supplements, as they may interact with medications you’re already taking. Many supplements are also known to interact negatively with alcohol. Your doctor will be able to make recommendations based on your condition.

You should also talk with a licensed or certified herbal medicine specialist, such as a doctor of oriental medicine (DOM) or acupuncturist, before taking certain supplements. They’ll be able to help you choose the most appropriate supplement and dosage for you.

Panax ginseng, a Chinese and Korean herb

Panax ginseng has a 2,000-year history in Chinese and Korean medicine as a tonic for health and longevity. People take the roots of this ginseng, also called Korean red ginseng, for ED as well as:

  • stamina
  • concentration
  • stress
  • overall well-being

It may also improve:

  • penile rigidity
  • girth
  • duration of erection
  • improved libido
  • overall satisfaction

P. ginseng works as an antioxidant, releasing nitric oxide (NO) that helps erectile functions. Some people use a P. ginseng cream for premature ejaculation.

This plant is considered a safe treatment, but should be only used on a short-term basis (6 to 8 weeks). Your doctor can confirm the length of time for usage with you. The most common side effect of ginseng is insomnia.

Ginseng can interact negatively with alcohol, caffeine, and some medications. Ask your doctor about how often you can take P. ginseng if you’re planning to use it.

Shop for P. ginseng supplements.

Maca, the root vegetable from Peru

For overall health benefits, maca is a great addition to your diet. Maca, or Lepidium meyenii, is rich in:

  • amino acids
  • iodine
  • iron
  • magnesium

There are three types of maca: red, black, and yellow. Black maca may alleviate stress, which can cause ED.

The health claims for maca are not supported by scientific evidence. Eating this root may, however, have a placebo effect.

Men who took 3 grams of maca per day for 8 weeks reported an improvement in sexual desire more often than men who didn’t take it.

While maca is generally safe, studies do show elevated blood pressure in people with heart conditions who took 0.6 grams of maca per day.

Shop for maca supplements.

Yohimbine, a West African tree bark

Yohimbine comes from the bark of a West African evergreen tree. People have used yohimbine as a treatment for ED because it’s believed to:

  • activate the penile nerves to release more NO
  • widen the blood vessels to increase blood flow in the penis
  • stimulate the pelvic nerve and boost adrenaline supply
  • increase sexual desire
  • prolong erections

Studies on the effects of yohimbine have mixed results. One meta-analysis of multiple studies found that yohimbine was effective for ED only when combined with other treatments.

Another study found that 16 out of 29 men were able to reach orgasm and ejaculate after completing their treatment.

A combination of yohimbine and L-arginine is shown to significantly improve erectile function in people with ED. L-arginine is an amino acid that helps expand blood vessels. It’s regarded as safe and effective for ED but can cause side effects like nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Avoid taking L-arginine with Viagra, nitrates, or any high blood pressure medications.

If you have hypertension, coronary artery disease, diabetes, benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH), or renal/liver disease and you would like to take yohimbine, discuss with your doctor so that they can monitor you.

While some tests have shown positive results, yohimbine’s adrenaline effects can cause side effects that include:

  • headaches
  • sweating
  • agitation
  • hypertension
  • insomnia

Talk with your doctor before taking yohimbine, especially if you’re also taking antidepressants or stimulant medications.

Shop for yohimbine supplements.

Mondia whitei, roots of an African plant

Mondia whitei, also known as White’s ginger, is particularly popular in Uganda, where medicinal plants are more common than medication. It’s used to increase libido and manage low sperm count.

Studies suggest that M. whitei may be similar to Viagra in that it increases the following:

  • sexual desire
  • human sperm motility
  • testosterone levels
  • nitric oxide production and erections

Ginkgo biloba, herb from a Chinese tree

Ginkgo biloba may increase blood flow to the penis. An animal study found that ginkgo biloba helped improve erectile function in rats after a nerve injury. While more research is needed, researchers speculate that this herb may be beneficial for restoring erectile function after surgery for prostate cancer.

Another study saw improvement in sexual function in men who were on antidepressant medication. This is why researchers believe that ginkgo may be effective for men who are experiencing ED due to medication.

But some studies also report no improvement or differences after taking ginkgo. This may mean that ginkgo is better for ED management than as a treatment or cure.

In the study where men reported a positive response, the participants took 40- or 6- milligram capsules twice a day for 4 weeks. They were also on antidepressant medication.

Talk with your doctor if you’re considering ginkgo supplements. It can cause stomach upset. Your risk of bleeding may increase, especially if you’re on blood thinning medications like warfarin.

Shop for ginkgo supplements.

Other herbs reported to treat ED

These herbs have shown a pro-erectile effect in animals like rabbits and rats:

Always talk with your doctor before trying a new herbal supplement. These herbs in particular have little scientific evidence of their effect in people. They may also interact with your medications or cause unintended side effects.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any of these herbs as a medical treatment. Many herbs come from other countries and may be contaminated by pollutants from soil or poor factory conditions. They also aren’t as well-studied or tested as prescription medication like Viagra. Always buy your supplements from a reputable source.

The FDA also warns men against purchasing supplements and creams that advertise themselves as the “herbal Viagra.” Herbal Viagra is banned because it can contain undeclared prescription medications or harmful ingredients that may cause severe side effects. In most cases, the harmful substances aren’t listed in the ingredients.

Consult your doctor before purchasing any over-the-counter or online ED treatments.

Viagra and other ED medications are generally safe to take unless you have cardiovascular disease. This is because ED medications cause the arteries throughout the body to expand. Low blood pressure can result, even in people without heart disease.

Viagra comes in multiple strengths. You and your doctor will discuss the benefits and risks of taking ED pills, as well as the dosage that’s safe for you. Always take your medications according to their directions, and do not share your meds with others.

Viagra can cause other side effects that range from mild to serious. These include:

  • erections that last for more than 4 hours (priapism)
  • insomnia
  • headache
  • heartburn
  • changes in color vision
  • sudden vision loss
  • sudden hearing loss
  • fainting
  • chest pain
  • rash

Your doctor can help identify the underlying cause and prescribe the appropriate treatment. Treating an underlying condition is the first step to treating your ED.

Treatments your doctor may prescribe if your ED persists include:

  • prescription medication or injections
  • penis suppository
  • testosterone replacement
  • a penis pump (vacuum erection device)
  • a penile implant
  • blood vessel surgery

Find Roman ED medication online.

Lifestyle treatments include:

  • sexual anxiety counseling
  • psychological counseling
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • eating more fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and omega-3 fatty acids
  • avoiding processed foods
  • reducing stress
  • reducing tobacco and alcohol use
  • acupuncture
  • avoiding exposure to pesticides, chemicals, and endocrine disruptors

Make an appointment with your doctor if you have other symptoms accompanying ED, or if your ED is affecting your quality of life. It’s important to mention any supplements you’re interested in during your visit.

Don’t forget to tell your doctor about any symptoms that you may be experiencing or feeling due to ED. These details can help your doctor find the right treatment, especially if there’s an underlying condition causing your ED. If this is the case, you may not need herbal supplements.

Foods and lifestyle habits for ED.