Herbal supplements and erectile dysfunction
If you’re dealing with erectile dysfunction (ED), you may be willing to consider many treatment options. There’s no shortage of herbal supplements promising quick cures. One word of advice: Caution. Little evidence supports the use of most supplements to effectively treat ED. Still, supplements and combinations of supplements flood the market.
One of the more common supplements marketed to help treat ED is L-arginine. It’s found naturally in meat, poultry, and fish. It can also be made synthetically in a lab.
What is L-arginine?
L-arginine is an amino acid that helps make proteins. It also becomes the gas nitric oxide (NO) in the body. NO is important for erectile function because it helps blood vessels relax, so more oxygen-rich blood can circulate through your arteries. Healthy blood flow to the arteries of the penis is essential for normal erectile function.
Effectiveness of L-arginine
L-arginine has been studied extensively as a possible treatment for ED and many other conditions. The results suggest that the supplement, though generally safe and well-tolerated by most men, won’t help restore healthy erectile function. The Mayo Clinic gives L-arginine a C grade when it comes to scientific evidence of successful ED treatment.
However, L-arginine is often combined with other supplements, which have different results. Here’s what the research has to say:
L-arginine and yohimbine hydrochloride
Yohimbine hydrochloride, also known as yohimbine, is an approved treatment for ED. A 2010 study of the combination of L-arginine and yohimbine hydrochloride found the treatment shows some promise. However, the study showed that the treatment is meant only for mild to moderate ED.
L-arginine and pycnogenol
While L-arginine alone may not treat your ED, the combination of L-arginine and an herbal supplement called pycnogenol may help. A study in the Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy found that L-arginine and pycnogenol supplements helped a significant number of men ages 25 to 45 with ED achieve normal erections. The treatment also didn’t cause side effects that occur with ED medication.
Pycnogenol is a trademark name for a supplement taken from the pine bark of a tree called the Pinus pinaster. Other ingredients may include extracts from peanut skin, grape seed, and witch hazel bark.
Like any medication or supplement, L-arginine has several possible side effects. These include:
- increased risk of bleeding
- unhealthy imbalance of potassium in the body
- change in blood sugar levels
- decreased blood pressure
You should be careful about taking L-arginine if you’re also taking prescription ED drugs, such as sildenafil (Viagra) or tadalafil (Cialis). L-arginine may cause your blood pressure to drop, so if you have low blood pressure or take medications to control your blood pressure, you should avoid L-arginine or consult a doctor before trying it.
Speak with your doctor
Before taking medications or supplements, consider trying home remedies to improve erectile function. Losing weight through regular exercise and a healthy diet may help if you’re overweight or obese. Get a better idea of how your diet can improve sexual function.
If you smoke, quit. Smoking damages your blood vessels, so quit as soon as you can. Your doctor can recommend products and programs that are proven to help people quit smoking and avoid relapses.
ED is treatable with prescription medications that are taken by millions of men with few, if any, side effects. Have an open conversation with your doctor or a urologist about ED to get help and to see if your ED could be a symptom of another condition that needs your attention. Learn more about who you can talk to about ED.