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 topa 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.
ResearchTrusted Source shows that certain herbs have varying degrees of success for ED. These herbs include:
- Panax ginseng
- Mondia whitei
What causes erectile dysfunction?
ED is often a symptom, not a condition. An erection is a result of complex multisystem processes in a man’s body. Sexual arousal involves interaction between your:
- nervous system
A condition like diabetes or stress can affect these parts and functions and can cause ED. Research shows that ED is mostly due to problems with the blood vessels. In fact, plaque buildup in the arteries causes ED in about 40 percent of men over 50 years old.
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:
- overall well-being
Clinical studies show significant improvement in:
- penile rigidity
- duration of erection
- improved libido
- overall satisfaction
In human trials, participants took 900 milligrams of P. ginseng 3 times a day for 8 weeks.
This plant is considered a safe treatment, but should be only used on a short-term basis (6 to 8 weeks). The most common side effect 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.
Yohimbine, a West African tree bark
Yohimbine comes from the bark of a West African evergreen tree. For the last 70 years, 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
One study found that 14 percent of the group that was treated with yohimbine had full-stimulated erections, 20 percent had some response, and 65 percent had no improvement. 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.
In the trials, participants received about 20 milligrams of yohimbine per day, throughout the day.
While tests have shown positive results, yohimbine’s adrenaline effects can cause side effects that include:
Talk to your doctor before taking yohimbine, especially if you are also taking antidepressants or stimulant medications.
Ginkgo biloba may increase blood flow to the penis. Researchers discovered the effect of gingko on ED when male participants in a memory enhancement study reported improved erections. Another trial saw improvement in sexual function in 76 percent of the 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 gingko 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 60 milligram capsules twice a day for four weeks. They were also on antidepressant medication.
Talk to your doctor if you’re considering ginkgo supplements. Your risk for bleeding may increase, especially if you are on blood thinning medications.