Natural Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs when someone who has a penis can’t have or maintain an erection. ED happens when blood flow to the penis is limited. it is more common in people who:
- are older
- have health conditions like diabetes or high blood pressure
- have had an injury to the spinal cord, penis, or pelvis
- take medication like antidepressants or blood pressure medications
- have anxiety or stress
- are overweight
The treatment for ED depends on its cause. It may include certain prescription medications, a vacuum device, or even surgery. But lifestyle changes and other natural treatments can also help improve ED.
It is important to understand the possible risks associated with ED treatments, especially natural remedies, which the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not approved.
What are some natural remedies for treating erectile dysfunction?
There are many natural treatments for ED. They range from lifestyle changes like modifying your diet and exercise to getting mental health or relationship counseling.
It’s best to talk with your doctor before trying a new treatment on your own. They can help identify the cause of your ED and recommend effective ED treatment options, whether conventional, natural, or a combination.
Eating a balanced diet may help maintain sexual function and decrease your risk of ED.
A 2020 studyTrusted Source found that men who more strictly followed a Mediterranean diet or Alternative Healthy Eating Index 2010 diet had a lower chance of developing ED. In particular, they consumed less red or processed meat and primarily ate:
Research from 2017 similarly found that eating more fruits, vegetables, and flavonoids (compounds found in produce, coffee, and other foods) lowered the risk of ED in men ages 18 to 40.
These foods are important for your overall health, so helping maintain or improve your sexual function as well is a win-win.
Research indicates that physical activity may help protect against and improve ED. It may be particularly effective if your ED is caused by obesity, inactivity, or cardiovascular disease, among other conditions.
A 2018 research reviewTrusted Source found that moderate-to-intense aerobic exercise for 40 minutes a day, four times per week for 6 months helped reduce ED. This includes exercises like:
- brisk walking
Physical activity helps improve blood vessel health, lower stress, and raise testosterone levels, which can all help with ED.
It’s important for your overall health to get enough sleep each night. Sleeping regularly may also improve your ED.
A study from 2017 found that men working night shifts who reported worse sleep quality were at higher risk for ED.
A large 2015 studyTrusted Source also indicated that people with a sleep disorder had a greater risk of developing ED. Other researchTrusted Source has linked obstructive sleep apnea to an increased chance of ED.
Not getting enough sleep can lower your testosterone levels, which may contribute to ED. Sustained lack of sleep is also associated with conditions that are related to ED, like diabetes and high blood pressure.
4. Weight loss
Your weight may be another factor in ED.
According to a research review from 2020, ED was significantly more common in men who were overweight, or had obesity or a larger waist circumferences.
A small 2014 study indicated that gastric bypass surgery improved blood vessel health and ED among extremely obese men. A 2017 research review similarly found an improvement in ED after bariatric (weight loss) surgery.
If your weight is contributing to your ED, exercise and a balanced diet can help you lose weight and improve your ED.
In some cases, ED results from a combination of physical and psychological issues. These may include fear of failure, religious beliefs, and sexual trauma, among others.
In turn, ED can lead to additional mental health issues, including emotional distress and lower self-esteem, which then can further worsen ED. Therapy may help address these issues to improve ED.
According to a 2021 research review, psychological interventions like cognitive behavioral therapy were especially effective when paired with ED medications. Mental health interventions may also be effective on their own, but more research is needed.
A small 2018 study involving 4 weeks of mindfulness-focused group therapy indicated that this type of therapy may be helpful for improving ED and sexual satisfaction, too.
6. Sex therapy or couples counseling
Around 10 to 25 percentTrusted Source of men with ED have no known risk factors. This condition, known as non-organic ED, may be caused by mental health issues like depression or by experiencing anxiety when having sex.
A small 2020 study found that cognitive behavior sex therapy (CBST) and medication were each effective on their own at reducing non-organic ED. In addition, CBST was more effective at lowering anxiety among study participants.
It may also be helpful to attend counseling with your partner to help them understand your condition and discuss ways to support you.
Research from 2016Trusted Source labeled ED as a shared health issue for sexual partners and recommended that couples engage in education, counseling, and therapy together.
7. Stress reduction
Mental health issues like stress and anxiety are often linked to ED.
A 2019 studyTrusted Source found that stress was one of the main predictors of ED, with anxiety and depression also associated with the condition. The study suggested that chronic stress may affect testosterone or cause sleep deprivation, which may contribute to ED.
Still, other research indicates that the effect of stress on ED is still unclear. A 2020 study found no association between stress and ED.
Another small study from 2014Trusted Source found that an 8-week stress management program alongside ED medication was similarly effective for improving ED, compared with the medication alone.
Until more is understood about stress and ED, it’s still beneficial to reduce stress in your everyday life to improve your overall health.
8. Alcohol reduction
Studies have shown mixed results for the effects of alcohol on ED.
A research review from 2018Trusted Source found that drinking light-to-moderate amounts of alcohol (less than 21 drinks per week) was actually associated with a lowered risk of ED. On the other hand, regular and high consumption did not significantly affect ED.
Still, other research has linked alcohol use with ED. A 2018 studyTrusted Source found that sexual dysfunction, particularly ED, was common in people with alcohol dependence syndrome. A 2020 research review also identified alcohol as a risk factor for ED.
More research is needed on the role of alcohol in ED. In general, the Centers for Disease Control and PreventionTrusted Source recommend that men consume two or less alcoholic drinks per day.
9. Smoking cessation
Smoking is another behavior that likely contributes to ED. This may be caused in part by smoking damaging blood vessels, preventing enough blood from reaching the penis for an erection.
Smoking may also reduce the availability of nitric oxide in the body, which is needed to cause the involuntary muscle relaxation and increased blood flow that play a role in erections.
According to a research review from 2015Trusted Source, more-frequent smoking was associated with an increased risk of developing ED, as well as more-severe ED.
Some damage from smoking may not be reversible. Still, the review concluded that quitting smoking, especially for men under age 50, may help improve ED.
It’s challenging to quit smoking, but there are many resources available to help. Stopping smoking has the potential not only to help your ED, but to benefit many other areas of your health.
Are there drawbacks to using natural remedies?
Lifestyle changes may be an effective natural remedy for ED and improve your overall health. But many changes — like losing weight, quitting smoking, or eating a balanced diet — may be difficult to achieve.
It may also take time for natural treatments to have an effect. Some people, depending on the cause of their ED, may not show improvements without medications or other treatments. It’s helpful to work with your doctor to find a treatment that works for you.
While many natural remedies are available to buy in stores and online, none have received the FDA’s approval to treat ED.
The FDATrusted Source do not recommend using OTC products for ED because no authorities regulate them for safety or effectiveness. These products often contain undisclosed ingredients, inappropriate doses of prescription drugs, or different doses of ingredients than the label suggests.
The Urology Care Foundation agree, saying that although supplements are popular and often cheaper than prescription drugs, they are not guaranteed to be safe or effective.
There are very few studies on the safety of natural remedies for ED. Some of the remedies have side effects varying from mild to severe.
The following list looks at some common natural remedies that people use for ED:
L-arginine is an amino acid, which is a building block of protein. It is a vasodilator, meaning that it can help open up the blood vessels. In theory, this could increase blood flow to the penis and help produce an erection.
A study from 2017Trusted Source reported that many people with ED had low L-arginine levels, which suggests that the two may be linked.
However, scientific studies have not proven that taking L-arginine supplements can treat ED. More research is necessary before researchers know the safety and effectiveness of this remedy.
People should avoid taking L-arginine alongside prescription ED drugs, such as Viagra, as this combination can cause the blood pressure to drop too low. It can also lead to headaches or flushing.
Side effects of L-arginine may include nausea, stomach cramps, low blood pressure, and increased blood sugar levels.
According to some sources, taking propionyl-L-carnitine alongside Viagra could improve erectile function better than taking Viagra alone.
That said, more studies are needed before researchers know the actual safety and effectiveness of this treatment.
Side effects are usually mild and can include a skin rash, nausea, diarrhea, and heartburn. This remedy may not be safe for people with vascular disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, or liver cirrhosis, among other conditions.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) helps create sex hormones, including testosterone and estrogen. Natural DHEA levels decrease as a person gets older, which may cause a decrease in sexual function.
While some studiesTrusted Source suggest that DHEA supplements could help with ED, othersTrusted Source have found no evidence of their benefit.
DHEA generally causes few side effects when people take it orally in recommended doses, though the side effects can include fatigue, headaches, acne, and an irregular heartbeat.
Ginkgo biloba may increase blood flow to the penis, which could improve sexual desire and counter ED.
However, the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH)Trusted Source say that there is no solid evidence that ginkgo is beneficial for any health condition.
Side effects of this supplement include headaches, dizziness, stomach upset, palpitations, and constipation.
It can also increase the risk of bleeding, so it may be dangerous for people taking blood thinners, such as warfarin (Coumadin), or those with other bleeding disorders.
Ginseng, or Panax ginseng, is a popular home remedy. Certain chemicals in this plant may promote the relaxation of the body’s smooth muscles, helping produce an erection.
Preliminary studies suggest that ginseng could help treat ED, though more high quality research is necessary to confirm this.
The most commonTrusted Source side effect of ginseng is insomnia. Other side effects include increased heart rate, high or low blood pressure, and headaches.
Written by: Ore Okebukunola