Standard treatments for erectile dysfunction (ED) include pharmaceutical medications and non-drug options like surgery and pumps. Pharmaceuticals treatments are designed either to increase blood flow to the penis or to supplement testosterone levels to improve libido and stamina. Drugs like Viagra and Cialis are effective at increasing blood flow and improving erectile quality, but can cause a range of side effects like low blood pressure and headache. Testosterone can cause acne, breast enlargement, aching in the penis, and scarring.
Non-drug treatments for ED include pumps, implants (internal inflatable devices), and surgery to clean out blood vessels and improve blood flow to the penis. While effective, these non-drug options have serious side effects that can include infection, permanent scarring, and worsening of the ED they are meant to treat.
Because of the side effects and cost of the therapies above, many men are turning to natural or herbal therapies. Some herbal remedies have tenuous support in the scientific literature while others have strong scientific backing. Here are several herbs with known positive effects and strong scientific research to back their efficacy.
Panax ginseng is sometimes referred to as the herbal Viagra. Also known as red ginseng, this herb can improve blood flow to the penis to improve both frequency and quality of erections. The drug is taken three times per day in doses that range from 600 to 1,000 mg. Unlike Viagra, panax ginseng is taken regularly to support good sexual health and not immediately before intercourse.
Rhodiola Rosea was found, in 2005, to improve sexual function when taken once per day at a dose of 150 to 200 mg. The herb is also beneficial in improving mood and memory. Some research indicates that rhodiola can increase alertness and improve sleep.
Dehydroepiandosterone (DHEA) is the precursor to testosterone. When consumed, DHEA is absorbed unchanged into the blood stream and then converted to testosterone. The Massachusetts Male Aging Study has shown that men with ED are more likely to suffer from low levels of DHEA that men without E. A second study found that DHEA supplementation is more effective than placebo at increasing the frequency and quality of erections.
L-arginine is an amino acid involved in the production of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is the molecule that Viagra and other prescription medications target to improve blood flow to the penis. Essentially, increased levels of nitric oxide lead to increased blood flow to the penis and improved erections. Doses as low as 1.7 grams/day have been shown to improve sexual function in nearly 93% of men who take L-arginine for at least three months.
Acupuncture has been shown to be effective in a number of settings including pain management and the treatment of ED. Several studies have found that acupuncture can improve sexual function in 20 to 40% of men. It is also effective in cases of ED that are not related to reduced blood flow.
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