One of the inevitabilities of a large-scale medical discussion once it has begun, is the development of conflicting theories.
You can always rely on the opinions of doctors and the results of studies to differ.
And while this may create a buzz in the medical community, being played out over various websites and media outlets, it doesn’t really help people at home trying to find out more. Particularly when it’s a subject as popularly debated as erectile dysfunction.
The good side to this is that the condition has arguably been explored more extensively than ever over the past two decades.
There are several treatment options available to those who need them now. Erectile dysfunction pills are available to buy on prescription, and you can get advice on the condition from online sources or from your GP.
But the bad news is that there is so much information out there, it can be hard to know where to start when trying to read up on the condition.
In particular, the subject of herbal remedies for ED is an area which is perhaps more heavily debated than any other in the sexual dysfunction field.
After all, prescription medication is not suitable for everyone; such as those taking nitrates for arterial health problems, or alpha-blockers for hypertension.
We hear numerous ideas and postulations asserted about non-prescription solutions on a regular basis. But those experiencing and seeking treatment for the condition often just want to find the safest, quickest and most efficient way to stop it.
So while natural remedies are an approach which many people try, what are they, and do they actually work?
The centuries-old practice of inserting very fine needles into pressure points along the back has often been cited as a viable treatment option for those with erectile problems.
During a typical consultation, your practitioner will usually assess your overall condition first. Then, once you have been put into position (usually lying down) the insertion of needles will begin. It may cause tingling at first but is generally painless.
After insertion, you will be left in position for around half an hour. Then the needles will be taken out.
This practice is thought to work by relaxing tension in the muscles and helping to improve blood flow.
However, verifiable evidence that it can be beneficial in the treatment of ED is sparse.
Of the 80 studies found, less than half were based on clinical observation; and of these, only four were deemed reliable. And even among this narrowed-down selection, results were mixed at best.
Overall, it is not considered to be directly beneficial for those with erectile dysfunction.
Indirectly, acupuncture may relieve stress and this may help to alleviate ED symptoms. But there is little to suggest that acupuncture can treat cases related to impeded blood flow.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (or DHEA) is a naturally-occurring hormone which is produced by the adrenal glands in the body.
Many claim that the substance contributes towards the healthy functioning of the immune system, as well as helping to maintain good muscle and bone integrity.
In the body, DHEA is converted into testosterone and oestrogen, which are vital for sexual function in men and women, respectively. Ergo, supplemented DHEA can help to replace lower testosterone levels, which are often found in men with with erectile dysfunction.
However, the use of DHEA as a supplement presents several possible health risks, as it can inhibit the function of the pituitary gland.
As the long-term ramifications of taking DHEA have not been sufficiently investigated, doctors generally do not recommend its use for erectile dysfunction.
A type of natural substance called an amino acid, arginine helps the body to make use of proteins, and assists the function of the body’s recuperative healing processes.
It is an essential nutrient, found in foods such as chicken, pork and beef, dairy, tuna, salmon and anchovies.
Due to its effects on the production of nitric oxide, it is also thought to help relax blood vessels; a crucial process in erectile dysfunction treatment.
Studies have found it to be beneficial in ED cases accompanied by cardiovascular disease, where nitric oxide function may be compromised.
However, arginine can produce interactive responses in those taking other medications, and should therefore be approached with caution; speak to your doctor before taking this supplement.
Korean Red Ginseng
Little in the way of clinical research has been conducted into the effects of Korean red ginseng on impotence; and even this is somewhat contradictory.
However, another study undertaken in Korea some ten years later, which was lauded by one press source as encouraging proof that ginseng was comparable to Viagra in improving erectile potency, was not viewed with the same positivity by the NHS. It apparently suggested that ginseng was hardly better than a placebo treatment in relieving symptoms.
As you would expect, it is not fully understood how ginseng works or could work in the body to stimulate performance. Doctors speculate that it can improve nitric oxide production, helping to ease tension in blood vessels and facilitate better blood flow to the penis.
However, again, ginseng supplements can cause interactions when taken alongside other treatments, so it is advisable to speak to your doctor before trying it.
Taken from the bark of the Yohimbe, a tree found in West Africa, this herbal remedy is available as a supplement, but it has also been developed into a prescription drug called Yohimbe Hydrochloride, which was issued by some doctors for ED prior to the discovery of Viagra.
It helps to widen blood vessels, which in turn can increase penile blood flow.
But, while its ability to tackle erectile dysfunction symptoms sufficiently has been questioned, numerous potentially harmful side effects have been associated with Yohimbe, including high blood pressure, as well as kidney problems.
For this reason, doctors typically advise against its use.
Horny Goat Weed
It may give away more in its name than some of the other remedies on this list but this herbal alternative has been used as an ED treatment for many years.
A traditional medicine from the Far East, the integral component which is thought to produce such improved erectile results is icariin; which is not dissimilar in its function to the PDE-5 inhibitors found in drugs like Viagra and Cialis.
PDE-5 is an enzyme which can have a constricting influence on blood vessels, causing blood flow to the penis during times of arousal to become reduced. By blocking it, medications like sildenafil encourage increased blood flow to the penis, thus enabling the user to experience erections which are firmer and more sustained.
While it acts in a similar way, however, icariin is not thought to be as potent as prescription medications. And like other natural options, Horny Goat Weed can induce side effects, especially when taken with various other medications.
Therefore, it should not be used unless specifically recommended by a doctor.
Medicating erectile dysfunction has not historically been Ginkgo biloba’s predominant purpose.
The tree extract has been used as a treatment for impaired cognitive function, and some studies have suggested that it can help slow the onset of dementia.
But although some doctors have in the past issued it to those experiencing ED as a side effect of antidepressant medicine, insufficient data exists to prove its efficacy in this regard. Prior discussion with a GP is, once again, essential when considering the use of this or any alternative treatment.
A popular antioxidant, pomegranate juice has several useful qualities for those looking to improve their overall health.
It can help blood flow and reduce the likelihood of respiratory illnesses, such as those related to high blood pressure.
But what does it do for sexual performance?
In 2007, research was carried out by Californian scientists, which apparently showed that of the men tested, 47 per cent displayed improvements after drinking a glass of pomegranate juice each day for four weeks.
But, as it later would with the Korean ginseng study, the NHS found flaws in the investigation and the suggestion that pomegranate juice improved ED symptoms with any degree of significance.
- Results: can we really treat impotence with natural remedies?
The consensus on the effectiveness of natural remedies is still fairly inconclusive. While some doctors champion them as a viable alternative, other studies suggest that they do not measure up to the efficacy of prescription medication.
Taking measures to prevent symptoms is perhaps the best option available to those looking to treat ED without taking formulated medicine. Numerous self-help techniques can contribute towards the alleviation of symptoms, such as limiting alcohol intake, quitting smoking, cutting down on fatty foods, and reducing stress.
In cases where these measures don’t help, talking about the problem often can. Remember that your partner is affected too. Talking about the issue with them can help you to overcome it, as can discussing it with your doctor.