Erectile dysfunction (ED) is defined as the “inability to reach and maintain erection during the intercourse” (1) leading to the victim’s experience of inadequate libido, inefficient orgasm and retarded or premature ejaculation. In Recent times, ED has been labeled as the most common sexual problem among pleasure-seeking males and a complaint of all men irrespective of their age, race and culture but age is the most important risk factor for ED (2). It is reported that nearly 100 million people around the world are living with erectile dysfunction. Yet, only 10% of these 100 million, i.e., 10 million are opting for treatment, despite enormous advancements and treatment facilities in all parts of the world (2). To cite a few countries, in China and Korea only 9% and 30% males voluntarily admit to having ED (2) and in most of the other countries in Asia, it is still considered very sensitive with considerable social stigma and secretly will resort to herbal remedies and tonics before seeking conventional medical help.
The medical ethnobotanical indigenous knowledge were collected by visiting traditional healers and documenting the medicinal plants used and other socio-cultural aspects allied with sexual impotence and erectile dysfunction. The methods used to collect the relevant information regarding the medicinal plants used included informal and formal discussions, field visits and focused semi-structured interviews.
Consider this: penicillin, the first successful antibiotic, was derived from molds that inhibit bacterial growth. Scientists had to figure out why the molds slowed bacteria, and refine the active ingredients. Using herbal supplements is somewhat like putting mold on a wound. It might help, a little, but it’s certainly not going to help as much as using penicillin.
Size matters, so get slim and stay slim. A trim waistline is one good defense — a man with a 42-inch waist is 50% more likely to have ED than one with a 32-inch waist. Losing weight can help fight erectile dysfunction, so getting to a healthy weight and staying there is another good strategy for avoiding or fixing ED. Obesity raises risks for vascular disease and diabetes, two major causes of ED. And excess fat interferes with several hormones that may be part of the problem as well.
Maca root (Lepedium meyenii W): this native Peruvian root has been cultivated for thousands of years. Considered an integral part of the diet, the Incans found maca root so potent (14), it was restricted to royal use only. Known for its energy enhancing abilities, maca root enjoys a special place amongst herbalists and health seekers. Like ginseng, this plant is employed to increase strength, libido and sexual function (14). Clinically its effects have been proved with experimental animals (5,15).
Currently, there are four orally active drugs are available to treat ED. These include: sildenafil citrate (Viagra [Pfizer, USA]), vardenafil hydrochloride (Levitra [Bayer, Germany]), tadalafil (Cialis [Eli Lilly, USA]) and avanafil (Stendra, Spedra [Vivus Inc, USA]). These drugs inhibit the enzyme phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE-5), which is responsible for the hydrolysis of cGMP. PDE-5 inhibitors and cGMP act as effectors of dilation of smooth muscle of cavernosal bodies. PDE-5 inhibitors are contraindicated in patients taking any kind of nitrate therapy for angina, and may not be appropriate for men with certain health conditions, such as severe heart disease, heart failure, history of stroke or heart attack, uncontrolled high blood pressure or diabetes, and patients with pigmental retinopathy. PDE-5 inhibitors are less effective in men with diabetes and men who have been treated for prostate cancer. PDE-5 inhibitors are also not effective in men with retinitis pigmentosa, a genetic disease involving PDE-5 deficiency. The common side effects of PDE-5 inhibitors include gastrointestinal upset, headache, nasal congestion, back pain and dizziness. The PDE-5 inhibitors may interact with other medications including antihypertension drugs. Nonetheless, the PDE-5 inhibitors are generally safe and effective for most men. The primary mechanism of action of these drugs is through the mediation of NO. NO is one of the key molecules involved in ED. It is a short-lived, highly permeable, pleiotropic, gaseous molecule, secreted from the postganglionic cavernosal parasympathetic nerves, endothelium of the cavernosal blood vessels, platelets in the cavernosal sinuses and phagocytic cells (monocytes, macrophages and neutrophils). NO acts on platelets to inhibit platelets adhesion and aggregation. NO causes relaxation of the smooth muscle of the cavernosal blood vessels of the penis, leading to vasodilation, tumescence and stimulation. Release of NO in the corpus cavernosum of the penis during stimulation activates the enzyme guanylate cyclase, which results in increased levels of cGMP, producing smooth muscle relaxation in the corpus cavernosum and resulting in increased blood flow (5). NO is mainly produced from cavernosal nerves, which are nonadrenergic, noncholinergic nerves within the penis, and acting via its second messenger cGMP. It has been suggested that maintaining normal body weight and mild exercise, as well as dietary supplementation of folic acid, zinc, calcium, vitamin C, vitamin E and L-arginine, a precursor of NO, can support the biochemical pathway leading to NO release . NO is an effector molecule that is involved in a number of intracellular functions such as vasorelaxation, endothelial regeneration, inhibition of leukocyte chemotaxis and platelet adhesion . A small proportion of autonomic nerves do not release either Ach or norepinephrine . For example, the cavernous nerves predominantly release NO in the penis. The exact mechanism is not known, but it is believed to be through increased intracellular calcium. Another gaseous molecule produced in the corpora cavernosa is hydrogen sulphide (H2S), which is also known to be involved in erectile function . H2S activates ATP-sensitive potassium channels in smooth muscle cells. Some reports indicate that NO acts in large vessels and H2S in small vessels. A high level of tumour necrosis factor-alpha has been shown in ED patients . Although current ED therapies using PDE-5 inhibitors are safe and effective, approximately 40% of ED patients do not respond to currently available treatment [11,12]. For these patients, herbal therapy may be useful.
A daily dose of niacin improves erectile function, particularly in men with high cholesterol, according to a 2011 study in The Journal of Sexual Medicine. The vitamin helps increase blood flow and reduce inflammation—one of the underlying causes of both high cholesterol and erectile dysfunction. “Vitamin B3 is also used to make sex hormones and other important chemical-signal molecules,” says Fisch. Like many of the others on our list, this tablet is most powerful when taken in conjunction with others: A cocktail of propionyl, L-carnitine, L-arginine, and niacin taken for three months improved 40% of erections in a study from researchers at Sapienza University of Rome in Italy.
Despite its cult following, there hasn’t been proper, objective research into its effects. One study published in the First International Journal of Andrology tested the herb out on a small group of young men and found that it did help with “mild ED.” However, the researchers didn’t look into whether Maca could help with older patients who are suffering from more serious cases of impotence. On top of that, the study was focused on the patients’ perception of their own erectile issues. While ED can surely stem from psychological reasons, people deserve something that has a more credible history of solving the biological aspects to the problem.
ED can be caused by a handful of things, but one thing’s for sure: You need a healthy supply of the neurotransmitter nitric oxide (NO) to get and maintain an erection. NO is produced in nerve tissue and helps jolt your Johnson by relaxing the smooth muscle so blood can fill the penis. After the initial release of NO, your body releases a cascade of chemicals—including more of the neurotransmitter—to help keep you hard and happy, according to a study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
There’s one more thing to remember: A visit to a physician can be helpful even if a man doesn’t want to go near Viagra or try one of the alternatives. In some cases, a treatable medical condition such as low testosterone or depression could explain a case of ED. “Sexual health should not be viewed as a luxury, but rather as an essential component to wellness,” said urologist Ryan P. Terlecki, MD, of Wake Forest Baptist Health in North Carolina.
No matter what erectile dysfunction treatment or treatments (whether herbal remedies or not) a man ultimately decides upon, experts say it's important to eat healthily and to avoid smoking and heavy drinking. Moreover, adequate exercise, stress reduction, and sleep can improve erectile dysfunction in many. In addition, says Lamm, "A loving, receptive, and responsive partner is a home run. After all, this is still a couple's issue."
The treatment effect of both these treatments were tested by making the participants of the study fill up the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) and Satisfaction Profile (SAT-P) questionnaires before and after the treatment (i.e. maca extract supplementation or placebo). Higher score in these questionnaires mean better erectile function.
An increase in nitric oxide helps in a smooth circulation of blood throughout the body. The consumption of this herb helps men in gaining full control over the blood flow in the body, which eventually leads to a full control in their erection. Adding this herb in the diet can significantly improve the condition of men, suffering from an erectile dysfunction.
Much of the evidence shows high rates of vitamin D deficiency in patients with erectile dysfunction. In fact, one study of 3,400 participants found that men with vitamin D deficiency were 32% more likely to have trouble with erections when all other risk factors were controlled for. It’s a little on the nose that you need vitamin D for your “D,” but hey—science can be funny too.
Extracts from medicinal plants have been used for considerable period of time in many parts of the world, particularly in Southwest Asia, to treat ED . The current review focuses on four botanical medicinal plants, the roots of which are used in enhancing sexual performance and in the treatment of ED: Eurycoma longifolia Jack (tongkat ali); Chlorophytum borivilianum (safed musli); Withania somnifera (ashwagandha); and Pausinystalia johimbe (yohimbine, formerly known as Corynanthe johimbe).
For many men, stopping smoking is an erectile dysfunction remedy, particularly when ED is the result of vascular disease, which occurs when blood supply to the penis becomes restricted because of blockage or narrowing of the arteries. Smoking and even smokeless tobacco can also cause the narrowing of important blood vessels and have the same negative impact.