If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when you can’t get or keep an erection sufficient for satisfying sex. That might include erections that don’t last as long as you want, aren’t as firm as you’d like, are less frequent, or a lack of morning erections.
Although ED can be distressing, it is very common—the most common sexual dysfunction there is. In fact, most guys experience ED at some point in their lives. It’s estimated that more than 30 million men in the US struggle with erectile dysfunction (Nunes, 2012).
- Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when you can’t get or maintain an erection long enough to have satisfying sex
- There are several supplements on the market that claim to be beneficial for ED or improving sexual performances; the scientific evidence supporting those claims varies from promising to weak.
- Unlike prescription drugs, supplements are not regulated by the Food & Drug Administration.
- It’s always best to talk with a healthcare provider at the first sign of ED.
Natural treatments for ED
If you’re considering taking a natural remedy for ED, you should know that they—like all herbal supplements—are not FDA-approved or regulated. That means you can’t be 100% sure of the strength or purity of what you buy.
Unlike prescription ED medication, natural treatments are not required to be proven clinically effective. That said, some studies have found that certain vitamins and supplements have been shown to increase nitric oxide, which in turn increases blood flow to the penis. And some vitamins and supplements also might have overall health benefits.
Supplements and herbal remedies that may help with ED
Horny goat weed
Horny goat weed is a traditional Chinese medicinal herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat fatigue and low libido. Some anecdotal reports and animal tests suggest that horny goat weed might help address ED by improving erections. Horny goat weed contains icariin, a substance that is a mild inhibitor of PDE5 (Dell’Agli, 2008). Inhibiting PDE5 is how ED medications like Viagra and Cialis work. But studies on icariin have been conducted on animals, and in test tubes. That means that it may not work the same way in the human body.
Yohimbine, the active ingredient in yohimbe bark, is a common ingredient in supplements sold as aphrodisiacs or male sexual enhancers. A 2015 review of studies (Cui, 2015) found that seven clinical trials determined that yohimbine was superior to placebo for treatment of ED.
Korean ginseng has been touted for the treatment of erectile dysfunction for years. In one meta-analysis (Borrelli, 2018) of 24 controlled trials involving 2,080 men with ED, researchers found that ginseng “significantly improved erectile function” and “may be an effective herbal treatment for ED,” although they cautioned that more studies were needed before that could be definitively stated.
Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands. It’s a natural booster of hormones like testosterone and estrogen. Some studies (Lui, 2013) have found that taking a DHEA supplement can boost free testosterone levels along with exercise; others found no difference.
Citrulline and arginine
Citrulline, an amino acid, may cause blood vessels to relax, similarly to how Viagra works. It’s the precursor of arginine, another amino acid that may widen blood vessels. The efficacy of arginine supplements is arguable, since it may break down too quickly for your body to use, and L-arginine deficiency doesn’t usually cause ED. Watermelon is one food that’s a rich natural source of citrulline.
One study found that men who were deficient in vitamin D deficiency were 32% more likely to have trouble with erections (Farag, 2016). According to the CDC, one-third of the US population had insufficient amounts of vitamin D . Your doctor can determine if you’re vitamin D deficient with a blood test.
Vitamin B3 (or niacin) is commonly used for vascular conditions, and niacin supplements may also help your erection by increasing penile blood flow (Ng, 2011). Niacin is naturally found in foods like turkey, avocado, and peanuts. Exercise caution when trying supplements: Too much niacin can cause problems like uncomfortable flushing, gout, ulcers, arrhythmias, and increased risk of stroke.
Folic acid (Vitamin B9)
Folic acid (vitamin B9) is linked to nitric oxide production and erectile response. Some studies have found a correlation between folate deficiency and erectile deficiency (Yan, 2014). You can get folic acid from oranges, leafy green vegetables, bread and grains, cereals, pasta, rice, and beans. Taking a B complex supplement could raise your B9 levels.
Other treatments for ED
Natural ED supplements are a nice way to boost your overall health. But their impact on erectile dysfunction is limited at best. It’s more effective to talk with a doctor about prescription erectile dysfunction medication or other medical strategies. These include:
Oral meds for ED are highly effective, and several are available, including Viagra (sildenafil), Cialis (tadalafil), and Levitra (vardenafil).
For men who can’t take an oral ED prescription or are bothered by their side effects, drugs such as alprostadil can be applied by the penis by injection or suppository. If low testosterone is responsible for your ED, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can boost your testosterone levels via a patch, gel, or injection.
For some men with ED, using a device such as a penis pump, cock ring—or in severe cases, a surgically placed penis implant—have been effective in restoring sexual function.
Your erection works best when you’re healthy. Making simple lifestyle changes, such as exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet, and avoiding alcohol and smoking, might be enough to improve some cases of ED.
But again, it really is best to talk with a healthcare provider at the first sign of ED. That’s because erectile dysfunction might be an early sign of a serious health condition, such as heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, depression, or others. (In fact, in young men, ED may be the only warning sign of cardiovascular disease.) You owe it to yourself to face the issue head-on: Your sex life, and overall health, is worth it.