It's hard to ignore those uplifting ads for erectile dysfunction drugs such as Viagra and Cialis. But natural remedies for erectile dysfunction—from difficulties getting an erection to premature ejaculation—have long been used by various cultures throughout the world. Some of them can be quite effective, others can be hazardous to your health.

Before starting any treatment for erectile dysfunction, get a medical exam. Possible underlying causes such as diabetes, atherosclerosis, stress or relationship problems should be tackled first. Some natural remedies for erectile dysfunction aren't recommended if you have health problems such as high blood pressure, heart disease, or kidney problems. While you may be eager to get your groove back, it's best to seek professional advice from your doctor.

Once you get the green light, here are some natural remedies for erectile dysfunction that you may want to try.

1. Herbal supplements

Two of the most talked about natural remedies for erectile dysfunction are ginseng and yohimbe. But Dr. Ray Sahelian, author of Natural Sex Boosters, says there are others such as maca, Ashwaghanda, and the curiously named, horny goat weed. However, Sahelian adds that it's impossible to predict which one will work for each man. Sometimes, it may be a combination of herbs that enhances performance the most.

Not sure where to start? In recent years, yohimbe, which comes from the bark of a West African tree, has been proven effective in human studies for treating impotence, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH). It may also remedy sexual problems related to taking antidepressants. Possible side effects include painful urination, genital pain, reduced appetite, dizziness, headache, irritability, or insomnia.

Another herb for erectile dysfunction is Korean red ginseng. In one study it was more effective than a placebo, improving erections for 60 percent of participants. By most accounts Korean red ginseng is well-tolerated, however long-term use may cause symptoms that include diarrhea, skin rash, loss of appetite, sore throat, anxiety, depression, and insominia. Although rare, heart palpitations, chest pain, nausea and manic episodes if you have bipolar disorder, may occur.

2. Dietary changes

Eating a specific food may not cause erectile dysfunction. But because ED is often the result of poor blood flow to the penis, your diet may cause medical problems that restrict blood flow and contribute to this health problem. These diseases include diabetes, high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease.

Eating a sensible diet promotes weight loss as well, and studies show that dropping weight improves your chances of regaining normal erectile function. Try to stick to a diet that's rich in whole grains, vegetables, fruits, fish and lean protein. Also, lay off the alcohol and smokes, both of which studies indicate may increase the risk of ED for some men.

3. Acupuncture

This ancient practice is another one of the natural remedies for erectile dysfunction gaining steam in the West. It's been used for centuries in the East to treat sexual problems. A few studies show that it can improve the quality of erections and restore sexual activity, and it may also be able to treat underlying causes that lead to erectile dysfunction, such as headaches, prostatitis and hormonal imbalances.

4. Exercise

It's well-known that exercise or physical activity is among the natural remedies for erectile dysfunction. Yes, it increases weight loss, but it also reduces bad cholesterol and triglycerides in the blood, and improves blood flow to the genitals. Exercise boosts your mood and confidence too, which also influences erectile function. If you're not putting in those 2 ½ hours or more of exercise each week, get moving.

Sources: National Institutes of Health, American Urology Association, University of Maryland Medical Center, University of Iowa Health Care

Study Reference

Journal: Journal of Urology, 168(5):2070-3

Date: 2002 Nov

Study: A double-blind crossover study evaluating the efficacy of Korean red ginseng in patients with erectile dysfunction: a preliminary report.


Authors: Hong B, Ji YH, Hong JH, Nam KY, Ahn TY.