Erectile Dysfunction (ED) is defined as a difficulty to get and keep an erection that is firm enough for sex.
It’s pretty common. Erectile Dysfunction affects approximately 10% of men in each life decade. According to a University of Wisconsin study in 2019, 50% of men in their 50s are or have been affected by ED.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
First off, let’s start with how an erection works. Erections start in the brain. When a man is stimulated by a sight, smell or touch, this thought sends a message to their blood vessels in the penis via the nerves. One’s arteries then relaxes and lets blood flow. Blood is rushed into the Penis and it gets trapped within what’s called the corpora cavernosa. The penis expands and this is where the erection is held.
ED can happen due to a problem at any step in the erection process. Whether blood flow, the nerve supply or hormones, any of these systems can affect the erectile function.
Causes can be both physiological and psychological. The common physiological causes are due to heart disease, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity as well as due to smoking, alcoholism, and substance abuse.
Psychological causes include depression, anxiety, stress, or relationship problems. Make sure to address your mental health with a licensed therapist if you believe it is one of these!
How to address ED?
Because there are multiple causes, there are multiple treatments. If psychological, the best way to help would be to speak with your doctor or a licensed therapist. The most common physiological treatment is via the use of medication, a.k.a. ED Drugs.
The four most common ED drugs are:
1. Avanafil (Stendra)
2. Sildenafil (Viagra)
3. Tadalafil (Cialis)
4. Vardenafil (Levitra).
If you want to use these, you should definitely speak with your doctor. The natural over-the-counter (OTC) treatments for ED are vitamins and herbal supplements.
What dietary supplements are good for erectile dysfunction?
Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium)
Icariin, the active ingredient inside of horny goat weed, has Anti-Atherosclerotic effects.
Atherosclerosis (a·thr·ow·sklr·ow·suhs) is the buildup of fats, cholesterol and other substances in and on your artery walls. Atherosclerosis is extremely common, with 50% of people over the age of 40 likely to develop it.
This causes heart disease, low libido, erectile dysfunction as well as many other negative cardiovascular diseases.
Icariin has many positive effects, but the most notable are its ability to increase blood flow around the body,enabling cGMP and nitric oxide levels to rise. This leads to smooth muscle relaxation, widening of blood vessels and increased blood flow to the penis, facilitating erection, and increased blood flow in women to the vaginal wall.
In a 2010 study of rats with injured nerves, researchers tested the effect of Icariin. Results displayed that Icariin showed significant improvement in erectile function.
Maca, also known as lepidium meyenii or Peruvian ginseng, is a plant that is native to South America. Maca has been grown and cultivated for at least 2,000 years primarily in Peru, and is popularly crushed and used for its health benefits, which include increased libido and erectile function.
A 2010 review on 17 databases was completed including randomized clinical trials of Maca compared to placebo for treatment of healthy people with sexual dysfunction. This review found that there were significant positive effects on improvement of erectile function according to the International Index of Erectile Dysfunction.
DHEA, also known as Dehydroepiandrosterone is a hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands which are located near the kidneys and liver. It is responsible for producing hormones, including testosterone and estrogen.
In a 2011 study conducted on 48 healthy postmenopausal women expericing sexual dysfuntion, it was founud that taking DHEA daily led to significant improvement in sexual function and and frequency of intercourse.
Another study found that giving men 50mg of DHEA daily benefited those which experience erectile disfunction.
Panax Ginseng has been shown to treat and improve ED as this form of ginseng has the most active competent ginsenosides. The ginsenosides are able to produce an endothelial release of nitric oxide (NO) which immediately triggers the mediation of the smooth muscles allowing for an erection. Ginsenosides in the Panax Ginseng also improve the cardiovascular risk factors such as hypertension, hyperglycemia and hyperlipidemia which are important risk factors for ED.
L-arginine has a similar effect to that of Panax Ginseng as it allows for the release of nitric oxide ultimately allowing for an erection. A study found that taking a dose of 5mg/d of L-Argenine orally led to improved sexual performance and increased nitric oxide where the amount of nitric oxide doubled in patients.
A study found that individuals experiencing low sex drive and ED as a result of antidepresents could take 200mg/d of Ginkgo biloba and notice effects of improved desire, excitement (erection and lubrication), orgasm, and resolution (afterglow) and was found to be 84% effective.