Erectile dysfunction (ED) refers to the inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough for sexual intercourse. While prescription medications like Viagra, Cialis and Levitra are effective, many men prefer natural options. This article covers lifestyle changes, herbs, vitamins, supplements and other natural remedies that may improve erectile function.
Making certain lifestyle adjustments can go a long way toward treating ED:
Maintain a Healthy Weight
Carrying excess weight, especially in the abdominal region, can negatively impact sexual performance. According to a meta-analysis, obese men are over 3 times more likely to develop erectile dysfunction than those who maintain a healthy weight.
Losing weight through diet and exercise can significantly improve erectile functioning in overweight men. Aim for a modest weight loss of 5-10% of your current weight over a 6-month period for optimal results. Focus on following a Mediterranean-style diet full of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and lean proteins like fish and poultry. Limit processed and refined foods, sugar-sweetened beverages, fruit juices, and unhealthy fats like saturated and trans fats.
Combine dietary changes with 150+ minutes per week of brisk walking, cycling, swimming or other moderate-intensity cardio. Adding light strength training provides extra vascular benefits. The combination of healthy eating, cardio and strength training will help shed pounds and reduce ED risk factors.
Aim for Optimal Blood Pressure
High blood pressure restricts blood flow and contributes to ED. According to a meta-analysis, lowering blood pressure through lifestyle changes also improves erectile function.
Try lowering blood pressure through diet, exercise and stress management. Limit sodium to 1500 mg daily and follow the DASH diet emphasizing produce, whole grains, nuts/seeds and low-fat dairy. Get 30-60 minutes of cardio 4-5 days per week. Incorporate mind-body practices like meditation, yoga and deep breathing to reduce stress. Medications may be needed if lifestyle modifications are insufficient.
Follow a Nutritious, Balanced Diet
While no specific “ED-fighting” diet exists, eating a diet that supports overall health can benefit sexual functioning. Research shows men who follow a traditional Mediterranean diet rich in produce, nuts, beans, whole grains, fish and olive oil have a lower risk of sexual dysfunction.
Focus on eating nitrate-rich foods like leafy greens, beets and walnuts to boost nitric oxide and blood flow. Ensure adequate intake of nutrients like magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin D3, zinc and omega-3s that play important roles in sexual functioning. Limit processed foods, refined grains, sugary foods and unhealthy fats. Stay hydrated – dehydration can worsen ED.
Getting 30-60 minutes of exercise on most days helps achieve strong erections by enhancing circulation and blood flow. Aerobic exercises like brisk walking, jogging, cycling, swimming, rowing and interval training are particularly beneficial.
Combine aerobic activity with strength training 2-3 times a week. Lifting weights helps improve blood flow. Aim for 30-60 minute sessions involving major muscle groups like legs, back, chest, shoulders and arms. Yoga enhances circulation while reducing stress. Over time, regular exercise minimizes ED risk factors like high blood pressure, obesity and stress.
Check Testosterone Levels
Testosterone is the key male sex hormone that regulates libido and plays a crucial role in erectile function. Testosterone levels naturally decline as men age. Low testosterone, or hypogonadism, is a common cause of ED in males over 50.
Symptoms of low testosterone include low libido, fatigue, reduced muscle mass, and difficulty getting/maintaining erections. Have your testosterone checked via a simple blood test. If low, testosterone replacement therapy under a doctor’s supervision may help normalize erections.
Avoid Tobacco and Nicotine
Smoking and nicotine negatively impact erectile function. According to a meta-analysis, tobacco use increases ED risk and quitting smoking improves erection quality.
Tobacco causes structural damage to blood vessels and interferes with penile blood flow. Avoid smoking, vaping, chewing tobacco, e-cigarettes and other nicotine sources. Talk to your doctor about nicotine replacement options if needed. Within 1-3 months of quitting, you may notice improved erections.
Limit Alcohol Intake
Drinking excessive alcohol regularly can lead to ED. According to the Mayo Clinic, having more than 2 drinks daily over time negatively impacts erections.
However, limited alcohol may benefit erectile function in some men by helping them relax. If you drink, limit intake to 1-2 alcoholic beverages per day maximum. Avoid binge drinking episodes. Take time off from alcohol if you notice it exacerbates ED.
Herbs, Vitamins and Supplements
Certain natural products may also improve erectile function:
This Chinese herb may be effective for treating ED according to a review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology. Panax ginseng is believed to work by boosting nitric oxide production and enhancing blood flow. The recommended dosage is 900-1000 mg daily. Look for supplements standardized to 4-7% ginsenosides.
This amino acid helps support nitric oxide production and blood flow. Small studies indicate L-arginine supplements may help treat ED, especially in men with abnormal nitric oxide metabolism. The effective dose for improving sexual function is typically 3000-5000 mg daily.
According to one small human trial, taking 150-200 mg per day of Rhodiola extract for 3 months improved erectile function in men with mild to moderate ED. Rhodiola may work by inhibiting the enzyme that breaks down norepinephrine, which plays a role in arousal.
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a natural hormone that declines with age. Research indicates men with ED tend to have low DHEA. Taking 25-50 mg DHEA supplements may help improve libido and erectile function, although evidence is limited.
This essential mineral plays a key role in testosterone production, immune function, and cell growth. One study indicates 30 mg of supplemental zinc daily may help reduce ED symptoms in men with zinc deficiency. Food sources include oysters, red meat, poultry, beans, nuts and dairy.
This amino acid supports nitric oxide and blood flow. Studies show L-citrulline raises nitric oxide more effectively than L-arginine. Taking 1.5-3 grams daily may help treat mild to moderate ED by relaxing blood vessels. L-citrulline is commonly found in ED supplement formulas.
This patented pine bark extract functions as a potent antioxidant. One study found men who took Pycnogenol® 120 mg daily for 3 months reported improved erectile function. It is believed to enhance nitric oxide and blood flow.
There are also natural ED supplements that combine ingredients like L-arginine, Panax ginseng, horny goat weed, zinc, Pycnogenol® and other compounds to improve erection quality. Popular options include ExtenZe® and Virectin®. However, product quality varies widely.
Here are some examples of customer reviews:
“I’ve been using Virectin for 2 months, and it has really improved my erectile quality and stamina. My wife is very pleased with the results too!” – Steve, 42
“After trying Extenze for 1 month, I can get hard erections again with my wife like when I was younger. My libido also seems higher. No bad side effects either.” – Jason, 55
“Ever since starting on Zynev, my erections have been stronger and I can last longer in bed. I have more confidence in my sexual performance now.” – Brandon, 32
Risks and Considerations
Potential downsides of natural ED remedies include:
- Safety issues from lack of regulation
- Drug interactions
- Missing underlying health conditions
- Unrealistic expectations about efficacy
- Inconsistent quality and potency
- Adverse side effects in some users
To stay safe, choose reputable brands, follow dosage directions and report any negative effects to your doctor. While natural options can improve erections, results vary widely and they will not work immediately or completely in all cases.
Work with your healthcare provider to find the optimal treatment plan for your needs. Lifestyle changes, prescription medications, medical procedures and counseling may be needed in addition to natural supplements for the best outcome.
In conclusion, there are many natural options that may help treat erectile dysfunction, including:
- Losing weight, exercising and following a healthy diet
- Lowering blood pressure
- Managing stress
- Boosting testosterone
- Quitting smoking
- Limiting alcohol
- Panax ginseng, L-arginine and other supplements
However, natural remedies may not be enough for more severe ED cases. Prescription medications like Viagra and medical procedures can also play an important role in management. Work with your doctor to determine the best treatment approaches tailored to your specific circumstances. Addressing ED through a combination of natural remedies, medications, therapy, and lifestyle changes can help restore erectile function and satisfying sex.