Updated: Dec 14, 2022
Most men who have experienced erectile dysfunction look for natural treatments to correct the issue. Unfortunately, there are too many bad actors with questionable advertising and marketing practices pushing dietary supplements as treatments for erectile dysfunction. In addition, less than ethical businesses have marketed hundreds, if not thousands, of over-the-counter supplements containing untested chemicals, prescription drugs, and other substances.
In 2015, the FDA found more than 300 products sold over-the-counter as supplements, herbal, or all natural medication alternatives for sexual performance could be a danger to your health. The products contained hidden drug ingredients, untested chemicals, and unknown contaminants.
This article explains the 4 best dietary supplements for men with erectile dysfunction. These supplements are a few that have scientific attributes that may suggest their potential benefit for men with ED.
L-arginine is an amino acid that has long been known to have a measurable effect on the human body. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins and peptides. Arginine is considered a conditionally essential amino acid, meaning it is an essential amino acid in some individuals, depending on age and other health factors.
Most healthy adults are capable of synthesizing their own arginine from the foods they eat. Arginine can be synthesized from glutamate and citrulline, other amino acids. Arginine is synthesized in the small intestines and kidneys, so individuals with damage to these organs may require supplementation. For example, a person with Crohn's disease may have significant damage to the small intestine that makes supplementation of arginine beneficial.
How L-arginine Works
L-arginine is know to increase levels of human growth hormone (HGH) levels in children. For this reason, physicians have used what is known as the arginine challenge test to determine the presence of growth hormone deficiency. It is also known to play a significant role in wound healing and the immune system as a result of arginine's impact on cellular division.
L-arginine also has known effects on the levels of nitric oxide (NO) in the bloodstream. (Nitric oxide is not the laughing gas you get from the dentist, which is nitrous oxide.) Hence, it is a common ingredient in supplements marketed to bodybuilders and athletes. Nitric oxide is a signaling molecule and potent vasodilator in the human body, meaning it causes blood vessels to increase in diameter.
As a result of increasing nitric oxide levels, arginine could have important implications in two important functions - the management of blood pressure and erections. More nitric oxide means wider blood vessels that can allow more blood to flow through.
The medical community is still on the fence about arginine's use in treating erectile dysfunction. There have been some clinical studies that show it is effective and some studies that show it may not be effective. However, a randomized controlled trial published in Andrology in 2020 studied the efficacy of l-arginine when combined with sildenafil (generic Viagra). The authors concluded that combining the two was more effective in treating erectile dysfunction than either of them alone.
A different randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial published in the Journal of Endocrinological Investigation studied the use of high-dose arginine in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. The study participants took high-dose arginine for 3 months. The researchers judged the effectiveness of the treatments by using the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) and the results of doppler ultrasound to measure blood flow. The authors concluded that arginine was effective in improving erectile function in men with mild to moderate and severe erectile dysfunction.
L-citrulline is another amino acid. Citrulline is synthesized in the human body as a byproduct of arginine metabolism. Citrulline's function in the human body is to convert ammonia to urea. This conversion allows the urea produced through the reaction to be eliminated by the kidneys. Like arginine, citrulline is synthesized in the intestines. For the same reason, citrulline supplementation may be beneficial for those with conditions that have caused extensive damage to the digestive tract.
Taking l-citrulline orally causes an increase in the levels of l-arginine in the bloodstream. The potential benefits of l-arginine have already been discussed. What is interesting about citrulline is that oral consumption of citrulline does a better job of raising levels of arginine in the bloodstream. This is thought to be due to the relatively lower bioavailability of arginine when taken orally.
L-citrulline can be purchase as a dietary supplement in many drugs stores and pharmacies. However, there is also a significant amount of citrulline available in watermelon. So, eating watermelon may be just what your sex life needs.
Yohimbine is a derivative of the African tree Pausinystali johimbe, from which it also gets its name. Its use originated historically as a West African folk medicine treatment, where it was extracted from the back of the African tree and used as an aphrodisiac. It has been studied since the early 1900's for its effects on libido and sexual function.
The reason for the interest in yohimbine is sexual health is its known ability to act as an alpha-2 adrenergic receptor antagonist, or alpha-2 blocker. Alpha-2 blockers cause vasodilation through an increase in norepinephrine. An injectable medication, phentolamine, is also an alpha-2 blocker that is used for treating erectile dysfunction. Alpha-2 blockers also increase the release of dopamine and serotonin, which may also contribute to their effects.
Aside from possible side effects, the major drawback of yohimbine is its short half-life. It has a half-life of a little longer than a half-hour, meaning it leaves the body completely within a few hours. Also, currently there's no way to know if the yohimbine being sold as dietary supplements contains the proper concentration needed to have any effect.
#4 Panax ginseng
Korean red panax ginseng is a derivative of the plant with the same name. The panax ginseng root is believed to be the original source for the substance now sold as ginseng. The root's extract has been used as a medicinal herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since as early as the second century. Ginseng has become so popular of a substance that it's frequently included in products such as herbal teas and energy drinks. It is also commonly sold as a dietary supplement in drug stores and pharmacies.
Ginseng has long been thought to have effects on libido and erectile function. In fact, the dietary supplement has been a focus of research by a number of researchers. A meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews in 2021 looked at the results of previous studies involving the effects of ginseng on erectile dysfunction. The authors found that there may be some effect of panax ginseng on improving erectile function. The also determined a positive impact on men's reported ability to have intercourse as well as satisfaction with intercourse.
Dietary supplements can still be an option for men looking to treat erectile dysfunction more naturally, without the use of medications. However, the best treatment for erectile dysfunction involves a more comprehensive approach. The causes of erectile dysfunction in men are well-known and require management that includes more than just taking a pill.
Here at Black Tie Health™, we offer preliminary men's health consultations via telehealth for only $49. During these consultations, we can discuss treatment options, write prescriptions, and order tests - all of it done online. We can also help you with information on which dietary supplements are likely to be best for your specific medical situation, as well as provide you with recommended dosages.
Telehealth appointments can be made using the "Book Now" button below.
These statements have not been evaluated by the FDA. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. You should discuss your specific situation with your doctor before taking any dietary supplements. Without proper medical oversight, come dietary supplements have a significant potential for harm in individuals with certain medical conditions or taking certain medications.
El-Wakeel LM, Fouad FA, Saleem MD, Saber-Khalaf M. Efficacy and tolerability of sildenafil/l-arginine combination relative to sildenafil alone in patients with organic erectile dysfunction. Andrology. 2020 Jan;8(1):143-147. doi: 10.1111/andr.12671. Epub 2019 Jul 2. PMID: 31267684.
Lee HW, Lee MS, Kim TH, Alraek T, Zaslawski C, Kim JW, Moon DG. Ginseng for erectile dysfunction. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2021 Apr 19;4(4):CD012654. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD012654.pub2. PMID: 33871063; PMCID: PMC8094213.
Menafra D, de Angelis C, Garifalos F, Mazzella M, Galdiero G, Piscopo M, Castoro M, Verde N, Pivonello C, Simeoli C, Auriemma RS, Colao A, Pivonello R. Long-term high-dose L-arginine supplementation in patients with vasculogenic erectile dysfunction: a multicentre, double-blind, randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. J Endocrinol Invest. 2022 May;45(5):941-961. doi: 10.1007/s40618-021-01704-3. Epub 2022 Jan 1. PMID: 34973154; PMCID: PMC8995264.