Other Herbs for Treating ED
Erectile dysfunction herbal treatments can be categorised in terms of some herbs regarded as the “heavy hitters” for ED relief like tribulus terrestris, horny goat weed, yohimbe, damiana and maca, but there is a range of other herbs which also enjoy a strong history in traditional medicine for their positive sexual health benefits.
Our “Top Ten” of the strongest contenders in the “Other Herbs” category goes like this:
1) Mucuna pruriens – Velvet Bean
Tropical legume found in Africa, India and the Caribbean, common names velvet bean or cowitch. The seeds are used in traditional medicine (Indo –Pakistani and Ayurvedic medicine in particular) for treating male erectile dysfunction and scientific studies have shown the seeds contain serotonin.
A 2008 study with men with low fertility showed mucuna pruriens “significantly improved serum testosterone, luteinizing hormone, dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline levels in infertile men.” The increased hormone levels resulted in higher sperm counts and improved fertility.
2) Muira Puama – Potency Wood
Native of the Amazon, where the bark has traditionally been used as a sexual aphrodisiac to increase libido and hormone production. It is known in some circles as the “Viagra of the Amazon.”
Livestrong reports in their book Botanical Influences on Illness, Melvin Werbach, M.D. and Michael Murray, M.D. report that muira puma may be an effective remedy for treating loss of libido and erectile dysfunction. One study showed 62 per cent of men reported improved libido and 51 per cent said it was a successful treatment for erection problems.
A French study showed 65 per cent of women treated with a supplement containing muira puama and ginko biloba for low sex drive reported improved libido.
In the British Herbal Pharmacopoeia, a noted source on herbal medicine from the British Herbal Medicine Association, muira puama is recommended for the treatment of dysentery and impotence. It has been in the Brazilian Pharmacopeia since the 1950’s.
3) Gingko Biloba – Maidenhair Tree
One study found gingko biloba was effective for 84 per cent of patients with anti-depressant related erectile dysfunction, with women being more responsive than men.
Ginkgo biloba was reported to have a positive effect on all four phases of the sexual response cycle: desire, excitement (lubrication), orgasm, and resolution (afterglow). It was theorised gingko worked by improving circulation to the genitals and had positive effects on brain chemistry and hormonal balance.
Gingko is also excellent for improving memory but should be avoided by people on blood thinners or who have diabetes.
Used in Asia for more than 5000 years, ginseng is traditionally prescribed in Chinese medicine for women with low libido and men with erectile dysfunction. It is claimed to also have benefits for increasing sperm count and motility.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health reports that studies suggest that combining ginseng with multivitamins can improve the sexual function of menopausal women. It is also believed to help non menopausal women suffering from decreased sex drive.
And a 2003 double blind study with Korean red ginseng 60 per cent of the men taking part reported improvement in erectile dysfunction.
Studies show similar results for Siberian and Oriental ginseng. One study with Asian ginseng suggested the benefits for both men (erectile function) and women (sensual response and orgasm) were caused by an increase in nitric oxide levels from active ingredients (ginsenosides) which increase blood flow to the brain and peripherals, including the genitals.
5) Tongkat Ali – Long Jack
Tongkat Ali – botanical name Eurycoma longifolia – is fast becoming an endangered species and is now a protected plant in the wild in Malaysia because of the high claims for the root extract for virility and sexual prowess amongst Malaysian men. The bio active peptide it contains has been shown to increase testosterone levels in humans and animals.
Commercial supply should now be through plantation grown tongkat ali, which is also on Singapore’s critically endangered plant list.
Animal studies have shown animals are more sexually active, and a human study published in Nature magazine showed infertile men treated with tongkat ali showed improved sperm health and a 14 per cent increase in spontaneous pregnancies.
According to a 2003 study The British Journal of Sports Medicine, a tongkat ali extract in conjunction with a weight-training program, caused an increase in lean body mass and a loss of fat tissue relative to placebo.
6) Ashwagandha – Indian Ginseng
Ashwaghanda – botanical name Withania somnifera – is also known as “Indian ginseng,” and has been traditionally used in Ayurvedic medical tradition to improve sexual health according to Chris Kilham, author of Hot Plants; Nature’s Proven Sex Boosters for Men and Women and is particularly effective for sexual dysfunction caused by stress.
In Sanskrit the word ashwagandha means “smell of a horse,” meaning the herb bestows the vigour and strength of a stallion on individuals recovering from an illness.
7) Saw Palmetto
Saw Palmetto is a herb with many clinical trials to back its effectiveness in treating prostate problems as a result of BPH or enlarged prostate (benign prostatic hyperplasia)
So perhaps it is no surprise that saw palmetto used in combination with pygeum can treat erectile dysfunction as a result of prostate disease, according to the University of Maryland Medical Centre.
8) Chasteberry – Monk’s pepper
Berries from this small shrub – botanical name Vitex agnus-castus – have a lot of benefits for women in normalising hormonal balance, and it is often referred to as “the woman’s herb” because it is also considered a“natural progesterone.”
The herb is believed to regulate the ovulatory cycle and hormone production when taken on a regular basis, which may benefit women suffering from amenorrhea, or the absence of menstrual bleeding. One study found 93 per cent of women taking chasteberry for three months experienced a decrease in PMS symptoms.
Livestrong reports the benefits of chasteberry outlined by Dr Gary Null in The Complete Encyclopedia of Natural Healing, include alleviation of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, mood swings and vaginal dryness. However, it can take up to two months to feel results and up to six months to maintain the results.
The same article says a study performed by the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University in Australia concluded that limited evidence indicates chaste tree berry could be an effective treatment for menopause symptoms and warrants additional research. The results of this study were published in the August 2009 issue of Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
However the benefits of this herb for men are contradictory. As the name suggests, it was believed in medieval times to reduce men’s sex drive (hence useful for monks) and scientific studies appear to show it does lowers androgen levels in men. Modern researchers assess chasteberry would make little difference to the sex drive on men with normal androgen levels, but may have a significant impact on the libido of men who already had low androgen levels.
However some authorities suggest quite the opposite. Dr Shawn M Talbot in A Guide to Understanding Dietary Supplements says chasteberry “may normalise hormonal balance, (testosterone, estrogen function and prolactin) in both men and women, which may lead to increased erectile function and sexual performance.”
It is believed to be beneficial for prostate health however, increasing urine flow and reducing prostate swelling in men with BPH (benign prostatic hyperplasia) – with welcome side benefits in terms of improved sex life.
9) Rhodiola (Rhodiola rosea) Root Extract
Rhodiola rosea is a sedum type of plant that grows in the Artic regions of eastern Siberia and seems to have benefits similar to those found in Siberian ginseng. TV’s Dr Oz has endorsed Rhodiola as a great herb for easing anxiety, lifting mood and helping boost libido. It is thought to do this through blocking the breakdown of the feel good hormones like dopamine and serotonin. Increasing dopamine levels helps increase female sexual arousal.
Rhodiola – like ginseng – is classified as an “adaptogen,” – a therapeutic which works as a metabolic regulator helping the whole body to increase resistance to environmental, emotional and physical stresses, fighting stress and fatigue and boosting immunity.
Medicine hunter Chris Kilham says Rhodiola is his “favourite” plant and claims “in cases of stress-induced loss of libido and diminished sexual function, Rhodiola rosea can help to bring the near dead back to vibrant life.”
Two Russian studies demonstrating the benefits of Rhodiola for sexual health, according to Kilham.
In one study, women who had stopped menstruating had their menses restored within two weeks of taking Rhodiola and 25 per cent subsequently became pregnant. And in a study with 35 men experiencing erectile dysfunction, 26 significantly improved after taking Rhodiola for three months.
10) Citrulline (Watermelon Extract)
Okay, so we are cheating just a little by including a food in a list of other herbs for improving sexual health and boosting libido, but citrulline is found in highest concentrations in the skin of the watermelon – which you wouldn’t normally eat – and so to get the best benefits from it you need to take it as a supplement.
Citrulline works by increasing the levels of nitric oxide, increasing blood flow to the genitals.
A 2011 study showed 50 per cent of the men with mild erectile dysfunction who took citrulline daily for a month improved in erectile hardness. It may also be an alternative for erection medicines like Viagra.