Non-drug treatments for ED include penile vacuum pumps, penile implants, and blood vessel surgery. A pump is used right before intercourse to pull blood into the penis. However, this method can cause bruising. Implants must be surgically inserted into the penis. They can then be inflated when necessary. Risks include those typically associated with surgery, such as infections.
Blood vessel surgery is recommended only when leaking vessels cause ED. Even though all these methods may help some men, natural alternatives can be just as effective, but less invasive.
Panax Ginseng and Rhodiola Rosea
Called the “herbal Viagra,” Panax ginseng (“red ginseng”) has solid research behind it. Researchers reviewed seven studies of red ginseng and ED in 2008. Dosages ranged from 600 to 1,000 mg three times daily. They concluded there was “suggestive evidence for the effectiveness of red ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.”
One small study also indicated Rhodiola rosea may be helpful. Twenty-six out of 35 men were given 150 to 200 mg a day for three months. They experienced substantially improved sexual function
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a natural hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It can be converted to both estrogen and testosterone in the body. Scientists make the dietary supplement from wild yam and soy.
The influential Massachusetts male aging study showed that men with ED were more likely to have low levels of DHEA. Forty men with ED participated in another study published in 1999, in which half received 50 mg DHEA and half received a placebo once a day for six months. Those receiving the DHEA were more likely to achieve and maintain an erection.
L-arginine is an amino acid naturally present in the body. It helps make nitric oxide. Nitric oxide relaxes blood vessels to facilitate a successful erection. Researchers studied the effects of L-arginine on ED in 1999. Thirty-one percent of men with ED taking 5 grams of L-arginine a day experienced significant improvements in sexual function.
A second study showed that L-arginine combined with pycnogenol, a plant product from tree bark, restored sexual ability to 80 percent of participants after two months. Ninety-two percent had restored sexual ability after three months.