9 Ways To Treat Erectile Dysfunction That Aren’t Viagra

There's a world of treatments beyond the little blue pill.


Alexa Tucker |

If your favourite body part hasn’t exactly been co-operating in the bedroom, chances are you’ve probably thought about trying erectile dysfunction treatments like Viagra, Cialis, or Levitra. And hey, that’s not necessarily a bad idea — the fact is, these medications are proven to work.

That said, they come with a host of negative side effects, such as nausea, headaches, dizziness, and facial flushing. For this reason, you may want to consider going down the natural route before trying any pharmaceuticals — and luckily, there are some non-medical remedies that can make a difference.

Related: Here’s How Your Pet Could Give You Erectile Dysfunction

Whether you have trouble getting an erection, keeping an erection, or having an orgasm (after all, erectile dysfunction can manifest itself in different ways for different guys), certain supplements and minor lifestyle changes have been proven to help improve performance.

Of course, these natural cures have varying degrees of effectiveness and research behind them, so it’s important to know what you’re getting yourself into. Here’s the truth about common natural remedies for erectile dysfunction — what works, what doesn’t, and what to do when these options just don’t help.

1) L-arginine supplements

L-arginine (an amino acid) has been gaining buzz for its supposed ability to improve workouts and treat

But while nitric oxide in the body does play a major role in dilating blood vessels and increasing blood flow, it’s a big jump to say that taking L-arginine will actually create a significant increase in the nitric oxide that’s produced in your body, and that it’ll be enough to improve sexual performance.

“In studies, it actually hasn’t been shown to do very much at all, so in my practice I don’t recommend it,” says Dr. Morgentaler.

Verdict: Skip it.

2) Acupuncture

a guy getting acupuncture in his arm to help treat erectile dysfunction

Acupuncture’s been touted as a potential treatment for pretty much any malady or condition you can think of, including erectile dysfunction. “It’s thought to somehow work through the mechanism of how sensory nerves and pain fibres work,” says Morgentaler. When performed correctly, it’s extremely safe and has few side effects.

There’s not much solid data showing that acupuncture is effective for erectile dysfunction, but Morgentaler is not ruling it out. “It’s conceivable that it may work in some men, particularly if there is an anxiety component that contributes to their erection issues, and it would be easy for me to imagine that some of those men may do well with a series of treatments of acupuncture,” he says. However, he notes that acupuncture itself won’t change how the blood vessels in the penis work, so if there is an organic cause for ED (i.e. a physiological, non-mental cause), it may not work.

Verdict: It’s worth a shot.

Related: Can Acupuncture Really Help You Lose Weight? Heres What You Should Know

3) DHEA

DHEA is a weak androgen, or male sex hormone. It’s actually a precursor to testosterone, a very potent androgen that works on the receptors in the penis to help keep it erect, says Morgentaler.

The problem: If your hormone levels are normal (which your doctor can test for), DHEA probably won’t make much of a difference. “The effects that DHEA might have on sex could largely occur by its having testosterone-like properties, but it’s so much weaker than testosterone itself,” says Morgentaler. If you’re deficient in DHEA, but not deficient in testosterone, it may have some beneficial effects for you — but if not, you probably won’t see much benefit, although he says it likely won’t be harmful to your health.

Verdict: Skip it.

4) Panax Ginseng

Also known as true ginseng or red ginseng, Panax ginseng has been used for ages to treat erectile dysfunction. The idea is that it works to dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow to the penis. A small, double-blind crossover study of 45 men found promising results: men with erectile dysfunction saw improvement in their symptoms after eight weeks of ginseng supplementation, compared to eight weeks of placebo.

But Morgentaler isn’t sold on this herbal remedy. “I’m not a big fan, and if someone really wants to see improvement, that’s not what I’d recommend,” he says. Plus, ginseng has a mild stimulant effect on some people, which can lead to side effects like headache and dizziness.

Verdict: Try it if you want, but make sure you’re buying it from a reputable company.

5) Weight loss

guy in the gym working out to treat erectile dysfunction

If you need to drop some significant kilos, let this serve as part of your motivation: “Obesity lowers testosterone, and testosterone is important for sexuality,” says Morgentaler.

Losing weight can also help you gain more confidence, which is always a plus in the bedroom. “People feel more attractive when they lose weight, and feeling more attractive makes people feel more turned on, so they’re more open to having sex,” he says.

Verdict: Definitely worth a shot, particularly if you’ve been thinking about losing weight to begin with.

Related: 5 Weight Loss Myths That Are Setting You Up For Failure

5) Yohimbe

Yohimbe (or Yohimbine), a supplement made from the bark of an African tree, has been around for a while. It’s an alpha blocker, or a drug that dilates blood vessels, and there’s some research to support its efficacy, Morgentaler says. “It does have effects on the nerves, including the part of the nervous system that’s directly related to sexual function in men,” he says.

It can be especially helpful supplement for men who have trouble achieving an orgasm, and it can also help with arousal. “Of the supplement-type things, that’s my favorite recommendation,” he says.

That said, yohimbe can cause side effects including increased blood pressure, fast heartbeat, and anxiety, according to the Mayo Clinic. If you have a history of heart disease or high blood pressure, you definitely shouldn’t take it. Talk to your doctor before picking it up from the supplement store, and make sure you’re buying from a reputable company — there have been reports of inaccurate labeling on yohimbe supplement bottles.

Verdict: Give it a shot, but only if you get the OK from a doctor.

7) Getting more sleep

Skipping out on zzz’s can also contribute to erectile dysfunction: “People who don’t sleep well have more difficulty having sex,” says Dr. Morgentaler.

For one, not sleeping lowers testosterone, which impairs normal sexual function. Plus, it also raises your body’s stress response. “If you take animals in the lab and you stress them enough, one of the first things that disappears for them is their interest in sex,” he says.

The fix here is pretty simple: Try to get at least 8-9 hours of sleep per night. And if you can’t, seek out help from a sleep doc, because the negative effects of sleep deprivation extend far beyond the bedroom.

Verdict: Try it.

Related: Five Steps To Help You Wind Down And Get To Sleep Faster

8) Watching less porn

For the most part, porn can be a totally healthy outlet for sexual desire. But if you find that you’re capable of getting an erection solo but not with your partner, that’s a problem — and your porn habit could definitely be contributing to it. That’s in part because certain types of porn perpetuate some unrealistic expectations about how you should look or perform, which can have a profound impact on your sexuality, says Morgentaler. For starters, most guys simply can’t jackhammer into their partner for hours and hours on end.

“For men who are having trouble, they need to understand that their sense of inadequacy just isn’t realistic, because those expectations based on what they’ve seen on the internet,” he says.

Bottom line: One way to actually improve sexual function, especially in a relationship, is to cut way back on porn usage, and we see a lot of benefits when we do that,” says Morgentaler.

Verdict: Try it, if only temporarily.

Related: Can Watching Too Much Porn Give You Erectile Dysfunction?

If none of the above tweaks make a difference, don’t hesitate to talk to your doctor. “It’s fine to try these different things, but if sex really isn’t working out, there are so many things that we can do now for people,” says Morgentaler.

You shouldn’t have to suffer in boner-less silence. “Sex is a normal part of life, and it’s part of what gives us our greatest pleasures. It’s also a key item in how relationships work,” says Morgentaler. So if things aren’t working below the belt, it’s absolutely worth seeking medical attention.

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