Get full access to Outside Learn, our online education hub featuring in-depth nutrition, fitness and adventure courses, and more than 2,000 instructional videos when you sign up for Outside+..
Right or wrong, sex is often at the very center of how a man defines himself. When a man suffers from impotence, premature ejaculation, or infertility, feelings of inadequacy swell and he no longer “feels like a man.” The mere mention of the word impotence is enough to send a shiver down the spine. The thought of being unable to perform is simply at direct odds with our image of what is “manly.”
What causes erectile dysfunction (ED)?
The first step in solving the problem, of course, is to discover its source. Some of the most common causes for ED are atherosclerosis, diabetes, low testosterone, and prescription drugs such as those taken for high blood pressure, depression, and allergies. Atherosclerosis of the penile artery is the primary cause of ED in more than half of men over 50, and is a major red flag for impending heart attack or stroke. Drugs such as Viagra and Cialis temporarily mask the symptoms because they improve
blood flow to erectile tissue, but the long-term solution is to improve the health of the arteries through diet, lifestyle changes, and proper supplementation.
Are there any nutritional or herbal treatments for ED?
For optimal sexual function, we need optimal nutrition. A diet rich in whole foods-particularly vegetables, fruits, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds-is extremely important. So are some basic supplements including high-potency multivitamin/multimineral formulas, greens drinks, and pharmaceutical-grade fish oils. Beyond these basics, there are some key nutrients that also deserve special mention:
Zinc is concentrated in semen, and frequent ejaculation can diminish the body’s stores. In response to a zinc deficiency, the body may reduce sexual drive in order to retain this important trace mineral.
L-arginine increases the formation of nitric oxide within blood vessels. As it relates to ED, L-arginine may improve blood flow to erectile tissue-the same net effect as the one produced by Viagra.
In one study, 31 percent of those who took L-arginine reported improvement in sexual function compared to only
11 percent of control subjects.
Grape seed and pine bark extracts were shown to increase the benefits of L-arginine in one double-blind study, presumably by enhancing production of nitric oxide to an even greater degree than L-arginine alone.
Herbal treatments for ED include longjack (Eurycoma longifolia Jack), Tribulus terrestris, and Testofen, an extract of fenugreek (Trigonella foenum-graecum).
In Asia, longjack has been traditionally used to enhance virility. Tribulus terrestris has also been used traditionally to improve sexual function in men. Animal studies indicate that tribulus may affect testosterone levels, but human studies haven’t produced consistent results. Testofen, on the other hand, has shown impressive results in improving libido and testosterone levels in human clinical trials.
The “Must-Have” Herb for Men Over 40
Like erectile dysfunction, prostate issues become increasing common as men get older. As we age, the prostate gets a little larger, a condition known as BPH (benign prostate hyperplasia). It’s benign because it isn’t life threatening, but it’s annoying as heck. The herb saw palmetto has been found to be incredibly helpful for the symptoms of BPH. A saw-palmetto formulation for the prostate is a must-have supplement for any man over 40. It works by preventing testosterone from converting into a nasty little compound called DHT (dihydrotestosterone), which in turn causes prostate cells to multiply. (DHT is also a leading cause of male pattern baldness). Take 320 mg of saw palmetto daily. Prostate formulas frequently combine saw palmetto with other prostate-helpful ingredients like pygeum, stinging nettles, pumpkin seed extract, and beta-sitosterol.
-Jonny Bowden, PhD, CNS
Himalaya Herbal HealthCare VigorCare for Men contains tribulus and a blend of other herbs commonly used in Indian medicine to promote sexual vitality in men and help address age-related erectile dysfunction.
Irwin naturals steel-libido features a comprehensive mix of nutrients for sexual stamina, including tribulus and L-arginine, as well as other herbs known to promote male health and vitality (e.g., maca and ashwagandha).
oceanus naturals mdrive for men is a new product consisting of a proprietary blend of herbs, namely fenugreek seed extract and corydceps (a mushroom that has long been used to boost stamina, endurance, and male sexual performance).
Michael T. Murray, ND, is the author of more than 30 books on natural health, including The Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Third Edition. He is regarded as one of the world’s top authorities on natural medicine, and is a sought-after lecturer and educator. Visit him online at doctormurray.com.