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Erectile Dysfunction: Causes & Herbal Medicines

Erectile dysfunction is defined as the inability of a male to attain or sustain an erection that’s capable of intercourse and ejaculation. Whilst it can be devastating to experience and difficult to talk about, it’s not all bad news. A number of natural options are available to help.

What causes erectile dysfunction?

Erectile dysfunction is estimated to affect more than one million men in Australia, with the prevalence increasing with age. While everyone experiences performance problems now and then, it’s important to consult your doctor if you’re repeatedly affected. Erectile dysfunction may be symptomatic of underlying health problems, including cardiovascular disease. Physical causes are believed to be responsible for around 80% of cases of erectile dysfunction, with the remaining 20% due to psychological causes.

Risk factors and causes of erectile dysfunction include:

  • Vascular disease: Hardening of the arteries, heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure may all affect blood flow into and out of the penis.
  • Diabetes: Uncontrolled high blood sugar levels in diabetics can damage the nerves and blood vessels that supply the penis.
  • Hormonal imbalances: Alterations in several hormones can interfere with sexual performance, including DHEA, testosterone, prolactin, thyroid hormones and growth hormone.
  • Lifestyle factors: Smoking, alcohol, caffeine, recreational drugs, working long hours, fatigue, insufficient sleep and lack of exercise may all interfere with erectile performance.
  • Psychological and emotional issues: Relationship issues, performance anxiety, depression, stress and low self-esteem may also dampen desire and performance.

Herbal medicines to support men’s sexual performance:

Herbal medicines have been used to support men’s libido and sexual performance for centuries. Amongst the most important are:

  • Korean Ginseng: In several clinical studies involving men with erectile dysfunction, taking Korean Ginseng (sometimes at high doses) has been shown to improve the quality and duration of men’s erections. Korean Ginseng also aids vitality, stamina and helps the body and mind adapt to stress. In traditional Chinese medicine, it has been regarded for centuries as a valuable tonic for older people.
  • Ginkgo biloba: Best known for its ability to improve blood flow to the brain, ginkgo also improves blood flow to other peripheral areas of the body, including the penis. It also helps regulate the tone and elasticity of the blood vessels, making circulation more efficient.
  • Tribulus: a popular herb used to boost libido and enhance sexual function. Animal studies suggest that it may achieve these effects by increasing levels of key sex hormones (including testosterone and DHEA) and by promoting nitric oxide release (which in turns promotes dilation of the blood vessels and improved blood flow), however these actions have not yet been confirmed in humans.
  • Horny goat weed: In traditional Chinese medicine, horny goat weed has a long history of use as a treatment for sexual dysfunction. Its effects are attributed to its content of a compound called icariin, which has demonstrated an ability to improve erectile function in animals, but has not yet been widely tested in humans.


Zinc for support:

Zinc is needed for testosterone production. Erectile dysfunction, decreased sperm production and male infertility may all be indicative of zinc deficiency, among other symptoms.