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Natural Viagra and Herbal ED Remedies: Do They Work?

Natural Viagra and Herbal ED Remedies: Do They Work?

There are a few herbal remedies or natural supplements being talked about as ‘natural Viagra’.

These solutions, sometimes referred to as ‘herbal Viagra’, can include things like Korean red ginseng, horny goat weed, yohimbe and maca. For years, some have claimed that herbal remedies can help to keep men hard in the bedroom, and increase sex drive.

But if you’re looking for a simple trick to cure ED, will they actually help you? Let’s take a closer look.

Daniel Atkinson
Medically reviewed by
Daniel Atkinson, GP Clinical Lead

“If you’re struggling with ED, you should try and adopt healthier lifestyle choices and see if you notice a difference.

Still nothing? Then it’s time to see your doctor.”

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Medically reviewed by
Dr Daniel Atkinson
GP Clinical Lead
on August 02, 2022.
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Herbal Viagra and herbal remedies to keep a man hard

Erectile dysfunction, or impotence, is defined as the inability to get or maintain an erection hard enough for sex. Erection problems like ED are more common than some might think.

ED is not necessarily a permanent problem. It can be treated. For example, if the problem surrounds poor blood flow, prescription medication may be offered – like the well known drug Viagra. Side effects of these drugs can include things like headache, flushing, upset stomach and abnormal vision. This can be off putting to some.

But ED treatment doesn’t just mean medication, it can include things like vacuum pumps or even implants.

Getting harder erections can also be helped simply by adopting healthier lifestyle choices.

Some men also look towards specific plants and foods for erectile dysfunction, such as Korean ginseng, horny goat weed and maca – and collectively, these solutions are often called herbal Viagra (or ‘natural Viagra’).

But how well do these types of remedies work, and is there any evidence to support them?

Korean ginseng, also known as red ginseng or panax ginseng, is a plant which has been used in Asian medicine for centuries. There are three varieties of ginseng: fresh, white or red. (The variety changes depending on how long it’s grown for.)

Korean red ginseng, or Asian ginseng, is the variety said to help with male impotence.

Ginseng is made up of ginsenosides, which may have potential cardiovascular benefits, that could in theory help to reduce ED.

Ginseng may also promote the release of nitric oxide, which could relax the muscles in the penis to promote erections.

The root could also impact hormone levels which, in turn, could theoretically enhance sexual stimulation and arousal.

So what does the evidence say about red ginseng, can it help with erections? One study found that red ginseng was more favourable at treating ED than a placebo . However, the authors pointed to low sample size as a caveat of the study.

Another broader study and meta-analysis involving 2080 men found that ‘encouraging evidence suggests that ginseng may be an effective herbal treatment for ED.’

However, more research is needed on the relationship between ginseng and ED.

Horny Goat Weed is a natural supplement made from a traditional Chinese herb. It is said to be beneficial for erectile dysfunction, and also low libido.

According to legend, a goat herder witnessed their flock grow sexually stimulated after eating the herb. This is where the term horny goat weed comes from. Its full name is Epimedium and it’s found in China.

Horny goat weed is available to purchase as a supplement, but it is not licensed in medicinal use whether prescription or over-the-counter.

Because regulatory processes that apply to prescription drugs do not apply as strictly to some dietary supplements, this raises questions about their safety. Specifically in relation to the listing of full ingredients and the reporting of side effects.

Horny goat weed may contain chemicals that are good for blood flow and vascular health. But does horny goat weed work? The evidence is slim. In controlled animal studies on rats , icariin, the active ingredient found in horny goat weed, was found to have positive results. However, no studies surrounding impotence in humans have been conducted.

What’s more, horny goat weed can cause a number of side effects (which people sometimes assume herbal supplements do not). For example, side effects of horny goat weed can include dry mouth, dizziness, vomiting, thirst, nose bleeds or even breathing problems.

Maca is a Peruvian herb said to help with low libido and sexual stimulation problems.

The so called sex herb maca is also said to have other health benefits. Such as helping with symptoms of menopause, improving mood, provide more energy, improve learning and give skin protection from the sun.

The big question surrounds what the evidence says about maca. Will maca root increase sex drive? At the moment, there’s limited evidence that maca helps ED and so further research might be needed.

Yohimbe comes from an African evergreen tree and its bark has been used in West African traditional medicine for generations.

In the US, yohimbine hydrochloride is a form of yohimbe that is a licensed prescription drug for impotence.

Yohimbe can be also used as a natural treatment for erectile dysfunction and to increase sexual performance, but is said to have other health benefits too.

These are reported to include anxiety and depression relief, increased athletic performance, helping with dry mouth and with blood pressure problems, and even weight loss.

But Yohimbe is not approved for use by the MHRA, and it is also not legal to buy it over-the-counter in registered pharmacies.

Buying supplements like Yohimbe online can come with risks. As with many herbal remedy supplements, some manufacturers label their products inaccurately.

For example, a study conducted at Harvard Medical School looked at 49 different yohimbe supplements. They found as many as 78% of them did not label the correct quantity of Yohimbe.

For clear reasons, this is extremely dangerous, and there still isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest it will actually help with ED symptoms.

Some suggest that watermelon may help with impotence – specifically that watermelon juice may be a natural treatment for ED.

This is because watermelon contains L-citrulline, an amino acid which helps with blood vessel dilation and constriction issues. And one University study even went so far to claim that: ‘Watermelon has ingredients that deliver Viagra-like effects to the body’s blood vessels and may even increase libido.’

This was a bold claim that was widely reported on in mainstream media at the time.

Others strongly refute the claim. In reality, there are currently next to zero clinical studies focusing on watermelon as an erectile dysfunction treatment.

Zinc is one of the essential minerals that help our bodies to fulfil a number of important functions. It’s vital for immune system health and it’s also present in DNA proteins, which make up cells.

Zinc is present in many foods including meat, particularly red meat, shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy products, eggs and oysters.

However, some claim that zinc may also be beneficial in terms of sexual function and ED. One animal study seemed to suggest some benefit

However, trials on humans have not been conducted. What is true is that seeking a balanced and varied diet is one lifestyle choice that may help with impotence. As will seeking regular exercise, not smoking and not drinking too much.

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Is there a simple trick to cure ED?

Erectile dysfunction can be a complicated problem. It can surround physical problems, like cardiovascular and artery health, and psychological issues too such as depression or anxiety. It can also be the symptom of poor lifestyle choices.

ED can also point to broader health in general as it may just be a symptom of a broader problem.

Because impotence is complicated, there isn’t one simple trick to cure it forever. However, it can be treated. And it may be cured in the long-term by adopting a number of simple lifestyle changes.

Experts recommend that we are physically active every day, and that we exercise regularly each week. According to the NHS website, we should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week – or 75 minutes of more rigorous physical activity.

Exercising is good for our overall health, but is also good for blood flow and vascular health. These, in turn, may benefit erectile dysfunction.

If you’re looking to eat your way to better erections, the best thing to do is follow a generally healthy and balanced diet. That means keeping saturated fat, sugar and salt intake within reference intake (RI) limits, and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. This will help to maintain good heart and respiratory health, which in turn helps blood pressure and circulation, which in turn reduces the chances of developing erectile dysfunction.

For clear reasons, smoking is dangerous and is something we should steer clear of. But it can also cause erectile dysfunction, as well as a plethora of other health issues and conditions. Our advice? Stub it out.

Sticking to the low-risk alcohol consumption guidelines will also benefit overall health as well as ED. This means less than 14 units or less per week, and it’s best to split these units up across the week with non-drinking days in between.

What is an aphrodisiac and how can I increase my libido?

An aphrodisiac is defined as a food, drink, or other thing that stimulates sexual desire. Chocolate, oysters, strawberries and watermelon are often claimed to have aphrodisiac properties.

Again, if you think you may experiencing low sex drive, it’s best to speak to a doctor. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle – getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, getting plenty of exercise and eating a healthy diet – can all contribute to a healthy body, and a steady libido. But in some cases, loss of sexual desire can be caused by a specific physical or psychological issue that needs to be addressed by a healthcare professional.

Unsure about natural Viagra?

You’re right to be. Herbal remedies for ED and ‘natural Viagra’ are often sold as health supplements - but the evidence on how effective they are is slim, and they’re not always safe.

If you’re struggling with ED, you should try and adopt healthier lifestyle choices and see if you notice a difference.

Still nothing? Then it’s time to see your doctor.

If you’re struggling to get or maintain an erection hard enough for sex, it’s not something you should learn to live with. There are a number of things a doctor can do, including prescribing medication like Viagra and other PDE5is.

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When we present you with stats, data, opinion or a consensus, we’ll tell you where this came from. And we’ll only present data as clinically reliable if it’s come from a reputable source, such as a state or government-funded health body, a peer-reviewed medical journal, or a recognised analytics or data body. Read more in our editorial policy.

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