Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is a common condition that affects tens of millions of American men every year.
While many of us associate ED with age, the truth is that men of all ages and backgrounds can suffer from ED. In fact, up to 40 percent of men experience some degree of erectile dysfunction by the time they reach the age of forty.
ED can vary in severity from one man to another. You might find it difficult to stay hard while you have sex, or simply notice that you’re not completely hard when you feel aroused.
If you have a more severe case of ED, you might find it difficult to become erect at all.
Some of the most common treatment for ED is the use of medication such as sildenafil (Viagra®), tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) or avanafil (Stendra®).
These medications are safe and effective, with most studies showing that they work well as treatments for ED. However, just like with many other health conditions, many men prefer to opt for natural solutions to treat their ED.
Below, we’ve looked into the most common home remedies and natural treatments for erectile dysfunction to see whether they work, whether they’re safe and whether or not they’re a useful, suitable alternative to the most commonly prescribed ED medications.
What Causes Erectile Dysfunction?
Before we look at the most common home remedies for erectile dysfunction, it’s important to explain why and how erectile dysfunction happens.
There are several common causes of ED. These can be divided into two categories: causes related to your physical health and causes related to your psychological health.
Most of the potential physical causes of ED are related to your cardiovascular wellbeing, as well as your central nervous system.
Erections are caused by blood flowing into your penis from your circulatory system. When you feel sexually aroused, your body supplies blood to the soft tissue of your penis. As blood flows to the tissue, your penis becomes harder until it’s erect.
If you have hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis or another cardiovascular health condition that affects blood flow, you might find it more difficult to get an erection.
Other physical conditions that cause ED include diabetes, Parkinson’s disease, multiple sclerosis, obesity, metabolic syndrome and Peyronie’s disease.
Lifestyle factors, such as insufficient sleep, alcohol consumption and drug abuse can also contribute to ED.
The psychological causes of ED include anxiety, depression and stress. Some cases of ED may be caused by sexual performance anxiety — a specific type of anxiety related to concerns about your sexual performance, body image or factors related to sexual activity.
Home Remedies for Erectile Dysfunction
The most common and effective way to treat erectile dysfunction is through medications like sildenafil (Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis), vardenafil (Levitra) or avanafil (Stendra). These medications all work by increasing blood flow to the tissue of the penis, making it easier to get an erection.
While modern ED drugs are safe and effective, many men with ED, quite understandably, prefer to try and treat their erectile dysfunction naturally before using medication.
Most home remedies for ED can be sorted into two categories. The first consists of changes to your diet, lifestyle and habits. Most of these can and often will produce positive results, not only for your sexual performance but for your health and quality of life as a whole.
The second consists of various herbs, minerals and natural supplements that are purported to improve blood flow and enhance sexual performance. The scientific evidence for most of these is mixed, as we’ve explained in more detail below.
Lifestyle and Diet Changes for Treating ED
If your ED is caused by a physical factor, such as obesity or hypertension, making changes to your diet and lifestyle may help to treat your symptoms and contribute to improvement in your sexual performance.
Certain lifestyle changes can also help to treat erection issues that stem from a psychological cause. For example, many cases of sexual dysfunction correlate with usage of porn.
Below, we’ve listed eight lifestyle and diet changes you can make that might help to treat your erectile dysfunction symptoms. You can learn about these diet and lifestyle changes in greater detail in our guide to naturally protecting your erection.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight
If you’re overweight or obese, losing weight may help to improve your cardiovascular health and make it easier to get an erection.
Maintaining a healthy body weight has a lengthy list of benefits, as this guide from the American Heart Association explains. Many of these benefits go far beyond simply improving your sexual performance — you’ll also reduce your risk of developing heart disease and certain cancers.
Staying within a healthy weight range also reduces your risk of developing diabetes, a disease that can have serious negative effects on your sexual health
Aim for Optimal Blood Pressure
Erections are all about healthy blood supply to your penis, making it important that you maintain a healthy blood pressure level.
High blood pressure, or hypertension, not only causes erectile dysfunction — it also significantly increases your risk of experiencing a heart attack or stroke. As such, it’s important to keep your blood pressure under control.
This list from the Mayo Clinic includes actionable tips that you can take to lower and stay on top of your blood pressure. As you’re reading it, you might notice that many of the tips are similar to our tactics for treating ED naturally.
Eat a Balanced, Healthy Diet
While you don’t need to eat an absolutely perfect diet, eating healthier can help to improve your cardiovascular health, potentially reducing the severity of your ED.
In a 2018 analysis, researchers noted that the Mediterranean diet — a diet based off of the 20th century Greek and Italian diet that’s rich in vegetables, fruits, legumes, seafood and lean protein sources — may be associated with an improvement of erectile dysfunction.
Exercise for 30 to 60 Minutes a Day
Exercise, particularly aerobic exercise like running, cycling or rowing, can improve your general health and reduce your risk of experiencing ED symptoms.
In a 2011 article in the Ethiopian Journal of Health Science,researchers looked at five studies to analyze the relationship between exercise and erectile dysfunction. They found that as men with ED exercised, their erectile dysfunction symptoms improved.
Check Your Testosterone Levels
It’s far from abnormal for your testosterone levels to gradually decline as you reach your 30s — a topic we’ve covered in our guide to testosterone and ED. While low testosterone won’t have any physiological impact on your ability to get an erection, it could make you less interested in sex.
If you think your erectile dysfunction could be caused by a lack of arousal, or simply a reduced level of interest in sex, it could be worth getting tested. It’s also worth paying attention to other potential symptoms of low testosterone, many of which can affect your overall quality of life.
Avoid Cigarettes and Other Products That Contain Nicotine
Smoking can harm your sexual performance from multiple angles. Not only do the chemicals in cigarettes contribute to heart disease, but the nicotine in tobacco smoke has a vasoconstrictive effect that can reduce blood flow and increase your blood pressure.
In a 2008 study, researchers found that nicotine reduces the erectile response to erotic material in men. This also means that alternative ways of consuming nicotine, such as vaping or chewing nicotine gum, may harm your sexual performance.
Only Drink Alcohol in Moderation
While alcohol consumption isn’t directly linked with erectile dysfunction, drinking excessively can affect your sexual performance.
For example, in a 2007 study,researchers noted that the total amount of alcohol a person drinks is the most significant predictor of developing sexual dysfunction. In simple terms, the more you drink, the more likely your alcohol consumption is to affect your sexual performance.
Limit Your Porn Usage
Although research is still in its early stages, some experts believe that watching porn, especially watching porn often, could contribute to several forms of sexual dysfunction in men aged 40 and under.
This phenomenon is known as porn induced erectile dysfunction. Treatment options range from speaking with a healthcare provider or a licensed therapist to taking steps on your own to limit your usage of porn.
Herbs, Vitamins, Minerals and Supplements for ED
A large variety of herbs, vitamins, minerals and supplements are marketed as home remedies and treatments for ED. Many of these substances have been used for centuries as treatments for enhancing sexual performance or preventing impotence.
Like with many other home remedies, the scientific evidence behind most of these products is mixed. Some might have benefits for treating erectile dysfunction, while others have little to no real evidence to back up the claims made about them.
We’ve listed the most popular herbs, vitamins, minerals and supplements for treating erectile dysfunction below, along with the available scientific data behind for each treatment option.
Red ginseng, or panax ginseng, is an East Asian plant root that’s commonly used as an herb in traditional folk medicine. It’s also widely promoted online as a natural alternative to prescription ED medications such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra).
Proponents of ginseng also claim that it can boost energy levels, lower cholesterol and reduce stress — claims that, for the most part, haven’t been subject to much research.
In a 2008 review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, researchers looked at seven studies of red ginseng as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.
The researchers found that the studies provided suggestive evidence that red ginseng may be effective at treating ED.
However, they also noted that the methodological quality of the studies — the extent to which their design was likely to prevent bias — was low on average.
Another study from 2002 found that 60 percent of men with erectile dysfunction who used red ginseng over a period of 16 weeks reported that their erections improved.
As with a lot of other research into ginseng’s health benefits, the sample size for this study was small (only 45 men in total).
It’s also worth noting that one of the parties involved in this report was the Korea Ginseng and Tobacco Research Institute.
In general, the evidence for red ginseng as a treatment for erectile dysfunction is limited, both in quantity and quality. While red ginseng might be effective at improving ED symptoms, there isn’t
enough high quality, unbiased scientific to show that it conclusively treats erectile dysfunction.
Another natural supplement, yohimbe is made using the bark of Pausinystalia johimbe, a type of tree native to western and central Africa. It’s marketed as a natural supplement for aiding weight loss, promoting muscle growth, raising testosterone and treating erectile dysfunction.
As with many other natural ED treatments, the scientific evidence to back up many of the claims made about yohimbe and ED is mixed.
In one study from 2002, researchers found that yohimbine — the active ingredient in yohimbe — had “a positive effect in men with organic erectile dysfunction.” However, the study used a small test group, with only 18 men involved, of whom nine reported responding to the yohimbine.
Another frequently cited study from 1989 produced similar findings. Of the men that took part in the study, 14 percent reported full and sustained erections, while 20 percent reported a partial response to the therapy. Sixty-five percent of the men that took part in the study reported no improvement.
In short, the scientific evidence used to support yohimbe as a treatment for ED isn’t particularly thorough, nor is it very recent. However, it does show that some men experienced a response from the treatment.
There are also some safety issues that you should be aware of if you’re considering yohimbe as a natural remedy for ED. Yohimbe is associated with heart attacks and seizures, and it’s known to have caused issues such as tachycardia (overly fast heart rate) and high blood pressure.
Research into yohimbe supplements by a team from Harvard Medical School also found that a large percentage of yohimbe products were mislabeled, with certain products containing as little as 23 percent and others as much as 147 percent of their stated yohimbine content.
Because of these risks, yohimbe supplements have been banned in several countries, including Australia and all European Union member states. The European Food Safety Authority has also warned against the use of yohimbine by people with heart, liver or kidney disease or high blood pressure.
All in all, the evidence in favor of yohimbe as a treatment for ED is mixed, with the studies old and the findings far from conclusive. Meanwhile, the health risks of using products containing yohimbine mean that this supplement is not recommended.
L-arginine is a naturally-occurring amino acid that’s produced by the body. It’s one of numerous substances that contribute to the production of nitric oxide, a molecule that helps to relax blood vessels in the smooth muscle tissue of the penis and help you get an erection.
Like red ginseng, L-arginine is commonly marketed as a natural alternative to medications like sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra). Studies of L-arginine show mixed results, with some indicating that it might help to treat ED and others finding it ineffective.
For example, a study published in Andrology in 2013 found that men given L-arginine as well as adenosine monophosphate showed significant improvements in Erection Hardness Score (EHS) compared to those given a placebo.
A 1999 study published in BJU International also found that men given L-arginine for six weeks reported a “significant subjective improvement in sexual function.”
While these studies are interesting, it’s worth noting that neither study involved a large sample group. The 2013 study involved a total of 26 men, while the 1999 study was only slightly larger, with a group of 50 men receiving either the L-arginine or a placebo.
On the other hand, a 1999 study in Urologia Internationalis found that daily use of three 500mg oral L-arginine supplements was “not better than placebo as a first-line treatment for mixed-type impotence.”
In short, the jury is still out on L-arginine as a treatment for erectile dysfunction. While there is evidence that it can help to manage your blood pressure (something we’ve covered in greater detail here), the scientific data to support it as a treatment for ED definitely isn’t conclusive.
Rhodiola rosea is an herb sourced from Rhodiola, a plant that grows throughout the far north of Asia, Europe and North America. Known as arctic root, it’s promoted on natural health websites as a treatment for everything from stress to depression, diabetes and — you guessed it — ED.
While there’s some evidence to support a few of rhodiola rosea’s other benefits, the evidence to support it as a treatment for ED is lacking.
Many blogs and websites that promote rhodiola rosea as a treatment for ED refer to this article, which notes “substantially improved sexual function” for men who used rhodiola rosea over the course of three months.
However, this data is far from perfect. First, the study is quotes only involved 35 men, of whom only 26 reported an improvement. Second, it observed “erectile dysfunction and/or premature ejaculation” without specifying which condition improved over the course of the study.
Finally, the study was carried out by Tomsk State University Press, a journal which, at the time the study was published, was part of a remote Siberian public research university in the Soviet Union.
In short, while there might be benefits to rhodiola rosea, there certainly isn’t a large amount of modern, high quality evidence to show that it treats erectile dysfunction.
Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is an endogenous steroid hormone that’s produced by the body. One of the most abundant steroid hormones, DHEA is a precursor hormone that plays a role in the production of both estrogen and androgen sex hormones such as testosterone.
DHEA is widely marketed as a supplement, both for its purported athletic performance benefits and for its supposed effects on libido. It’s also promoted as an erectile dysfunction treatment.
While there’s some evidence that DHEA may raise testosterone levels in middle-aged men, the scientific evidence to back up claims that it treats erectile dysfunction is mixed.
Some studies, such as this one from 2005, show that low levels of DHEA and other sex steroids are linked lower IIEF scores, a scale for assessment of erectile dysfunction. However, this study does not show that supplementing DHEA is directly linked to improved erections.
In another study from 2001 published in Urological Research,the researchers stated that DHEA “may be of benefit to patients with ED who have hypertension.” However, they noted that DHEA therapy had no impact on patients with neurological disorders or diabetes mellitus.
In short, the evidence for DHEA as a treatment for ED is mixed. While some studies indicate a possible improvement in erection quality for men that use DHEA and others show that it may raise men’s testosterone levels, the data isn’t by any means conclusive.
As such, it’s best to view DHEA as a “maybe” treatment option for ED. It’s also important to note that although DHEA is sold over the counter, it’s classed as a banned substance by WADA and several other sports governing bodies.
Although acupuncture isn’t something you can do yourself from home, it’s sometimes promoted as a potential erectile dysfunction treatment.
Like many other traditional treatments for ED, the evidence in support of acupuncture is mixed and generally not very reliable.
A study from 1999 published in the International Journal of Impotence Research found that 15 percent of patients suffering from erectile dysfunction experienced an improvement in the quality of their erections after undergoing four weeks of acupuncture treatment.
This study only involved 16 people, with the researchers concluding that no definite conclusions could be drawn from the research.
Another study, this time from 2013,found that men with ED as a side effect of antidepressant usage reported significant improvements in sexual functioning after following an acupuncture protocol for 12 weeks.
However, this is another instance where real research is scant, and where even the available studies have quite a few drawbacks and shortcomings. In the first study, the sample was only 16 patients, and researchers also noted that while acupuncture improved erection quality (and only by 15 percent, overall), there were no physical changes in anything that clinically contributes to ED.
Likewise, in the second study, the researchers didn’t note how small (or large) their sample size was, and participants were only observed for 12 weeks.
We aren’t saying acupuncture can’t possibly help alleviate the symptoms of ED, but we are saying there needs to be more research before we can say anything definitively.
Horny Goat Weed (Epimedium)
Epimedium, or horny goat weed, is another well-known natural supplement marketed as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.
While there’s some evidence that horny goat weed may inhibit PDE5 — an enzyme that controls blood flow to the penis — there’s no reputable scientific evidence showing that it causes any real improvements in the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
In fact, one study of icariin, a compound isolated from horny goat weed, found that it’s 1/80th as effective at inhibiting the PDE5 enzyme as sildenafil (Viagra). In simple terms, despite its name and notoriety, there doesn’t appear to be any evidence that epimedium can treat ED.
Pomegranate juice is frequently cited on natural health blogs as a healthy, natural treatment for erectile dysfunction. It’s even been mentioned in newspapers such as the UK-based Telegraph, which claimed that scientists “believe it works in a similar way to drugs like Viagra.”
While pomegranate juice does have a range of health benefits, mostly related to its vitamin and antioxidant content, the evidence that it treats ED is extremely limited.
Most of the claims made about pomegranate juice and ED trace back to a 2007 study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research.
The study, which found a small, statistically insignificant improvement in erectile activity, was funded by a juice company called POM Wonderful, LLC. After it started making headlines, the claims made about the study were quickly debunked by the British NHS.
Despite this, pomegranate juice is still frequently mentioned on lists of natural products that can improve erections. While a glass a day certainly won’t harm you, there’s no reliable evidence to back up any claims that it’s a natural alternative to Viagra or proven treatment for ED.
While some diet and lifestyle-focused changes, such as losing weight and exercising, can help to treat erectile dysfunction, the evidence for popular natural remedies like rhodiola rosea, red ginseng, horny goat weed and pomegranate juice isn’t convincing.
Likewise, many supplements that are marketed as natural treatments for ED are backed up by data that isn’t always as reliable as it can appear.
Almost all cases of erectile dysfunction are treatable. While you might notice some effects from home remedies and supplements, the most effective approach is to discuss your symptoms with your healthcare provider.
Depending on your symptoms and medical history, your healthcare provider may recommend one of several treatment options, ranging from changes to your diet and habits to prescription ED medications such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra), tadalafil (Cialis) or avanafil (Stendra).
This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.