Could These Herbs Keep You Hard?

Natural treatments for common conditions are becoming more popular than ever. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), natural treatments and herbal drugs are seeing a 15% growth in trade every year. It’s no surprise then that men are looking for natural treatments that cure their erectile dysfunction. All kinds of medicinal plants have been used traditionally across the world to boost sex drives and improve erections. But how does the alternative medicine measure up against the big names like Viagra? Let’s find out.

Panax Gingseng

Popular as a medicine throughout China and Korea, Ginseng has recently gained a following in the West among men looking to naturally treat their ED. It’s one of the top-selling supplements used to try and boost erectile function. Gingseng’s claim to fame is that is contains Ginsenoside, a chemical almost exclusively found in the plant. There have been a lot of claims made about Ginsenoside – could it be true it helps men keep it up?

Red Gingseng could be used for treating erectile dysfunction. Red Gingseng is the name for the root of the Panax Gingseng plant that has been heated and dried and is a commonly cited ingredient in natural male enhancement pills. However, systematic reviews of the plant weren’t conclusive in its ability to treat ED, and it has never been approved by the FDA as a prescription drug. Although generally well tolerated, side effects of Gingseng may include headaches, insomnia and digestive issues.

Several Gingseng roots. Gingseng has been used as a traditional medicine to treat ED, but the science isn't conclusive.

Yohimbe Bark

The bark of the African Yohimbe tree has a long history as an aphrodisiac. Tea made from the bark was said to increase libido and help with erections. It’s still used today in the form of dietary supplements, which are being used by men as a natural treatment for ED. Is the Yohimbe’s reputation well earned?

One problem with Yohimbe bark supplements is that they aren’t guaranteed to contain significant amounts of Yohimbe. It’s been found that many Yohimbe supplements are inaccurately labelled. Some contained far less than claimed and others contained too much, and some the Yohimbe extracts were found to be synthetic or highly processed. There can be some risky side effects to consuming Yohimbe extracts, such as Tachycardia (rapid heartbeats) and high blood pressure. You should avoid Yohimbe if you have any heart conditions, are taking medication to treat heart, kidney and liver problems or are taking medication for diabetes.

While taking Yohimbe supplements to treat ED isn’t recommended, one of the alkaloids present in the bark, Yohimbine, has been isolated and has been used to treat ED. As a prescription drug for treating ED, Yohimbine was moderately effective at best and has largely been replaced by more effective and studied medications such as Viagra. It’s important to not confuse Yohimbine medication with Yohimbe dietary supplements, as they are NOT the same substances.

Horny Goat Weed

Clue in the name – Horny Goat Weed is claimed to boost your sex drive! The scientific name of the plant is Epimedium, and it’s another natural treatment found growing in China. The flower has a long standing reputation as an ED treatment. But does it really work?

First, a word of warning. Horny Goat Weed may interact with medication including Warfarin (a blood thinner) and Amitriptyline (used to treat pain, migraines and depression). The plant hasn’t been fully studied in humans, so information on interactions is slim but should be taken seriously. It’s not recommended for people with heart conditions, as side effects could include a rapid and irregular heartbeat.

The active ingredient in Horny Goat Weed is Icariin. Icariin is thought to promote erections by inhibiting an enzyme in the body called PDE5. Branded prescription ED pills such as Viagra, Cialis and Levitra are also PDE5 inhibitors! Does this mean Horny Goat Weed is the ‘herbal Viagra’? Not quite – Sildenafil, the active ingredient in Viagra, is up to 80 times more effective an inhibitor than Horny Goat Weed. So, using the herb as a treatment for ED probably isn’t the most effective option.

Ginkgo Extract

Ginkgo Biloba is a tree native to China. Cultivated early on in human history, Ginkgo became popular as a natural remedy for all kinds of ailments. Ginkgo extract could possibly treat anti-depressant induced sexual dysfunction. Patients taking SSRI anti-depressants, which are known to reduce libido, noted improved erections when taking the Ginkgo extract.

How could the Ginkgo leaf help with ED? Some believe the extract improves blood flow and increases Nitric Oxide Synthase availability, an enzyme essential for erection. In truth, the evidence isn’t clear. Further studies found that Ginkgo extract was no better than placebo for treating erectile dysfunction. There is also some evidence to suggest it may increase your risk of bleeding. Overall, the health claims surrounding Ginkgo don’t really hold up, and further research is needed.

Ginkgo Biloba leaves against a blue sky. Ginkgo extracts are common in male enhancement supplements but there is little evidence they can treat ED.

Lifestyle Changes, The Other Natural Treatment

Sometimes erectile dysfunction can be treated by making some lifestyle changes. Here are some things you can do at home to help improve your erectile function and sex drive.

  • Exercise regularly. Exercising reduces stress which is a major psychological cause of ED and improves blood circulation throughout the body.
  • Stop smoking. Quitting smoking can improve ED in a significant number of smokers.
  • Drink less alcohol. Heavy drinking is known to induce sexual dysfunction.
  • Losing weight if you’re overweight and sticking to a healthy diet reduces the risk of diabetes and vascular diseases which are linked to ED.

The Hard Truth Behind “Natural” Male Enhancement Pills

With so many men seeking treatment for ED, many counterfeit drug manufacturers are looking to cash in. There are some dodgy products on the market that are sold as ‘male enhancement pills’. They sell themselves as ‘herbal’ or ‘all-natural’ supplements that boost libido and keep you hard. When you look on the back of the packet, you’ll often find a ‘proprietary blend’ of claimed herbs such as Gingseng, various unproven extracts and even fabricated plants! The pill is wrapped up in some eye-catching graphic design and given some quirky name like Rhino 7 Platinum or Black Mamba Premium. The claims these pills make seem too good to be true. That’s because they are! When taking the ingredients at face value, these supplements would be ineffective at treating ED, premature ejaculation or low libido.

There have been reports that these male enhancement pills really work. But that’s not because of their herbal blend – it’s because many so-called ‘natural’ male enhancement pills contain the prescription drugs Sildenafil or Tadalafil. Both are effective active ingredients for treating ED but are present in undisclosed amounts in the supplements and are likely adulterated with other chemicals. Due to this, it’s entirely unsafe to use these types of male supplements to treat ED. The FDA warned consumers about the taking these pills and some users have experienced nasty side effects and even emergencies such as Priapism.

If it’s not clear already, never buy these fake ‘natural’ male enhancement pills. You’re gambling with your health every time you take them.

Are Genuine ED Medications Effective?

If you’re struggling to treat your ED with herbal supplements or lifestyle changes, you may need to try prescription medication such as Viagra or Cialis. These medications can be very effective at treating ED when taken as prescribed. Talk to a Pharmacist or Prescriber about possible courses of treatment before taking these medications, as they can have interactions with other medication and side effects. For more information about the range of prescription ED medication available, check out the ‘Top 5 ED Pills in the UK’.

If you’re buying ED medication online, always make sure you’re ordering from a registered online pharmacy like e-Surgery. Unlicensed and counterfeit ED medications such as Kamagra or Sildamax can be ineffective and even dangerous.