Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 5/4/2021
There are countless herbal ED supplements out there but they may not live up to their hype. Some products contain popular medicinal herbs like Cordyceps, Ashwagandha and Maca, yet when it comes to the male libido, these alternative staples might not help.
Here, we explore four ED supplements you might find on the market, and detail how (and if) they actually work.
Read on to discover the truth behind popular herbal ED supplements, and see how they might deliver more myths than magic in the bedroom.
Cordyceps are mushrooms used in Chinese medicine and have been credited for countless benefits, from strengthening the immune system to increasing the male libido.
In spite of the mushrooms’ popularity, there has been limited research on Cordyceps’ medical potential. One study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine found that these fungi boosted testosterone levels and sperm count in a sample of rats.
Another popular claim is that Cordyceps increase circulation, making it easier to attain erections by boosting blood flow to the penis.
A Life Sciences article found that a “protein constituent” in Cordyceps helps release more nitric-oxide and reduce blood vessel tension. It is important to note that this may be caused by a combination of ingredients in the extract.
While there has been some research into Cordyceps, they are not necessarily an effective ED treatment. For example, men with perfectly normal hormone levels can suffer from ED. Therefore, claiming that increasing hormone levels can stop all cases of impotence is misleading.
In addition, there’s not enough evidence to support whether Cordyceps can replace drugs like sildenafil that have been scientifically proven to help blood flow to the penis.
The verdict? Save the mushrooms for omelettes.
This root grows in dry climates and can be found in Yemen, India, Nepal and China. Ashwagandha has gained prominence in Ayurveda medicine and is commonly referred to as “Indian ginseng” in the West.
In alternative medicine circles, the herb allegedly eases anxiety and stress, and both Infowars and Goop advertise Ashwagandha with vague claims that it can help one’s overall wellness.
Yet when it comes to getting it up, there is limited research on psychogenic erectile dysfunction, and in fact, neither Ashwagandha nor a placebo have been shown to provide relief.
Psychogenic ED is caused by psychological causes, rather than biological symptoms. These factors could be related to stress, anxiety and pressure surrounding sex.
The verdict? These herbs can’t cure everything.
Maca is a plant root that comes from Peru, where it has a history dating all the way back to the Incan empire. According to Peruvian myths, it can restore sexual vitality and increase energy in all aspects of your life.
In our present day, Maca is one of many ingredients in Moon Juice’s notorious “Sex Dust” powder that’s marketed as an aphrodisiac for both men and women. The Moon Juice website encourages customers to mix the dust in their “coffee, milk, water, smoothies, or ice cream.”
Despite its cult following, there hasn’t been proper, objective research into the effects of Maca on ED, and there is nothing mentioned about Moon Juice’s “Sex Dust” in medical literature.
The verdict? Mix vitamins for erectile strength into your smoothie, instead.
Related read: Beet Juice Viagra
Yohimbe is an alkaloid derived from the bark of the yohimbe trees of Central Africa, and like most herbal ED supplements on the market, the science supporting its efficacy as a treatment for ED is minimal.
In one 1997 study, 86 men experiencing erectile dysfunction were administered 30mg of Yohimbe for eight weeks. Researchers found that Yohimbe was “significantly more effective” than the placebo in improving erectile dysfunction and sexual satisfaction.
While the study also said that Yohimbe was relatively well tolerated, there is concern about adverse side effects, as the herb is a popular ingredient in weight loss and muscle building supplements.
The verdict? Stick with the FDA-approved stuff.
If you’re stressed about not being able to maintain an erection, there are more reliable and scientifically tested methods available.
If you’re seeking an alternative to medication, drinking less alcohol, eating healthier foods, staying away from sugar and doing erectile dysfunction exercises can all help with ED.
Here are some tips to avoiding ED herbal supplement scams:
Research and corroborate information. If something sounds too good to be true, chances are something’s off. Be wary of anything that isn’t backed by scientific consensus and strong research.
Consult with a healthcare provider. Healthcare professionals can give you honest advice about what you should put in your body and won’t try to sell you a lifestyle.
Know you’re not alone. As many as 30 million American men have ED, and one study showed that one quarter of men under 40 experience it.
Buying alternative medication online might seem tempting because it’s often touted as ‘natural.’ Yet there’s more valid information out there to help you find the ED treatment that works best for you.