Natural Viagra: Alternatives for Men

Natural Viagra: Alternatives for Men
Kristin Hall, FNP
Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP Written by Our Editorial Team Last updated 8/15/2020

No one is happy or even okay when they start experiencing erectile dysfunction. As a matter of fact, it can feel pretty damned embarrassing — even depressing. 

But it isn’t uncommon, and you don’t have to suffer through it. 

There are numerous possible solutions and treatments available to help men regain their sexual health. 

Medications like Viagra® are just one option. For men interested in non-prescription solutions, there are others. 

Though, it’s worth noting that the jury is largely out on just how effective these might be. 

Erectile Dysfunction 101

As many as 30 million men are affected by erectile dysfunction, also known as ED or impotence. It’s not a unique problem. 

ED is characterized by the inability to perform sexually due to trouble getting or keeping an erection. This doesn’t have to be an all-the-time thing, either. 

Men who suffer from ED may be able to get an erection sometimes, or be able to get one and simply not have it last long enough. Though some men with ED can’t get an erection at all.

When a man is aroused, the release of nitric oxide and resulting chemical reactions cause blood to rush to the penis, where it is held. This trapped blood in the spongy tissue of the corpus cavernosum is what causes a firm erection. 

Once orgasm is reached, the blood is released back into circulation and the penis softens. 

Any number of things can cause ED, including circulatory problems that may inhibit blood flow, diabetes, injury, nerve problems, cancer treatment and certain types of drugs. 

And some things can put you at a greater risk of suffering from ED, including: age, high blood pressure, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, high cholesterol, drug use, alcohol use, obesity and being sedentary.

How Viagra Works 

Viagra is a brand name drug also known by the generic name sildenafil, and is what’s known as a  type-5 phosphodiesterase inhibitor, or PDE-5 inhibitor

Put simply, PDE-5 inhibitors enhance the activity of nitric oxide during sexual arousal, allowing men to better obtain and keep an erection. Other PDE-5 inhibitors include tadalafil (Cialis®), vardenafil (Levitra®) and avanafil (Stendra®).

Viagra was first released and approved by the FDA in 1998, and it’s estimated more than 20 million men used it within its first six years on the market.

While Viagra is widely recognized as an effective treatment for ED, it can cause some side effects. These include: headache, flushing, dizziness, indigestion and a stuffy nose. Also, some other drugs should not be taken with sildenafil. If you take nitrates, you should not take Viagra.

Natural Viagra Alternatives

When it comes to treating a medical condition, the word “natural” can mean many things. It’s become a buzzword when it comes to food, skin care products, treating illnesses and everything in between. 

So defining “natural” is important. For the sake of our analysis, we include ED treatments that do not require surgery or taking a prescription medication.

Vacuum therapy 

Vacuum devices are more of a mechanical treatment for ED. 

They have been in use since the early 1980s, and involve using a pump to create a vacuum on the penis, leading to engorgement. 

Once the vacuum has enlarged and stiffened the penis, a ring is placed at the base to keep the tissue engorged for sexual activity. 

Satisfaction with the results of a penis pump or vacuum vary. 

One smaller study of 100 men with ED problems found the overall satisfaction rate with the penis pump was 68 percent, and those who were unsatisfied cited pain, inconvenience and fleeting effects as their reasons.

Sex therapy 

For men whose ED is caused or worsened by psychological factors, counseling or sex therapy may provide some relief. 

Things like anxiety, relationship conflicts, trauma, cultural taboos and unresolved relationship attachments can all be addressed with the help of a mental health professional.

Herbs and supplements 

There are currently many herbal products marketed as solutions for erectile dysfunction, but it’s extremely important to note that the scientific efficacy for many of these herbs and homeopathic remedies hasn’t been thoroughly tested and should be taken lightly at best. 

Epimedium or horny goat weed, for example, has been shown to have small improvements on erectile dysfunction in animal testing, but no high quality human studies have confirmed these. 

Red ginseng and L-arginine are two other products frequently marketed for ED but lack much scientific evidence for ED treatment. 

Finally, yohimbine is said to increase libido and possibly improve erections, and while research published in Urology Times called this herb the “most promising” among nutraceuticals, it isn’t clear how yohimbine measures up to regular ED medications.

But what about watermelon? 

There is some chatter about a fruit that  can somehow help ED — specifically, watermelon. 

We wanted to address this one directly: the evidence supporting watermelon for erection help is slim, at best. 

The basis for suggesting watermelon fruit, juice or rind as a solution is likely due to the compound l-citrulline, of which watermelon is a good source

L-citrulline is believed to increase nitric oxide synthesis, which could, in theory, improve erection health. 

But clear cause-effect evidence of this relationship between l-citrulline and ED is scant.

There have been very small studies that indicated oral supplementation of l-citrulline may improve erectile dysfunction, but even then, the information is far too thin to actually substantiate the claim — and the research didn’t specifically involve watermelons.

The researchers in the linked study even concluded that despite the positive results, it’s still a topic that “deserves further research.” 

Lifestyle changes

Because there are certain lifestyle factors that increase your odds of developing ED, managing these risk factors can both lessen your risks and possibly even help rid you of ED after you’ve begun experiencing it. 

Losing weight, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking and managing chronic diseases such as diabetes can go a long way in improving erection and sexual health.

The Bottom Line

Perhaps you’re searching for “natural” solutions because you aren’t ready to seek medical advice for your erection problems. 

That’s totally understandable. 

However, erectile dysfunction can be a sign of more serious medical issues. Trust us when we say: your healthcare provider has heard it all. 

Talking with a healthcare professional about your experiences can help ensure there isn’t something more pressing at play, and then you can seek a treatment — natural or otherwise — that’ll get you back in the game.

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.