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Natural Viagra: Herbal & Other Alternatives to Treat ED

Kristin Hall, FNP

Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP

Written by Our Editorial Team

Last updated 5/19/2021

No one wants to experience 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 other natural alternatives for the treatment of erectile dysfunction

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, sexual dysfunction 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.

Some men who suffer from ED may only sometimes have issues with sexual performance, or may be able to get an erection and simply not have it last long enough. 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.

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How Viagra Works 

Viagra is a brand name drug also known by the generic name sildenafil, or generic Viagra 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 millions of men continue to use it each year.

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. 

It is important that you talk with your healthcare provider and inform them what medications you take both prescribed and over-the-counter, before taking Viagra.

What Are 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. 

Defining “natural” is important. For the sake of our analysis, we have included natural and home remedies for ED that do not require surgery or taking a prescription medication.

Vacuum Therapy 

Vacuum devices are a mechanical treatment for ED. Used since the early 1980s, vacuum therapy involves using a pump to create a vacuum on the penis, leading to engorgement by engaging your blood vessels and increasing blood flow. 

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 for ED 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.

It’s obvious that erectile dysfunction can be frustrating. Talking to a licensed therapist or mental health caretaker can help you work through any mental health issues that could be causing your ED. 

Talk to a licensed therapist now.

Herbal Remedies and Dietary Supplements 

There are currently many over-the-counter 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 and aphrodisiac effects in animal testing, but no high quality human studies have confirmed these. 

Red ginseng (an antioxidant) and L-arginine (a type of amino acid) are two other products frequently marketed as herbal viagra alternatives but lack much scientific evidence for natural ED remedies

Finally, a small study (involving 29 men) of yohimbine was shown to be a useful treatment option in orgasmic dysfunction.

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 sexual function

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

There have been 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.

Researchers 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. 

There are many ways to naturally protect your erection. Losing weight, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking and managing chronic health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes can go a long way in improving erectile function and sexual health.

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The Bottom Line on Natural Viagra Alternatives

Perhaps you’re searching for “natural” solutions because you aren’t ready to seek medical advice for your sexual performance. That’s totally understandable. 

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

Plus, even if your erectile dysfunction has an entirely harmless cause, talking to a healthcare provider can help you get a treatment that is clinically proven to work. 

With online telemedicine services and online pharmacies, like hims, you can even meet with a medical provider and, if prescribed, get a prescription for Viagra (or another ED medication) shipped to your door. 

No need to visit your healthcare provider, or even leave home for that matter.

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.

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