Medically reviewed by Jill Johnson, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 6/17/2022
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is one of the most common forms of male sexual dysfunction, affecting an estimated 30 million men in the United States alone.
If you’ve looked into treatments for erectile dysfunction, you may be familiar with medications such as sildenafil (the active ingredient in Viagra®) and tadalafil (Cialis®), which both work by increasing blood flow to your penis.
You may have also come across natural remedies for ED, including the combination of olive oil and lemon juice.
While some research suggests that olive oil may offer benefits for cardiovascular health, there isn’t any high-quality scientific research to suggest that taking olive oil and lemon juice for ED is a good idea, or that it has any effect at all on your sexual performance.
Below, we’ve explained what erectile dysfunction is, as well as the factors that can either cause or contribute to ED.
We’ve also busted a few common myths and medical misunderstandings about the effects that olive oil and lemon juice can have on your erections and sexual function. Finally, we’ve shared some evidence-based treatments that you may want to consider if you’re dealing with ED.
Before we get into the specifics of olive oil and lemon juice for erectile dysfunction, let’s quickly go over the basics of what erectile dysfunction actually is, as well as the factors that can cause it to develop.
Many people think ED is when you can’t get an erection at all. In reality, ED is a complex condition that can vary hugely in severity, from mild and temporary to a more severe, lifelong issue.
If you have ED, you might be able to get an erection, but not maintain it for long enough to have satisfying sex with your partner. Alternatively, you might find it relatively simple to get an erection sometimes, but not every time you want to have sex.
A variety of physical and psychological health issues can either cause or contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Common physical causes of ED include heart disease, atherosclerosis (clogged arteries), high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes, as well as injuries and diseases that affect the nerves around your penis.
Some medications, including antiandrogens, antidepressants, tranquilizers and medications for managing high blood pressure, may contribute to erectile dysfunction.
Certain habits can also contribute to ED. Your risk of erectile dysfunction is higher, for example, if you smoke, live a sedentary lifestyle, use illegal drugs, drink excessive amounts of alcohol or are overweight.
Finally, erectile dysfunction can also have psychological causes, including depression, chronic stress, feelings of guilt about having sex or sexual performance anxiety.
Our guide to the causes of erectile dysfunction goes into greater detail about these factors and the impact that they can have on your sexual function.
Currently, there’s no scientific evidence that suggests that olive oil and lemon juice works as a treatment for erectile dysfunction.
However, both of these foods are good for your general health and wellbeing, and eating them may help to reduce your risk of developing medical conditions that can contribute to ED.
So, where does the idea of using olive oil and lemon juice for ED come from? Like many other medical myths, this idea appears to come from various media outlets misunderstanding scientific findings.
From 2018 right up until this year, various new outlets have reported on research showing that eating a Mediterranean diet can help keep your blood vessels healthy and reduce men’s risk of developing cardiovascular diseases.
This isn’t a controversial theory. In fact, assessments of existing research tend to conclude that we have “large, strong and consistent” evidence that eating a Mediterranean diet is associated with better cardiovascular health outcomes. This diet often includes lots of — you guessed it — olive oil and lemons or lemon juice.
However, like with many nuanced and complicated science-related topics, study findings don’t always make for exciting headlines. Many news outlets, whether they just misunderstood the research or they wanted to jazz up the facts, have run stories with headlines that hyped up olive oil as a miracle treatment for erectile dysfunction.
For example, the Independent, a UK newspaper, published a story with the headline “Olive Oil ‘Better Than Viagra’ at Slashing Impotence in August of 2018.
A day later, the Huffington Post published an article with the headline “Olive Oil May Be Better Than Viagra At Improving Your Sex Life, Greek Scientists Say.”
The Huffington Post story quotes a Medical Daily page that’s since been removed for failing to meet the outlet’s editorial standards.
These articles aren’t totally wrong, but the way they present the evidence isn’t quite accurate. While it’s true that the Mediterranean diet can reduce a person’s risk of developing heart disease, there isn’t any evidence that olive oil is “better than Viagra” as a treatment for ED.
Olive oil and Viagra are very different substances. Olive oil is a liquid fat that, when used in a balanced diet, may contribute to healthier blood vessels. But it isn’t a medication that you can take before sex for better erections — instead, its effects on your health are preventative.
Viagra and related ED medications, on the other hand, are used specifically to increase blood flow to the penis and treat erectile dysfunction. They’re proven, thoroughly-tested medications that you can use as needed to stop ED from having a negative effect on your sex life.
As such, the comparison isn’t really fair. However, the general direction of the findings is fairly accurate, in the sense that maintaining a Mediterranean diet that includes olive oil may help to reduce your risk of developing heart disease, which is a major contributor to ED.
This reduction in cardiovascular risk might improve your sexual capacity — a theory that actually is backed up by scientific research.
In fact, a study published in the European Heart Journal in 2021 found that hypertensive men experience improvements in erectile performance, testosterone levels and exercise tolerance when they stick to a Mediterranean diet.
But it’s important to remember that in addition to olive oil, the Mediterranean diet is built around plant-based meals with moderate portions of lean meat, poultry and seafood. It also focuses on simple seasoning, without rich sauces or gravies, and emphasizes avoiding or limiting your intake of eggs, butter, red meats and sugar-rich foods. It's a significant commitment that may produce real benefits for your health and wellbeing, but there’s more to it than just cooking with olive oil.
Instead of depending on olive oil and lemon juice to deal with ED, you’ll get the best results by sticking to evidence-based, proven treatments.
Currently, the FDA has approved several oral medications for erectile dysfunction, all of which belong to a class of drugs called PDE5 inhibitors. These medications include:
Sildenafil, which is the active ingredient in Viagra
Tadalafil, which is the active ingredient in Cialis
Vardenafil, which is the active ingredient in Levitra®
Avanafil, which is currently available as Stendra®
PDE5 inhibitors work by increasing blood flow to the erectile tissue inside your penis, making it easier to get and stay hard when you’re sexually aroused. Most ED medications can be taken 15 to 60 minutes before you plan to have sex, making them easy to use as needed.
In addition to using medication, making simple changes to your habits and lifestyle may reduce your risk of experiencing long-term erectile dysfunction. Try to:
Quit smoking. Smoking can contribute to heart disease, which is a major risk factor for erectile dysfunction. If you smoke cigarettes or use other nicotine products, try to quit to improve your erections and sexual performance.
Stay physically active. Regular physical activity can improve your heart health, blood flow and general quality of life. Try to get at least 30 minutes of exercise a day, whether it’s a walk in your neighborhood, a bike ride or a workout in the gym.
Eat a healthy diet. Although the Mediterranean diet is linked to improvements in heart health and erections, it isn’t the only diet you can follow. Try to follow a healthy diet that prioritizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats over salt and saturated fats.
Limit your alcohol consumption. Excess alcohol use is associated with several forms of sexual dysfunction, including ED (whisky dick) and premature ejaculation (PE). Try to either drink in moderation or avoid drinking alcohol entirely.
Avoid recreational drugs. Many recreational drugs can reduce arousal and sensation, which may prevent you from getting an erection. Avoid using illegal drugs. If you think you have a substance use disorder, let your primary care provider know.
Our guide to naturally protecting your erection shares other habits and lifestyle changes that you can use to reduce your risk of dealing with long-term erectile dysfunction.
Eating a diet with lots of olive oil, fresh vegetables and lean protein sources may provide real, measurable benefits for your cardiovascular and sexual health. Over the long term, this could contribute to better circulatory health and a reduced risk of heart disease or ED.
However, the theory that drinking a mix of olive oil and lemon juice before sex can stop erectile dysfunction isn’t supported by any real evidence, nor is the idea that olive oil works similarly to medications like Viagra.
Interested in learning more before you start? Our complete guide to the most common erectile dysfunction treatments and drugs goes into more detail about how these medications work, as well as the steps that you can take to deal with ED for good.