Medically reviewed by Kristin Hall, FNP
Written by Our Editorial Team
Last updated 3/14/2023
We've heard some pretty out-there “cures” for erectile dysfunction over the years, but olive oil and lemon juice for ED is definitely in a category of its own.
The headlines were once littered with claims about this half-assed salad dressing recipe as a treatment for everything from skin and hair health to weight management, and we can understand the appeal of pantry staples for penile power, too. And to one extent or another, there may be some benefits.
Look at it this way: olive oil may offer cardiovascular health benefits, but 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. There. Plain English.
We’ve explained why below, and we’ve also busted a few common myths and medical misunderstandings about the effects of olive oil and lemon juice on your erections and sexual function.
We’ve shared some evidence-based treatments that you may want to consider if you’re dealing with ED, so read on while you finish up that lemon vinaigrette salad or whatever.
Seriously fellas, if you came here looking for a tasty way to tame your ED, we have bad news: currently, there’s zero scientific evidence suggesting 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 well-being, and eating them may help reduce your risk of developing medical conditions whose side effects absolutely include erectile dysfunction.
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 real scientific findings.
It started with 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 groundbreaking or 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. This led news outlets and tabloid blogs to exaggerate them from things like, “it may help improve blood flow” to, “this stuff'll make you A SEX GOD.”
Want examples of some of these headlines? They’re really fun:
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.
As we said, these articles aren’t totally wrong, but how they present the evidence isn’t accurate. The Mediterranean diet can indeed reduce a person’s risk of developing heart disease, but there isn’t any evidence that olive oil is “better than Viagra” as a treatment for ED.
So, olive oil and lemon juice aren't dick cure-alls or erectile supplements, but what can they do for you? Let’s look at the facts.
Olive oil is a liquid fat that, when used in a balanced diet, may contribute to healthier blood vessels.
A Mediterranean diet that includes olive oil may help reduce your risk of developing heart disease, which is a major contributor to ED. Reducing your cardiovascular risk may improve your blood flow, which may positively impact your erectile health.
Here’s the data to support this reasonable theory:
A study published in the European Heart Journal in 2021 found that hypertensive men experience improvements in erectile performance, levels of testosterone and exercise tolerance when they stick to a Mediterranean diet.
The Mediterranean diet is built around plant-based meals with moderate portions of lean meat, poultry and seafood — not just olive oil.
It emphasizes avoiding or limiting your intake of eggs, butter, red meats and sugar-rich foods.
The Mediterranean diet is a significant commitment that may produce real benefits for your health and well-being, but there’s more to it than just cooking with olive oil and chugging lemon water.
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. Treating it is a popular problem that’s far outside the scope of your favorite Greek restaurant.
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.
You can also try making simple changes to your habits and lifestyle which can also 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 and one of the potential causes of erectile dysfunction.
Stay physically active. Even if it’s just a walk around your neighborhood, try to get at least 30 minutes of regular physical activity a day, can improve your heart health and blood flow, and regulate blood pressure and general quality of life.
Eat a healthy diet. The Mediterranean diet is linked to improvements in cholesterol, heart health and erections, but you can see benefits from any 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 ED (whiskey dick) and premature ejaculation (PE), so drink in moderation or avoid drinking alcohol entirely.
Avoid recreational drugs. Many recreational drugs can reduce arousal and sensation, so put them down when you try to get it up (and if you think you have a substance use disorder, let your primary care provider know).
So are you about to balsa-make your problems go away with a little light dressing cocktail? Nope. That’s not how it works. It’s going to take more than olive oil and lemon for you to treat ED. What you need to remember is:
YES 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.
AND over the long term, this could contribute to better circulatory health and a reduced risk of heart disease or ED.
BUT 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, which are designed specifically to improve blood flow to the penis.
SO if you have ED, you’ll get the best results by sticking to proven erectile dysfunction treatments such as sildenafil, tadalafil and Stendra.
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.
Oh, and have that lightly dressed salad anyway — it’s not like it’s going to hurt you.