Does herbal Viagra work?

Is there an effective natural Viagra alternative out there?

Viagra and other phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE-5) inhibitors such as Levitra, Cialis, and Spedra have been hailed as ‘super drugs’ over the last couple of decades.  They have given a great deal of help to many men suffering from erectile dysfunction, but as with most things, there is always a downside and some men can experience extremely debilitating side effects as a result of using these types of drugs. Side effects to PDE-5 inhibitors include|:

  • Headaches
  • Flushing
  • Nasal congestion
  • Nasopharangitis
  • Dyspepsia
  • Prolonged erections lasting more than four hours
  • Priapism (erections lasting more than six hours)

It is, as a result of this, that many men have sought alternatives that come without the side effects.  We are going to investigate the so-called ‘Viagra alternatives’ that are out there

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L-Arginine

L-arginine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is involved in the body’s production of nitric oxide. In turn, the nitric oxide helps the muscles of the penis relax and so allows the free flow of blood into the penis and which results in an erection being achieved and maintained.

There are some studies which suggest it may help with erectile dysfunction and has been more effective when used in conjunction with other supplements

There are some side effects to using this supplement which include an upset stomach with cramping and diarrhea. It can also interact adversely with viagra

 

Horny goat weed (Epimedium)

This is a Chinese herb that has been used to help with sexual dysfunction in general, including erectile dysfunction.  It is also said to increase libido and reduce the likelihood of having painful intercourse

The exact mechanism for how this herb works is known but researchers believe that it may alter the levels of some hormones in the body and so improving sexual function

Horny goat weed has not been studied in humans but a study published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine showed that rats, when given the supplement demonstrated better blood flow.

The side effects may include adversely affecting a person’s heart function. It is not recommended for people who suffer from heart disease as it can cause an irregular heartbeat.  The herb may also interact with other medicines

 

Ginkgo biloba

This herb has been used for thousands of years to treat health conditions, particularly those associated with poor circulation such as dementia, anxiety, and poor blood flow in the brain.  Some people believe that it may also increase blood flow in the male genital organs.  The reasons for believing this are that it is believed that Ginkgo Biloba can dilate blood vessels.  The research does not show any clear evidence for these claims.  It was however noted by Columbia University that it  may be of some use in treating erectile dysfunction that has been caused by taking SSRIs for depression

Ginkgo may increase the risk of bleeding and so it should be avoided by people taking medication to thin the blood

Ginkgo may also cause nausea, stomach upset, headache, and irritation of the mouth

 

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

DHEA is a hormone that is produced in the body by the adrenal glands; supplements of DHEA mimic the action  of the natural steroid hormone and may help treat erectile dysfunction in men

As a person gets older, the natural levels of DHEA begin to drop and so increasing those levels by supplementing them may help the body by improving sexual function

There have been no conclusive studies into this type of supplementation.  DHEA is safe if taken in small doses but acne may be a side effect

 

Korean red ginseng (Panax Ginseng)

This is a herb often referred to as ‘herbal viagra’ and it is promoted by Korean herbal practitioners for its ability to treat erectile dysfunction.

The way that ginseng can help erectile dysfunction is not really understood but there are theories which include:

  • It has some sort of influence over hormones responsible for producing erections
  • It may cause increased levels of nitric oxide and so improve blood flow to the penis

A 2008 review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology suggested that Korean ginseng was often more effective than placebo when reducing symptoms of erectile dysfunction.  Sadly, study sizes have been too small to draw any conclusive evidence for the benefits of Korean ginseng

Red ginseng can cause insomnia but is largely regarded as being safe to take on a short term basis

 

Yohimbine

This supplement is made from the bark of an African tree and pre Viagra, it was often considered to treat ED

Yohimbine is believed to work by triggering the release of two hormones epinephrine and norepinephrine which can interrupt the effects of other compounds that may otherwise constrict blood vessels in the penis.

Yohimbine however has many side effects which include high blood pressure, anxiety, and rapid heart rate

 

Rhodiola rosea

A very small study has suggested that when this herb is given for ED it may be of some help.  This herb has also been shown to improve energy and reduce fatigue but more studies are needed

 

Conclusion

Whilst there are many possible alternatives to Viagra it is not possible to recommend any until further extensive studies are carried out

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