Supplements often target erection problems, which can happen for many medical reasons, including some medications for high blood pressure or depression.
“The solution is probably a discussion with your physician about whether there are alternatives to your medication that will help,” says Josephine Briggs, MD, director of the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health.
Your doctor can also let you know if it would help to work on your diet, exercise, and weight.
If you want to give supplements a try, ask your doctor if these would be OK for you.
L-arginine is an amino acid, which are the building blocks of protein. In your body, it turns into nitric oxide. In one study, about one-third of men who took 5 grams of it per day for 6 weeks had improved erections.
“Erectile dysfunction is caused in part by [poor] penile circulation. Nitric oxide causes blood vessels to dilate [widen], so there’s some rationale for L-arginine perhaps having some effect,” Briggs says.
The supplement can cause belly pain, bloating, diarrhea, and other side effects. It can also cause a serious allergic reaction or worsen symptoms for people with asthma.
Propionyl-L-carnitine: Your body makes this amino acid. It’s important for metabolism. As a supplement, it might help make sildenafil (Viagra) more effective for men with diabetes and erectile dysfunction. One study tested that idea in men who had tried sildenafil at least eight times with no luck. When they added 2 grams of propionyl-L-carnitine per day to their plan, they got results.
“Carnitine does improve blood flow,” Fugh-Berman says. “It’s also been tested in men with Peyronie’s disease, which is a bent penis disease. L-carnitine reduced pain and seemed to make the disease progress more slowly.”
Side effects can include chest pain, nausea, vomiting, and stomach upset. It can also make your sweat and urine smell fishy.
Niacin is a B vitamin that raises your "good" cholesterol level. In one study, men with high cholesterol and moderate to severe ED who took 1,500 milligrams of niacin for 12 weeks saw improvements.