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Alternative Treatments for ED

Reviewed by Nazia Q Bandukwala, DO on January 12, 2021

If you have erectile dysfunction, or ED, there are many ways your doctor can help you treat it. But you may want to consider complementary or alternative medicine therapies, rather than traditional medicine. Alternative or complementary treatments might include such things as acupuncture and talk therapy.
Use of  nutritional supplements or herbal remedies come with serious safety concerns because many of these haven’t been studied as significantly as other medications for effectiveness. In addition, they are unregulated and can have side effects based on their ingredients.

So if you’re considering an alternative form of treatment for ED, talk to your doctor before getting started.

Nutritional Supplements

Many supplements promoted for ED and sexual enhancement have been found to be tainted with drug ingredients or related substances. Some products include combinations of multiple ingredients or excessively high doses, both of which can be dangerous. Consumers can’t tell whether a product contains these ingredients because they’re not listed on the product label. In addition, drug ingredients in some ED supplements may interact with prescription drugs in harmful ways.

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Always keep your doctor informed about what you may be taking. These supplments include:

L-arginine and pycnogenol. A study showed that when these two supplements were used together, men who had mild ED had a significant improvement in sexual function without any side effects.

Flavonoids. According to a 10-year study of more than 25,000 men, those who ate a diet high in flavonoid-rich foods were less likely to have ED. Whether that means flavonoid supplements can help with ED still needs to be studied.

Zinc. There seems to be a link between severe zinc deficiency and men who have low testosterone. Researchers know that a zinc supplement increases testosterone serum levels in men, so it could help with ED, as well.

Vitamin D. There may also be a link between ED and vitamin D deficiency. A study determined that a lot of men with ED have low levels of vitamin D, especially when their ED is caused by injury.

DHEA. There is some evidence that shows the hormone dehydroepiandrosterone, known as DHEA, can improve libido and help with erectile dysfunction.

Acupuncture

This ancient Chinese medicine uses needles to stimulate certain points on the body. The stimulation can help you overcome illnesses and conditions by correcting imbalances.

Acupuncture may help some men with ED, but most studies provide no conclusive evidence about the effectiveness of the treatment. But acupuncture is safe, and if you want to give it a try, you should.

Counseling

If your ED is caused by psychological or emotional issues, consider seeing a counselor or therapist. They can teach you ways to reduce the anxiety related to sex.

You can even invite your partner to talk about new ways to explore intimacy and different techniques to treat the physical causes of your ED.

Be Smart

Keep in mind that most nutritional supplements aren’t regulated by the FDA as drugs or foods. Instead they’re regulated as dietary supplements.

That means they have to meet certain quality standards, but it doesn’t guarantee that they’re safe for everyone. That’s why you should always talk with your doctor before taking any supplements. And stay safe by following these tips:

  • Avoid supplements from outside the U.S.
  • Check with the FDA for supplements under review
  • Don’t exceed recommended dosage
  • Take only one supplement at a time
WebMD Medical Reference

Sources

SOURCES:

National Center for Biotechnology Information.

Mayo Clinic: “Herbal supplements: What to know before you buy.”

National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases: “Erectile Dysfunction.”

Harvard Health Publications: “Acupuncture for ED?”

University of Michigan Health System: “DHEA.”

Journal of Sexual Medicine: “Vitamin D and Erectile Dysfunction.”

Nutrition: “Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults.”

Cassidy, Aedín, The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2008.

Journal of Sex and Marital Therapy: “Treatment of erectile dysfunction with pycnogenol and L-arginine.”

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