CHICAGO, April 25, 2013 — Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects 30 to 50 percent of males, most of them 40 to 70 years of age. In case there is someone who does not know, ED occurs when a man cannot acheive or maintain an erection that is firm enough for sexual intercourse. It can be accompanied by diminished sexual desire.

Age, smoking and obesity are factors in developing ED. For approximately 20 percent of men, ED has a psychological cause such as stress or depression. Conventional ED treatments include oral and injected medications, hormonal therapy, suppositories, and prosthesis implantation.

There are several alternative treatments for ED available such as the herb, red ginseng, the supplements DHEA and L-arginine, as well as traditional treatments such as acupuncture. All alternative methods require additional research to determine whether they are scientifically safe and effective for ED, but they each have firm supporters and anecdotal backing.

It is important to see your physician about ED no matter what treatment options you are considering. ED can be a symptom of more serious health problems such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes or nerve disorders. Another cause of impotence requiring a doctor’s diagnosis is Peyronie’s disease, a bend in the penis that inhibits erection.

Red Ginseng

Ginseng is called red ginseng (Korean red ginseng, or panax ginseng) when it is harvested after six years of growth. It is traditionally considered an adaptogenic substance meaning it restores balance to the body, enhancing our well-being.

This herb may help with ED because it has hormonal effects similar to those of testosterone. Or, red ginseng might assist with lift by relaxing the smooth muscles of the corpus cavernosum, columns of erectile tissue in the penis.

A research analysis of randomized clinical studies that used red ginseng to treat ED suggests that the herb is helpful in relieving this problem. However, the low number of studies available, plus the small size and methodological quality variations of the studies leaves plenty of room for further inquiry.

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

Research has discovered a link between low DHEA levels in men and ED.

DHEA, dehydroepiandrosterone, is a basic ingredient of male hormones. It is manufactured by the human body in the testes and adrenal glands. Although it can also be made in laboratories from chemicals found in wild yams and soy, our body cannot produce DHEA from these chemicals by eating yams or soy products.

Studies such as the Massachusetts Male Aging Study show that DHEA supplements help alleviate ED, particularly in men who have generally good health and whose other sex hormones are in good supply. DHEA is much less effective for those with impotence resulting from nerve disorders or diabetes.


L-arginine is an amino acid necessary in the manufacture of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide is an important factor in vascular health and the regulation of blood flow. It triggers the relaxation of smooth muscles throughout the body including the essential erectile region of the corpus cavernosum.

Much research, but not all, supports the claim that taking L-arginine supplements is aces at increasing the body’s level of endothelial (cells lining blood vessels) nitric oxide. Sometimes L-arginine is paired with another substance such as Pycnogenol to maximize its nitric oxide producing effects.

You should definitely consult with your doctor before using L-arginine supplementation. It can affect blood glucose and potassium levels and possibly increase the production of stomach acid. However, much of the research and patient reports are very encouraging.


Your first thought about about acupuncture for ED might be, “Where exactly to they put the needles?” Fortunately, acupuncture does not treat ED locally.

Acupuncture energy meridians or pathways run along the entire body. Very fine needles are inserted at specific points on the abdomen, back, and extremities to eliminate the energy imbalance causing impotence. This procedure can also alleviate ailments that contribute to, or underly, the problem. Depending on the patient’s diagnosis, acupuncture is sometimes combined with the use of herbal medicines.

A small study at the Lainz Hospital, Vienna, Austria (2003) showed that acupuncture is a viable treatment option for psychologically based ED. After treatment, two-thirds of the participants reported things were looking up.

Originally posted on Washington Times Communities