Vitamins for erectile dysfunction
Erectile dysfunction (ED) affects millions of people across the U.S. every year. If you’ve had difficulty achieving or maintaining an erection, you’ve probably seen the ads for herbs and supplements promising to boost sexual performance and wondered, “Could they work for me?” The most effective and proven treatments are prescription medications (like Viagra), and lifestyle changes such as weight loss and reduced alcohol consumption. However, if supplements are more your thing, there are some vitamins for erectile dysfunction that you can try.
Vitamins for ED
These vitamins for erectile dysfunction may help alleviate symptoms:
- Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
- Vitamin C
Do vitamins really treat erectile dysfunction?
Bear in mind that while there is some evidence that vitamins, like niacin, could help erectile dysfunction, it’s generally agreed that they don’t treat or cure the condition with the same efficacy as prescription medications.
Read Also : Treatment Of Erectile Dysfunction
Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid)
Studies looking at heart disease have shown that daily folic acid supplements can reduce the hardening of arteries and allow for better circulation.
Because cardiovascular disease can be a major risk factor in sexual dysfunction, some experts believe that improving heart function with vitamin B9 could also help improve erectile function. After all, good blood flow and circulation to the penis are essential for achieving and maintaining an erection.
A daily dose of folic acid may also act as a mood stabilizer and may help both stress-related erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation during sexual intercourse. However, more research is necessary to really understand its efficacy.
Foods that are great sources of B9 include:
- Green, leafy vegetables like spinach and kale
- Legumes, such as beans, peas, and lentils
- Citrus fruits
- Brussels sprouts
- Cereals, rice, and pasta
Be mindful that side effects of consuming too much folic acid can include gas and bloating, restless sleep, and depression. Be sure to take the proper dose in order to avoid these side effects.
Read Also : Sexual Performance Anxiety/Nervousness and Erectile dysfunction :Causes, Symptoms & More
Multiple studies have shown that a large number of people who experience erectile dysfunction are also vitamin D deficient. A recent 2018 study went a step further to suggest that achieving healthy levels of vitamin D could improve testosterone levels, thereby increasing erectile function.
Additional research is needed to understand how effective vitamin D is when used to treat ED. But, even if a vitamin D deficiency does not directly cause erectile dysfunction, there are plenty of benefits to this supplement. If you are deficient, upping your vitamin D intake can help foster a healthy immune system and support bone health.
Aside from getting enough sunlight (fun fact: vitamin D is also known as the “sunshine vitamin”) other good sources of vitamin D are:
- Fatty fish and seafood like salmon, mackerel, sardines, tuna, shrimp, and oysters
- Egg yolks
Vitamin-D fortified foods including cow’s milk, nut milks, orange juice, and yogurt
Although vitamin D toxicity is rare, if you have too much, you may experience extreme side effects like kidney damage and heart rhythm issues.
Vitamin B3 (Niacin)
Vitamin B3, otherwise known as niacin, is one of the few vitamins with promising research some efficacy in boosting erectile function. That said, the sample size of the existing studies has been very small. Research with larger sample sizes is required.
Niacin is known to help decrease high blood pressure, and is sometimes used to treat hardening of the arteries and high cholesterol, all of which are known causes of impotence. If these health problems are the underlying cause of your ED, niacin may help increase circulation to your penis so you can achieve an erection.
To naturally up your intake of vitamin B3, try eating more:
- Chicken breast
- Green peas
The most common side effect of niacin is flushing of the skin. Starting at a lower dose and slowly increasing the dose may help; some people find that taking aspirin (if tolerated) helps with the flushing as well. Other side effects of consuming too much niacin include blurred vision, nausea, liver issues, and gout.
Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid)
In order to get an erection, your body needs to release nitric oxide. Vitamin C does not release nitric oxide directly, but it can support the biochemical pathways necessary for its release.
There is no evidence that vitamin C is effective at improving erectile dysfunction. But there are many other reported benefits of getting enough vitamin C. It’s necessary for the growth, repair, and development of all body tissues. In other words, the risk of trying it is low. At the very least, it will help boost your immune system.
If you’d like to incorporate more vitamin C into your diet, try eating:
- Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
- Citrus fruits like oranges and grapefruit
- Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower
- Spinach and leafy greens
Nitric oxide dilates blood vessels, improving blood flow and circulation. L-arginine is a naturally occurring amino acid that helps increase levels of nitric oxide. Increasing L-arginine with supplements will increase nitric oxide, likely leading to increased blood flow and better erections.
Although there is good research to back up the effectiveness of L-arginine, it is limited to men who have low levels of nitric oxide in their system. If your levels are fine, the supplement may not have any effect.
Foods that are high in L-arginine include:
- Pumpkin or squash seeds
- Nuts and seeds
- Meat, including turkey, chicken, pork, and beef
Side effects of L-arginine may include: stomach issues (diarrhea, bloating, abdominal pain), gout, allergies, worsening of asthma, and low blood pressure.
Note: This is not a complete list of vitamins for erectile dysfunction, or herbs that may improve sexual function. You may also ask your doctor about the possible health benefits of ginseng, horny goat weed (also known as epimedium), yohimbe/yohimbine, carnitines, L-citrulline, and ginkgo.
Herbal supplements for ED
Horny goat weed
Horny goat weed is a traditional Chinese medicinal herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat fatigue and low libido. Some anecdotal reports and animal tests suggest that horny goat weed might help address ED by improving erections.
Horny goat weed contains icariin, a substance that is a mild inhibitor of PDE5 (Dell’Agli, 2008). Inhibiting PDE5 is how ED medications like Viagra and Cialis work. But studies on icariin have been conducted on animals and in test tubes; horny goat weed may not work the same way in the human body.
Yohimbine, the active ingredient in yohimbe bark, is a common ingredient in supplements sold as aphrodisiacs or male sexual enhancers. A 2015 review of studies found that seven clinical trials determined that yohimbine was superior to placebo for the treatment of ED (Cui, 2015). But researchers noted that studies had not directly compared yohimbine to PDE5 inhibitors, and as such, it could not be considered a first-line ED treatment.
Korean ginseng has been touted for the treatment of erectile dysfunction for years. In one meta-analysis of 24 controlled trials involving 2,080 men with ED, researchers found that ginseng “significantly improved erectile function” and “may be an effective herbal treatment for ED,” although they cautioned that more studies were needed before that could be definitively stated (Borrelli, 2018).
Dehydroepiandrosterone, or DHEA, is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands. It’s a natural booster of hormones like testosterone and estrogen. Some studies have found that taking a DHEA supplement can boost free testosterone levels along with exercise (Lui, 2013); others found no difference (Brown, 1999).
Citrulline and arginine
Citrulline, an amino acid, may cause blood vessels to relax, similar to how Viagra works. It’s the precursor of arginine, another amino acid that may widen blood vessels. The efficacy of arginine supplements is arguable, since it may break down too quickly for your body to use, and L-arginine deficiency doesn’t usually cause ED. Watermelon is one food that’s a rich natural source of citrulline.
Considerations for vitamins/herbal supplements for ED
A few things to keep in mind when you’re considering vitamins or supplements for the treatment of ED: Unlike prescription drugs, vitamins and supplements are not FDA-approved or regulated. So you can’t be absolutely sure of their potency or quality. Many of them also lack sufficient evidence regarding their efficacy to truly know if they have an effect or not.
Certain vitamins and supplements could affect any health conditions you have or interact dangerously with any prescription medications you’re taking. You should always consult your healthcare provider before starting any vitamins or supplements.
Other ED treatments
Oral medications for ED are highly effective. Several are available, including sildenafil (brand name Viagra), tadalafil (brand name Cialis), and vardenafil (brand name Levitra).
Viagra (sildenafil): May be effective within 30 to 60 minutes can last up to 12 hours
Cialis (tadalafil): May be effective within 60 to 120 minutes and may last up to 36 hours
Levitra or Staxyn (vardenafil): May be effective within 30 to 60 minutes and can last up to 10 hours
Stendra (avanafil): May be effective within 15 to 30 minutes and can last up to 12 hours
If low testosterone is responsible for your ED, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can boost your testosterone levels via injection, a wearable patch, or gel applied to the skin.
There are five PDE5 inhibitors approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for treatment of ED:
- Viagra (sildenafil) tablets, approved 1998
- Cialis (tadalafil) tablets, approved 2003
- Levitra (vardenafil) tablets, approved 2003
- Staxyn (vardenafil) dissolvable tablets, approved 2010
- Stendra (avanafil) tablets, approved 2012
For some men with ED, using a device such as a penis pump, cock ring, or—in severe cases—a surgically placed penis implant, have been effective in restoring sexual function.
Your erections will be best when you’re healthy. Making simple lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and limiting your alcohol consumption, might be enough to improve ED.
If you’re experiencing ED, it’s a good idea to talk with a healthcare provider. They’ll help you find the solution that’s right for you—and potentially nip any other health problems in the bud before they become severe.