A natural remedy for impotence? – Learn before you buy

You want a natural remedy for impotence that works and is safe.

While there are several natural herbal remedies that are commonly advertised, always check with a healthcare provider before taking any herbs or supplements.

May affect other treatments

Researchers at UT Southwestern Medical Center discovered that hormonal components in over-the-counter dietary supplements may:

  • Promote the progression of prostate cancer
  • Decrease the effectiveness of anti-cancer drugs

Always tell the doctor about any herbal or hormonal dietary supplements your man is considering taking, even if it is being advertised as a “natural impotence drug.”

L-arginine for erection problems

One substance that has been studied in limited clinical trials is L-arginine.

Arginine is a semi-essential amino acid that changes into nitric oxide, which causes blood vessel relaxation (the medical term for this is vasodilation).

Some studies have shown that L-arginine may be more effective than placebo (sugar pill) as a natural impotence drug.

  • In a small clinical trial (Klotz et al) of 32 men, oral L-arginine (500 mg) taken three times a day was not shown to be more effective than placebo for mixed-type impotence.
  • In another small study of 40 men (Stanislavov & Nikolova), when L-arginine was combined with Pycnogenol (the brand name for a water extract of the bark of the French maritime pine), the study investigators reported that there was improvement in sexual function.

Large scale human clinical studies are needed to thoroughly evaluate the safety and efficacy of each natural remedy for impotence.

Pycnogenol and L-arginine side effects

Pycnogenol may:

  • Lower blood sugar levels
  • Interact with other blood pressure lowering medications
  • Interfere with immunosuppressant or immunostimulant drugs
  • Increase the risk of bleeding when taken with herbs and supplements that are believed to increase the risk of bleeding

L-arginine can cause:

  • Stomach problems
  • A drop in blood pressure
  • Changes in levels of certain chemical and electrolytes in the body
  • Increased risk of bleeding

Another natural remedy for impotence

Some have touted yohimbine as a natural remedy for impotence. Yohimbine is derived from the bark of a tree found in West Africa.

In a meta-analysis (which is a review of available studies), there was some evidence that yohimbine was more effective than placebo.

Like L-arginine, stringent human clinical trials are needed to determine if yohimbine holds true promise as a therapeutic option for erectile dysfunction.

Side effects of yohimbine

Large doses of yohimbine can:

  • Raise blood pressure
  • Raise heart rate
  • Lead to kidney failure

Other side effects can include nausea, nervousness, sleeplessness, and dizziness.


Another natural remedy for impotence that has gotten attention is panax ginseng (also called Asian ginseng).

In one small clinical trial, panax ginseng was shown to be more effective than placebo after eight weeks of treatment.

Side effects of ginseng can include:

  • Allergic reactions
  • Headache
  • Stomach problems
  • Lowered or increased blood sugar

More studies needed

In a review article in Alternative Medicine Review, Douglas MacKay concluded that L-arginine, yohimbine, panax ginseng, and other substances such as ginkgo biloba and maca root may offer some benefit and should be studied further.

But he cautions that each natural remedy for impotence is “far from providing a ‘magic bullet’ or cure for erectile dysfunction.”

MacKay also cautions (and we agree) that you should not be fooled by unsubstantiated claims made by manufacturers of any natural remedy for impotence.

Back to sex after prostate cancer

Kernohan AF, McIntyre M, Hughes DM, Tam SW, Worcel M, Reid JL. An oral yohimbine/L-arginine combination (NMI 861) for the treatment of male erectile dysfunction: a pharmacokinetic, pharmacodynamic and interaction study with intravenous nitroglycerine in healthy male subjects.Br J Clin Pharmacol. 2005;59(1):85-93.

Klotz T, Mathers MJ, Braun M, Bloch W, Engelmann U. Effectiveness of oral L-arginine in first-line treatment of erectile dysfunction in a controlled crossover study. Urol Int. 1999;63(4):220-3.

McKay D. Nutrients and botanicals for erectile dysfunction: examining the evidence. Altern Med Rev. 2004;9(1):4-16.

Medline Plus. Pycnogenol® (Pinus pinaster ssp. atlantica). http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/druginfo/natural/patient- pycnogenol.html. Accessed June 11, 2009.

Stanislavov R, Nikolova V. Treatment of erectile dysfunction with pycnogenol and L-arginine. J Sex Marital Ther. 2003;29(3):207-13.

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