Normal male sexual function depends upon a reliable erection. The penile erection occurs when blood enters and is retained by sponge-like bodies, the corpora cavernosa, in shaft of the penis. The hydraulic response is the organ becoming rigid and elongated. A healthy erection is vital to the pleasure of both partners.
This hydraulic response is a result physical and mental stimulation. Although erection may occur from other factors, the most common and familiar is the result of sexual stimulation. Sadly, there are occasions when stimulation fails to bring an erectile response.
For centuries, the failure to achieve erection has been considered a sign of the loss of manhood. Not being able to satisfy the sexual partner was a source of shame, often hidden by light-heart jests that “it happens to every guy ….sometimes”.
Occasional erectile dysfunction may be the result of stress or illness. Although embarrassing, it should be a temporary setback, and an understanding partner will allow repeat performance.
Throughout history, a number of remedies have been brought forward to avoid even these “temporary setbacks”. Medical science has had little success treating chronic erectile dysfunction until the late 1990s when Viagra came on the market. ED drugs may have unintended side effects, and may be prohibitively expensive.
The big pharmaceutical companies, recognizing the huge profit potential of ED drugs, were willing to devote the money necessary for their research and development. Herbal supplements, which are mostly unregulated, are less well researched, and their reputation is largely anecdotal.
Sexual arousal is generally a response to both physical and mental stimulation. Erectile dysfunction may be the result of either physical or psychological factors. Psychological impotence is common, but treatable. It is very responsive to placebo, which may account for the success of folk remedies.
Physiological causes for ED are generally related to poor circulation, although age, neurological disease, kidney failure and drug use may have an effect. Life style considerations also need to be taken into account; the use of alcohol and tobacco are factors can factor into erectile dysfunction. Tobacco promotes arterial narrowing.
The use of supplements to treat ED is based largely on traditional herbal therapies, some of which is based as much on the resemblance of the plant matter to human genitalia than what is actually in them. Some of the supplements are based on sound science, however.
Depletion of the mineral zinc, whether through diuretics, diabetes, or digestive disorder, has been related to erectile dysfunction. Oysters, long thought to be an aphrodisiac, are rich in zinc.
Some herbal supplements encourage the production of nitric oxide, a free-radical which signals the smooth muscles around blood vessels to relax. Because good erections depend on good circulation, some of these herbs are marketed as “Natural Viagra”. These herbs include Yohimbe and Horny Goat Weed.
Licorice root is thought to balance hormone levels, promoting sexual readiness and energy. Vitamin C helps with blood circulation, which reduces ED.