For every medication that is released into the world, there is often a “natural remedy” close behind it that claims to combat the same targeted issue. These remedies are derived from natural foraged plants or ingredients found in your local grocery store, and typically, only have anecdotal testimonials to back up their claims.
However, some of these remedies, like natural PDE-5 inhibitors for erectile dysfunction, may actually have some merit to them, being tested by researchers as alternative treatments.
Many men seek these alternative treatments for the sake of keeping their condition a secret, even from their doctor.
However, the world of natural remedies is challenging to navigate, as it is filled to the brim with questionable testimonials and the results of conflicting studies, most of which are conducted by non-professionals.
We’ll be exploring what the most used natural PDE-5 inhibitors are for treating ED and which of these have proven themselves promising to researchers.
What Are Natural PDE-5 Inhibitors and What Do They Do?
Typically, a natural PDE-5 inhibitor is a substance found in nature that, when ingested or applied topically as directed, inhibits the actions of the phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE-5) enzyme by binding with it before it can do so with anything else.
Concerning erections, this allows a chemical called cyclic guanosine monophosphate, or cGMP, to signal the body to relax soft muscle tissue and allow an erection to occur and persist (1).
Without a PDE-5 inhibitor, the enzyme would halt the actions of cGMP, and the erection would be lost, or refrain from even forming, as is commonly the case with ED (2).
Other forms of natural PDE-5 inhibitors claim to work by bolstering the nitric oxide (NO) within the body, which is responsible for a wide range of functions, including increasing the synthesis of cGMP (3) and thus theoretically improving erections.
What Are the Most Common Natural PDE-5 Inhibitors?
In truth, there isn’t any solid, conclusive evidence that any natural remedy has any significant effect, if any effect at all, on erectile dysfunction. Most of these remedies simply haven’t shown enough evidence to warrant extensive testing, and the few that have, have either produced negative, or mixed results.
However, the following have remained a staple in the natural remedy community as effective counters to ED.
- Arginine. This remedy is shown to have promising results in men who already have nitric oxide metabolic issues, such as those found in cases of cardiovascular disease (4). Additionally, arginine will potentially interact with other medications such as anticoagulants, blood pressure drugs, diabetes drugs, nitrate treatments, water pills, and even brand-name Viagra (5), and thus shouldn’t be taken without a doctor’s approval.
- Korean Red Ginseng. Korean Red Ginseng can and has been used as an alternative treatment for male erectile dysfunction. It works by facilitating nitric oxide synthesis, thus allowing an erection to occur. In a study done with 45 men, each taking 900 milligrams, three times a day for eight weeks, had improvement in their erectile dysfunction symptoms (6). It is important to note that Ginseng has a chance of interacting with other drugs, and can excite allergies, so doctor approval is recommended.
- Pomegranate Juice. Although pomegranate juice has shown to have multiple health benefits for the body (7), including anti-inflammatory effects (8), can fight against prostate cancer (9), and may lower blood pressure (10), there are mixed results when it comes to using it as a natural PDE-5 inhibitor. One study showed that pomegranate juice might protect nitric oxide, which is needed to gain an erection (11), but also concluded that it did not significantly improve one’s erection. Another study showed that there was a small statistical improvement in erections but that a larger study group would be needed to understand this significance and to see if a more significant pattern would emerge (12).
- Yohimbe. Also known as Yohimbe bark extract is a popular treatment for erectile dysfunction as it works by blocking the alpha-2 adrenergic receptors in the body, which, when active, inhibit erections (13). Doctors discourage its use, though, as it is commonly accompanied by jitters, headaches, anxiety, and high blood pressure (14).
- Horny Goat Weed. This is an extract that comes from the Epimedium plant and has the active ingredient icariin, which reportedly appears to act similarly to medications like Viagra. The icariin ingredient blocks the PDE-5 enzyme, which, if not blocked, would inhibit the dilation of arteries in the penis (15, 16). As a result, blood can flow into the arteries, and an erection can be achieved.
- Ginkgo Biloba. Many small-scale studies have been performed to determine just how effective ginkgo Biloba is for treating ED. So far, all tests have shown that even when the result is positive, the effect is so minimal that it’s dismissed as insignificant (17).
What Are Common Side Effects of Natural PDE-5 Inhibitors?
The most common thing to watch out for with any natural remedy is whether or not it interacts with other medications, as this can have adverse, and sometimes deadly effects on the body.
Additionally, symptoms such as headaches, anxiety, and high blood pressure should be monitored closely.
The Future of Natural ED Remedies
One Italian study, performed in 2019, pitted sildenafil against numerous other natural remedies in a simulated, chemical analysis, testing each substance for its respective binding energy, or its effectiveness as a PDE-5 inhibitor.
The results of this test showed very promising results for a chemical called Kraussianone-2, with binding energy even higher than that of sildenafil (18), and several other natural substances close behind it.
These natural PDE-5 inhibitors may be a long way from large-scale testing, but also give a good insight into what the future of these remedies may hold.