Erectile dysfunction is not taken as seriously as other medical conditions like hypertension, stroke, and cancer because it’s not life-threatening. A lot of men also prefer to suffer in silence because of the stigma that comes with having problems with erection. It is, after all, the ultimate symbol of manhood.
Still, at least 12 million American men have erectile dysfunction. And while the condition is more prevalent with aging, several studies are showing that the prevalence of erectile dysfunction in younger men is now as high as 30% (1).
With the growing number of erectile dysfunction cases, the demand for medications and treatment options is also increasing. Since 1998, Sildenafil was the medication of choice for treating erectile dysfunction, but it’s now being challenged by remedies using natural PDE5 inhibitors that are considered safer, cheaper, and more practical (2).
Understanding PDE5 inhibitors
Drugs like Sildenafil (Viagra), Tadalafil (Cialis) and Vardenafil (Levitra) all belong to the drug classification of PDE5 inhibitors. Penile erection is usually a choreographed action that starts with the brain and ends in the penis (3).
In a healthy individual, the brain sends a signal of arousal that leads to the production and release of nitric oxide in the penis, which then activates guanylate cyclase, an enzyme that stimulates the production of cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP), the substance that relays the signal to cells that prompts an increase in blood flow in the penis by relaxing both vascular smooth muscles and smooth muscle tissues.
However, an enzyme called phosphodiesterase-5 (PDE5) degrades cGMP in the smooth muscle cells and the arterial wall muscles of the lungs. When this happens, several health issues start to occur, the most common of which is erectile dysfunction in men.
PDE5 inhibitors work by blocking cGMP-specific PDE5 to allow cGMP to accumulate and stay in the penis for a longer time to achieve and maintain an erection. Synthetic PDE5 inhibitor drugs can last for 4 hours to ensure that the affected individual gets a satisfactory sexual performance.
Different Types of Natural PDE5 Inhibitors
Although synthetic drugs like Viagra have always been the go-to treatment option for erectile dysfunction, several studies are now exploring the different types of natural PDE5 inhibitors that are believed to be just as effective and with lesser risks and side effects.
- Tongkat Ali
Perhaps the most popular among natural PDE5 inhibitors, Tongkat Ali, has long been known as an aphrodisiac and a natural treatment option for andropause because it helps increase testosterone levels in the body (4).
A study also suggested that the herbal extract of Tongkat Ali may help with erectile function, although more trials are recommended to support current data further (5).
Tongkat Ali has also been proven to help increase sperm count, which is why it’s recommended in the treatment of fertility conditions involving estrogen excess or testosterone deficiency (6).
- Black Ginger Extract
Black ginger is a medicinal root that’s been traditionally used in Thailand as an aphrodisiac, energy enhancer, and sexual tonic. In fact, Muay Thai fighters take what they call as Thai ginseng to help increase their endurance and strength during matches.
A recent study has even backed these claims by revealing that black ginger tea extract can help increase physical fitness performance and muscular endurance (7).
- Artichoke Extract
Artichoke may be a popular ingredient in many world-class dishes. Still, the extract that comes from its leaves, stem, and roots is also highly beneficial because it contains the same chemicals found in medications used to treat anemia, heart disease, and kidney problems. Artichoke extract also contains luteolin, a flavonoid that prevents the production of aromatase that’s responsible for converting testosterone to estrogen (8).
You probably have cinnamon in your kitchen because it’s widely used for both sweet and savory dishes. But the popular spice found mostly in Southeast Asia and India also helps treat cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and bronchitis, all of which are contributing factors to erectile dysfunction.
- Butea Superba
Butea Superba is a vine mostly found in India, China, and Thailand, where it is commonly used as a male performance enhancer and aphrodisiac.
In 2003, a study was conducted on Thai males aged 30-70 years old suffering from erectile dysfunction to see if Butea Superba can be an alternative herbal treatment for the condition. The results revealed that 82.4% of respondents exhibited noticeable improvement in their sexual performance (9).
- Icariin Extract
Icariin Extract is the main ingredient of the famous Chinese herbal aphrodisiac horny goat weed that’s used to treat erectile dysfunction.
Belonging to the epimedium plant family, icariin extract is believed to improve the transmission of nitric oxide, which helps improve blood flow to the penis. It also increases the level of testosterone in the body, which is responsible for enhancing libido.
A substance found in the pine bark of Pinus Pinaster, grapeseed or peanut skin, pycnogenol is commonly used for treating hypertension, asthma, allergies and heart disorders, but it is also slowly gaining popularity as a natural PDE5 inhibitor by increasing blood flow to the penis and improving sperm count (10). It also helps increase the production of nitric oxide, which plays an essential role in erection.
Natural PDE5 inhibitors are gaining more popularity as treatment options for erectile dysfunction and other sexual disorders because they are effective, safe, and a lot cheaper than synthetic drugs like Viagra and Cialis.
Although some of these products still need further studies and trials to prove their efficiency and their effect may take longer than their synthetic counterparts, a lot of men are already using them over medications that may have long-term side effects.
If you’ve been experiencing problems with erection, make sure to consult your doctor right away so you can be assessed thoroughly to rule out any more critical medical conditions that may be causing your erectile dysfunction.
Whether you choose to take the synthetic or natural route in addressing your problem, it’s still smarter to seek the advice of your doctor so you can get the best treatment plan according to your needs.