Did you know upwards of 30 million men in the US are affected by erectile dysfunction and low libido? That is a huge number of people who are left feeling depressed, self conscious and alienated. For such a pervasive health issue, there are not a lot of well known options out there. Of course there is the pharmaceutical route – who has not heard of Viagra – but these options are not without side effects. These medications provide only temporary benefits and may cause minor to severe side effects such as headache, indigestion, visual disturbances, and even blindness. Furthermore, they do not address the root cause of the issue, nor do they boost libido. That is why we are going to uncover the best natural ways to boost libido in men, and how we can alleviate erectile dysfunction holistically.
What exactly is erectile dysfunction and low libido?
Erectile dysfunction is the inability to achieve or sustain an erection. Most often erectile dysfunction is experienced with low libido. Low libido is the loss of sexual drive and desire. Both of these conditions can be caused by a number of things, both physical and psychological. The reason we are talking about both is because oftentimes erectile dysfunction and low libido are caused by the very same root issues.
What causes low libido and erectile dysfunction?
Achieving an erection requires coordination between many body systems, so there are several ways the process can go wrong. The cause can linked to a biological and physical issue such as hormone imbalance, or a psychological one like stress. In some cases it can be caused by both. The physical causes of erectile dysfunction and low libido result from vascular, neurological and hormonal issues.
Top Physical Causes of Low Libido and Erectile Dysfunction
Hormone Imbalance: The two main hormones to look at when suffering from erectile dysfunction and low libido are testosterone and DHEA. As men age there is a natural shift in hormone production, lowering levels of testosterone and DHEA. Other hormones such as estrogen and progesterone can also play a role, especially when the intake of xenoestrogens is high. A xenoestrogen is a natural or chemical compound that imitates the hormone estrogen. They come from non organic animal products and dairy (added hormones), non organic produce (pesticide and herbicide use), soy, beer, marijuana, drinking out of plastic water bottles, the lining of canned foods, and chemicals found in personal care items (shampoo, body wash, cologne etc.) and household cleaning products (all purpose cleaner, glass cleaner, air freshener etc.).
Cardiovascular disease: There is a strong connection between the cardiovascular system and the ability to have normal erections. When the vascular system is not working properly (as in atherosclerosis), blood is unable to properly flow to the penis. In fact, heart disease accounts for up to 80% of erectile dysfunction cases, and endothelial dysfunction (often paired with high cholesterol and high blood pressure) is the most common contributing mechanism to erectile dysfunction overall. Studies show that improving cardiovascular risk factors via healthy lifestyle modifications and supplements (i.e. fish oil, garlic, pycnogenol) can significantly improve sex drive and reduce occurrence of erectile dysfunction.
Best supplement to address Cardiovascular-related Erectile Dysfunction: Pycnogenol By Pure Encapsulations
*Tip: erectile dysfunction often precedes some cardiovascular events by 2-5 years. Therefore, if you suffer from ED, make sure to get your heart checked.
Diabetes: Diabetes can hinder normal blood flow to the penis. It can also damage the nerves in the penis leading to erectile dysfunction.
Medication, Alcohol and Drug Use: Certain medications and recreational drugs can lead to erectile dysfunction and low libido. This commonly occurs with antihistamines, benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants, cocaine and other stimulants. Alcohol use can also lead to erectile dysfunction.
Age-related decline in penile elastic fibers also contributes to erectile dysfunction.
Top Psychological Causes of Low Libido and Erectile Dysfunction
Psychological problems are most often the root cause of low libido and erectile dysfunction in younger men, while older men typically have a mixture of both psychological and biological causes.
Excessive porn usage
Is Stress really to Blame?
Stress is real, and it is far more damaging to your health than you might think. Stress is one of the most common causes of low libido and erectile dysfunction, especially in young men. Working late, worrying about your career, money and relationships can quickly create high stress levels that lead to physical changes. Even background stress such as traffic, late night partying, news and media can raise stress levels, and ultimately to a less than satisfying experience in the bedroom.
The reason being is that the stress interrupts normal hormone balance and interferes with our nervous and vascular system. For example, the sympathetic nervous system is responsible for maintaining the penis in its flaccid state. The sympathetic nervous system is also what activates our “fight or flight” response. If you are constantly stressed, than your sympathetic system is in control, causing your penis to remain in its flaccid state. Not what you dream of when hoping to rise to the occasion.
Another player in this stress hormone cascade is adrenaline. Adrenaline is a potent chemical released during stressful times. Whether you are stressed from the day, or stressed from performance anxiety or fear of failure during sex, adrenaline is released. This surge of adrenaline reduces blood flow to the penis, often resulting in erectile difficulty.
As you can see stress is a main culprit of low libido and erectile dysfunction, and must be addressed. A few proven ways to reduce stress is to take on stress-reducing activities such as meditation, exercise, yoga and breathing exercises such as pranayama. In addition, taking a herbal supplement can also help. Below you will find my favorite herbal supplements for reducing stress and anxiety. For many this is all that is needed to boost libido and improve erectile function.
Best Supplements to Combat Stress:
How to begin to improve sex drive and erectile function
Let’s start with the basics
Just like all other things that involve the health of the body, we must first look at exercise and diet. These are the two pillars that must be under control before we get to the fun stuff. Study after study confirms and reconfirms again that the physical shape of the body dictates sex drive and normal erectile functioning. Therefore, even if you take a supplement mentioned below, if you are not eating properly and exercising regularly, chances are that you are not going to see the results you are looking for.
Regular physical exercise: Studies have shown that exercise can improve erectile function, sexual response, and overall cardiovascular health. Physical exercise not only improves the health of the vascular system, which is integral for achieving erections, it also improves the mental state of the body. Exercise has shown to reduce and eliminate feelings of anxiety, stress and depression, all root causes of low libido and erectile dysfunction.
Weight control: Studies show that obesity and being overweight nearly doubles the risk of erectile dysfunction. Therefore, getting to and maintaining a healthy weight is imperative in restoring normal libido and erectile function.
Diet: The best diet for improving sex drive (libido) and erectile function is one that promotes optimal cardiovascular health. The best diet is therefore one that is plant-based and focuses on the inclusion of healthy fats (esp rich in omega 3 fatty acids). It is composed of fresh organic foods; fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds (especially walnuts, hemp and chia), beans and lentils, whole grains (quinoa, oats, brown rice, buckwheat, farro, amaranth), wild salmon, organic eggs, healthy oils (olive, avocado, grapeseed, coconut, hemp, flax), fermented foods (kombucha, sauerkraut, kimchi, tempeh, kefir), and dairy (hard cheeses, organic yogurt).
Foods that boost testosterone
A number of nutrients found in foods have been studied for their ability to boost testosterone and/or treat conditions such as erectile dysfunction and loss of libido. While best taken as a supplement, increasing the intake of these nutrients through foods is also a great way to address the issue.
Healthy Fats: The essential fatty acids, EPA and DHA play a very important role in hormone production. They also are vital for optimal cardiovascular health. Consuming foods rich in EPA and DHA is an easy way to boost libido and improve erectile functioning.
- Wild caught Salmon
- Flax seeds and flax oil
- Hemp seeds and hemp oil
- Chia seeds
- Fish Oil supplement
- Cod Liver Oil supplement
Zinc is a mineral that is involved in almost every aspect of male reproduction. It plays a role in testosterone metabolism, sperm formation, and sperm motility. A study of 37 infertile men with decreased testosterone levels were given 60 mg of zinc daily for 45-50 days. In the majority of patients, testosterone levels rose significantly and mean sperm count rose from 8 million to 20 million.
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sesame seeds (tahini)
- Garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
L-Carnitine is an amino acid derivative that may be more active than testosterone in aging men. Both testosterone and carnitine increase sexual desire, sexual satisfaction, and erection, but carnitine is more effective than testosterone in improving erectile function, nocturnal penile tumescence, orgasm, and general sexual well-being.
- Cod fish
- Organic beef or buffalo
- Organic dairy
Supplement option: Acetyl-L-Carnitine by Bulk Supplements
L-Arginine is an essential amino acid that plays a significant role in erectile function by contributing to the formation of nitric oxide. Nitric oxide widens and relaxes arteries and blood vessels, improving blood flow to the penis. Supplementation with L-arginine has been shown to restore erectile quality and increase sexual satisfaction.
- Pumpkin Seeds
Best supplement option: L-Arginine by Bulk Supplements
*best taken with L-Citrulline for optimal results
L-Citrulline similarly to L-arginine, may increase the body’s production of nitric oxide. L-citrulline is needed to make L-Arginine, and thus nitric oxide (NO). This increases nitric oxide-mediated vasodilation and endothelial function. As a result, this can help treat erectile dysfunction when blood flow and low NO is the root issue.
Best supplement option: L-Citrulline DL-Malate by Bulk Supplements
*best taken with L-Arginine for optimal results
Best L-Arginine and L-Citrulline Supplement: Nitric Oxide by Pure Encapsulations
Antioxidants: Diets rich in antioxidants have been shown to improve penile blood flow, erectile activity, smooth muscle relaxation, and fibrosis. Therefore, adding foods into the diet that are high in antioxidants is a great way to boost libido and treat erectile dysfunction.
- Brazil nuts: Brazil nuts are rich in a mineral called selenium. Selenium is a powerful antioxidant. Eat about 4 Brazil nuts daily to achieve the recommend 200 mcg dosage.
- Sunflower seeds: sunflower seeds are rich in Vitamin E. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that also plays a role in hormone balance and sperm health.
- Green tea
What does Testosterone have to do with it?
Many aspects of male sexual function depend upon the male hormones called androgens. The main androgen that is involved in erectile function and sex drive is testosterone. Testosterone plays a role through its production of nitric oxide, but also helps maintain libido. As men age their androgen levels decline, which is a leading cause of erectile dysfunction in older men. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a precursor to testosterone, making optimal DHEA levels important as well.
Making sure that testosterone levels are at their optimum is one of the best ways to ensure a healthy sex drive and erection. As mentioned before, following a healthy diet and exercise routine is the first place to begin. Once you have that under control, you can start by adding in a natural supplement to boost testosterone and to normalize hormone levels. The following is a list of my favorite supplements for boosting libido and for addressing erectile dysfunction.
Best Natural Ways to Boost Libido in Men
The following is a list of natural herbs that promote hormone balance and optimal testosterone production.
Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a root widely used in Eastern medicine. Revered as a tonic herb by Chinese medicine, it is known to promote hormone balance, increase energy, longevity, mental focus and normal sleep. Its active component is ginsenosides. This compound has cardio-protective, immune-stimulatory, anti-fatigue, hepato-protective, and antioxidant effects.
Ginseng has been found to increase the synthesis of nitric oxide and to promote testosterone production. Male patients treated with ginseng showed an increase in sperm count and motility, an increase in plasma total and free testosterone, DHT, FHS, and LH levels. It is associated with the increase in both sexual desire and sexual function. Various human studies demonstrate that ginseng is effective for treating male erectile dysfunction.
A 2009 clinical study showed that 1000 mg of ginseng twice daily improved erectile function and overall sexual satisfaction among men with erectile dysfunction. The study also found that ginseng potentially increased testosterone levels. The authors concluded that ginseng could be effective for improving erectile function regardless of age and severity of dysfunction. Another study showed that ginseng significantly improved penile rigidity, libido, and satisfaction among men with erectile dysfunction.
Best Ginseng Supplement: Ginseng Sublime by Dragon Herbs
Maca is a root indigenous to the Andes region. Widely revered for its adaptogenic capabilities, maca helps to adapt the body to external and internal stressors. Maca promotes energy, sleep, hormone balance, clear skin, mental focus and physical performance. It is also a reputed aphrodisiac and fertility enhancer, and reduces stress and feelings of depression. Human clinical studies suggest that maca enhances the production of sex hormones (androgens), increases libido, and improves well-being. The aphrodisiac activity of maca may be due to local effects on erectile function and/or central nervous system effects.
Peruvian researchers conducted a randomized, placebo-controlled double-blind study on a small group of men aged 21-56. Results showed that, versus placebo, maca improved subjective reports of male sexual desire. Subjects consumed either 1,500 mg or 3,000 mg of maca, or placebo, for three months. After eight weeks, improvements were noted in sexual desire among the subjects who consumed maca.
Best Maca Supplement: Macalibrium by Natural Health International
Tribulus (Tribulus terrestris) is an extract from the gokhru fruit. It helps support healthy hormonal balance and has positive effects on a number of fundamental physiological functions. Also known as puncture vine, tribulus contains the active ingredient protodioscin, which is reportedly converted to DHEA in the body. This DHEA-boosting activity may account for puncture vine’s reputation as an aphrodisiac in its native Europe and Asia.
Tribulus is known for its ability to promote testosterone production. A previous study showed the concentration of blood testosterone increased statistically within 10 days in athletes consuming Tribulus. In fact, chronic administration of Tribulus produced a significant increase in serum testosterone levels and sexual behavior with no significant effect on the sperm count.
Based on in vivo and in vitro animal studies, Tribulus may improve erectile dysfunction, based on its ability to relax the smooth muscle of the corpus cavernosum. It has also been found to increase the release of nitric oxide from the endothelium and nitrergic nerve endings may account for its claims as an aphrodisiac in both sexes.
Best Tribulus Supplement: Tribulus by Dragon Herbs
TongKat (Eurycoma longifolia) has long been used in Asia by men for their sexual function, or to bring it back to youthful levels when there has been an age-related decline. It is an herb that is very widely used as a sexual tonic and libido enhancer. TongKat promotes testosterone production with a significant increase of plasma testosterone level in human studies as well as animal studies. It has been proposed that TongKat should be a natural alternative to testosterone replacement therapy since it can restore serum testosterone levels.
Best TongKat Supplement: TomKat by Dragon Herbs
Get some Sun!
Did you know that over 75% of the United States population is deficient in Vitamin D? Vitamin D is the vitamin that you get from spending time in the sun (without sunscreen). It has been found that Vitamin D deficiency may be a risk factor for erectile dysfunction. This is because Vitamin D deficiency contributes to arterial stiffness and vascular dysfunction. In a 2012 paper, researchers theorized that optimizing vitamin D levels could reduce certain risk factors for erectile dysfunction, such as arterial stiffness, diabetes mellitus, hypertension, and inflammation of the endothelium. Vitamin D has also been shown to stimulate the production of nitric oxide, the chemical compound that triggers this process of relaxation, increasing the blood flow to the penis required for an erection.
In order to get adequate Vitamin D, it is necessary to expose large areas of your skin to the sun when the sun is the strongest. For most people, the total time needed of exposure is between 10-30 minutes daily. Since most of us are fearful of the sun’s damaging effects though, using a supplement may be the best option. Vitamin D3 is the form that is most bio available and easily utilized by the body.
Best Vitamin D3 Supplement: D3 Serum by Premier Research Labs
Be Cautious of Quality
If the supplement looks like a “sex” supplement, avoid it. The market for sex enhancing supplements has skyrocketed, and so have the supplements with dangerous additives. It has been found that countless “natural” sexual health products are adulterated with drug analogs. For instance, a 2011 study identified an illegal Viagra-like compound (mutaprodenafil) in a natural male enhancement product. Likewise, a 2012 analysis of 9 supplements intended for enhancing male sexual performance found that only one was truly natural product. The other supplements were found to have untested and unapproved synthetic drug analogs, which may cause significant side effects. That is why I only recommend high quality, pharmaceutical-like grade supplements that undergo vigorous testing. Quality and safety is of the utmost importance when looking for the best natural ways to boost libido in men.
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