Naturopathic Medicine for Erectile Dysfunction (ED)
Erectile dysfunction is the inability of a man to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient for his own needs or for the needs of his partner. The condition was traditionally known as impotence. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a very common disorder. According to the Sexual Dysfunction Association, approximately one in 10 men in the United Kingdom have recurring ED. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) figures are similar for men in the United States. According to the NIH, erectile dysfunction (ED) increases with age—5% of 40 year old American men experience ED and 15-25% of 65 year old American men suffer long-term ED. Erectile dysfunction can often lead to a variety of mental and emotional problems. A variety of drugs are available for the treatment of erectile dysfunction. In some cases, surgical intervention may be used. But both drugs and surgery can have serious side effects, and many men choose to take advantage of treatments from various forms of alternative and complementary medicine, such as naturopathic medicine.
How Is Naturopathic Medicine Used to Treat Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?
The fundamental premise of naturopathic medicine is that a patient’s signs and symptoms are an indication of a deficiency, excess, or other kind of imbalance in the body. The practitioner’s role is to discover the factors involved in the body’s imbalance and then to find ways of aiding the body to heal itself, always with the use of natural products and procedures. A first step in treating a man with erectile dysfunction (ED), then, is to conduct a comprehensive interview about his lifestyle, dietary habits, mental and emotional state, and other factors that may relate to his medical condition. A physical examination is also essential, since erectile dysfunction can arise because of other medical conditions that require attention, conditions such as diabetes, vascular disease, hormone disorders, spinal cord injuries, or damage to the pelvic region.
Once the cause for erectile dysfunction (ED) has been determined, the naturopath may recommend a number of possible treatments. A poor diet may be responsible for the condition, “poor” meaning that a person is eating too much of some kinds of foods and too little of other kinds. Some foods to avoid are sugar, dairy products, highly processed or refined foods, fried foods, junk foods, alcohol, and caffeine. Food supplements that may improve one’s general health and strengthen the immune system include whole, natural, and organic foods, such as fruits and vegetables, whole grains, seeds and nuts, soy, beans, olive oil, and cold-water fish, such as halibut, mackerel, salmon, sardines, and tuna. A naturopath may also recommend a variety of nutritional supplements to restore the body’s natural balance.
These supplements may include herbal preparations, such as:
- Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), traditionally used to treat impotence
- Damiana (Turnera diffusa), used to treat impotence and a variety of other sexual disorders; also acts as an aphrodisiac, a substance that increases sexual arousal
- Epimedium, also known as Horny Goat’s Weed or Fairy Wings, is believed to be a natural aphrodisiac that acts chemically in a manner like that of the prescription drug sildenafil citrate (Viagara®)
- Ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), reputed to have the ability to increase the flow of blood through the arteries, the process by which an erection is produced
- Muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides), recommended for increasing sexual desire and performance
Other supplements that may be recommended are vitamins and minerals, such as vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium and zinc, inositol (a sugar-like chemical that tends to lower blood cholesterol levels), and bioflavonoids (compounds with anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties).
Exercise may also be helpful in reducing the symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED). A regimen can involve walking, running, swimming, bicycling, or other simple activities. Or it can include a specialized type of exercise known as Kegel exercises, which are designed to strengthen one’s pelvic floor muscles. These exercises are used to help control one’s bladder function, and may also help to solve problems of erectile dysfunction.
What Is Naturopathic Medicine?
Naturopathic medicine is based on the premise that the human body is capable of healing itself of many medical and physical problems, especially if given support in the form of natural substances (like herbs) and treatments (like exercise).
Naturopathy rests on six basic principles:
- First, do no harm: Provide the best care possible with the least risk to the patient
- Recognize and use the self-healing power available in every human
- Identify and resolve the cause of illness rather than focusing on its symptoms
- Education of the patient is as important as the healing process itself
- Treat each patient as a whole and complete person
- Promote good overall general health as the best way to prevent disease
What Is Erectile Dysfunction (ED)?
The penis consists of four major components: (1) two cylindrical-shaped bodies, called the corpora cavernosa, (2) the urethra, which carries urine and ejaculate, (3) erectile tissue that surrounds the urethra, and (4) a number of veins and arteries that carry blood throughout the penis. Erection begins when some type of stimulus causes sexual arousal in the man. The brain sends hormones throughout the body to prepare for sexual activity, an important component of which is an increase in the flow of blood to the penis. As this blood flow increases, the corpora cavernosa and erectile tissue become engorged with blood and the penis becomes erect. Erectile dysfunction (ED) occurs because some part of this process is interrupted. For example, hardening of the arteries may reduce the amount of blood that can flow into the penis. Psychological problems may also be involved in erectile dysfunction. Many men consider the inability to get or maintain an erection a criticism of their “manhood” and feel anxiety when they are unable to perform sexually. This anxiety itself may contribute to later bouts of erectile dysfunction (ED). It is for this reason that medical practitioners have to consider a variety of possible causes and treatments for ED that extend beyond obvious organic problems.
KansasCityInfoZine. “Naturopathic Considerations for Male Erectile Dysfunction.”
Trattler, Ross, and Adrian Jones. Better Health Through Natural Healing: How to Get Well Without Drugs or Surgery. Victoria, Australia: Hinkler Books, 2005.