What is Natural Viagra and Does Korean Red Ginseng Work? A Guide.

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Written by Our Editorial Team
Last reviewed 23/03/2022
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Natural Viagra and Herbal ED Remedies: Do They Work?

There are a few herbal remedies or natural supplements kicking around as ‘natural Viagra’. These solutions, sometimes referred to as ‘herbal Viagra’, can include things like Korean red ginseng, horny goat weed, yohimbe and maca.

For years, some have claimed that herbal remedies can help to keep men hard in the bedroom, and increase sex drive. 

But if you’re looking for a simple trick to cure ED, will they actually help you? Let’s take a closer look.

Korean Ginseng

Korean ginseng, also known as red ginseng or panax ginseng, is a plant which has been used in Asian medicine for centuries. There are three varieties of ginseng: fresh, white or red. (The variety changes depending on how long it is grown for).

Fresh ginseng
White ginseng
Red ginseng
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Korean red ginseng, or Asian ginseng, is the variety said to help with male impotence. Ginseng is made up of ginsenosides, which may have potential cardiovascular benefits, that could in theory help to reduce ED. Ginseng may also promote the release of nitric oxide, which could relax the muscles in the penis to promote erections. The root could also impact hormone levels which, in turn, could theoretically enhance sexual stimulation and arousal. 

So what does the evidence say about red ginseng, can it help with erections? One study[1] found that red ginseng was more favourable at treating ED than a placebo. However, the authors pointed to low sample size as a caveat of the study.  Another broader study[2] and meta-analysis involving 2080 men found that ‘encouraging evidence suggests that ginseng may be an effective herbal treatment for ED.’

However, more research is needed on the relationship between ginseng and ED. 

Ginger on a dish

Horny Goat Weed

Horny Goat Weed is a natural supplement made from a traditional Chinese herb. It is said to be beneficial for erectile dysfunction, and also low libido. 

According to legend, a goat herder witnessed their flock grow sexually stimulated after eating the herb. This is where the term horny goat weed comes from. It’s full name is Epimedium and it’s found in China. 

Horny goat weed may contain chemicals that are good for blood flow and vascular health. In relation to erectile dysfunction, this is of benefit because one of the main physical causes surrounds poor blood flow or constricted blood vessels in and around the penis. It is said to have other benefits, such as helping with bone density problems. 

Horny goat weed is available to purchase as a supplement, but it is not licensed in medicinal use whether prescription or over-the-counter. 

Because regulatory processes that apply to prescription drugs do not apply as strictly to some dietary supplements, this raises questions about their safety – specifically in relation to the listing of full ingredients and the reporting of side effects. 

Horny goat weed may contain chemicals that are good for blood flow and vascular health. But does horny goat weed work? The evidence is slim. In controlled animal studies on rats[3], icariin, the active ingredient found in horny goat weed, was found to have positive results. However, no studies surrounding impotence in humans have been conducted. 

What’s more, horny goat weed can cause a number of side effects (which people sometimes assume herbal supplements do not). For example, side effects of horny goat weed can include dry mouth, dizziness, vomiting, thirst, nose bleeds or even breathing problems.

Maca

Maca is a Peruvian herb said to help with low libido and sexual stimulation problems.

The so-called sex herb maca is also said to have other health benefits. Such as helping with the symptoms of menopause, improve mood, provide more energy, improve learning and give skin protection from the sun.

Like a number of natural health supplements, maca became increasingly popular throughout the 2000s, helped in part by the rise of the internet.

The big question surrounds what the evidence says about maca. Will maca root increase sex drive? At the moment, there’s limited evidence that maca helps ED and so further research might be needed.[4]

Maca export graph

Yohimbe

Yohimbe comes from an African evergreen tree and its bark has been used in West African traditional medicine for generations.

In the US, yohimbine hydrochloride is a form of yohimbe that is a licensed prescription drug for impotence.[5] Yohimbe can be also used as a natural treatment for erectile dysfunction and to increase sexual performance, but is said to have other health benefits too. These are reported to include anxiety and depression relief, increased athletic performance, helping with dry mouth and with blood pressure problems, and even weight loss. 

Buying supplements like Yohimbe online can come with risks. As with many herbal remedy supplements, some manufacturers label their products inaccurately. For example, a study conducted at Harvard Medical School looked at 49 different yohimbe supplements. They found as many as 78% of them did not label the correct quantity of Yohimbe.[6]

For clear reasons, this is extremely dangerous, and there still isn’t sufficient evidence to suggest it will actually help with ED symptoms.[7]

Watermelon

Some suggest that watermelon may help with impotence – specifically that watermelon juice may be a natural treatment for ED.  This is because watermelon contains L-citrulline, an amino acid which helps with blood vessel dilation and constriction issues.

And one University study even went so far to claim that: Watermelon has ingredients that deliver Viagra-like effects to the body’s blood vessels and may even increase libido.’[8] This was a bold claim that was widely reported on in mainstream media at the time. 

Others strongly refute the claim. [9] In reality, there are currently next to zero clinical studies focusing on watermelon as an erectile dysfunction treatment.

Man eating watermelon

Zinc

Zinc is one of the essential minerals that help our bodies to fulfil a number of important functions. It’s vital for immune system health and it’s also present in DNA proteins, which make up cells. 

Zinc is present in many foods including meat (particularly red meat), shellfish, legumes, seeds, nuts, dairy products, eggs and oysters.

However, some claim that zinc may also be beneficial in terms of sexual function and ED. One animal study seemed to suggest some benefit.[10]

However, trials on humans have not been conducted. What is true is that seeking a balanced and varied diet is one lifestyle choice that may help with erectile dysfunction. As will regular exercise, not smoking and not drinking too much.

Is there a simple trick to cure ED?

Erectile dysfunction can be a complicated problem. It can surround physical problems, like cardiovascular and artery health, and psychological issues too such as depression or anxiety. It can also be a result of poor lifestyle choices. 

What’s more, ED can also point to overall health in general as it may be a symptom of a broader problem.

Because ED is so complex, there isn’t one simple trick to cure it forever. However, it can be treated. And it may be cured in the long-term by adopting a number of simple lifestyle changes.

So what are they?

Exercise helps with erections

Experts recommend that we are physically active every day, and that we exercise regularly each week. According to the CDC, we should do at least 150 minutes of moderate intensity activity each week — or 75 minutes of more rigorous physical activity.[11]

Exercising is good for our overall health, but is also good for blood flow and vascular health. These, in turn, may help with erectile dysfunction. 

Foods that help with erectile dysfunction​

If you’re looking to eat your way to better erections, the best thing to do is follow a generally healthy and balanced diet. That means keeping saturated fat, sugar and salt intake within reference intake limits, and eating plenty of fruit and vegetables. This will help maintain good heart and respiratory health, which in turn helps blood pressure and circulation, which in turn reduces the chances of developing erectile dysfunction.

Not drinking alcohol and smoking for erectile dysfunction

For clear reasons, smoking is dangerous and is something we should refrain from doing. But it can also cause erectile dysfunction, as well as a plethora of other health issues and conditions. Our advice? Stub it out. 

Sticking to the low-risk alcohol consumption guidelines will also benefit overall health as well as ED. This means fewer than 14 units or less per week, and it’s best to split these units up across the week with non-drinking days in between.

What is an aphrodisiac and how can I increase my libido?​

An aphrodisiac is defined as a food, drink or other thing that stimulates sexual desire. Chocolate, oysters, strawberries and watermelon are often claimed to have aphrodisiac properties. 

Again, if you think you may experiencing low sex drive, it’s best to speak to a doctor. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle — getting enough sleep, limiting alcohol intake, not smoking, getting plenty of exercise and eating a healthy diet — can all contribute to a healthy body and a steady libido. But in some cases, loss of sexual desire can be caused by a specific physical or psychological issue that needs to be addressed by a healthcare professional.

Still unsure about natural Viagra?​

You’re right to be. Herbal remedies for ED like “natural Viagra” are often sold as health supplements, but evidence on how effective they are is slim, and they’re not always safe to take.

If you’re experiencing ED, you should try and adopt healthier lifestyle choices and see if you notice a difference.

Still nothing? Then it’s time to see the doc.

If you’re unable to get or maintain an erection hard enough for sex, it’s not something you should learn to live with. There are a number of things a doctor can do, including prescribing medication like Viagra and other PDE5 inhibitors.

What’s more, you can now do a lot of this online from the comfort of your own home. EveAdam lets you talk to a doctor about ED medication and natural ways you can improve your chances of getting — and keeping — an erection.

References

[1] Jang, D.-J., Lee, M.S., Shin, B.-C., Lee, Y.-C. and Ernst, E. (2008). Red ginseng for treating erectile dysfunction: a systematic review. British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, [online] 66(4), pp.444–450. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18754850/ [Accessed 29 Jul. 2021].

[2] Borrelli, F., Colalto, C., Delfino, D.V., Iriti, M. and Izzo, A.A. (2018). Herbal Dietary Supplements for Erectile Dysfunction: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Drugs, 78(6), pp.643–673.

[3] Liu, T., Xin, H., Li, W.-R., Zhou, F., Li, G.-Y., Gong, Y.-Q., Gao, Z.-Z., Qin, X.-C., Cui, W.-S., Shindel, A.W. and Xin, Z.-C. (2011). Effects of icariin on improving erectile function in streptozotocin-induced diabetic rats. The Journal of Sexual Medicine, [online] 8(10), pp.2761–2772. Available at: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21967314/ [Accessed 29 Jul. 2021].

[4] Shin, B.-C., Lee, M.S., Yang, E.J., Lim, H.-S. and Ernst, E. (2010). Maca (L. meyenii) for improving sexual function: a systematic review. BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 10(1).

[5] ntp.niehs.nih.gov. (n.d.). Yohimbe bark extract M000062. [online] Available at: https://ntp.niehs.nih.gov/whatwestudy/testpgm/status/ts-m000062.html [Accessed 29 Jul. 2021].

[6] Cohen, P.A., Wang, Y., Maller, G., DeSouza, R. and Khan, I.A. (2015). Pharmaceutical quantities of yohimbine found in dietary supplements in the USA. Drug Testing and Analysis, 8(3-4), pp.357–369.

[7] NCCIH. (n.d.). Yohimbe. [online] Available at: https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/yohimbe.

[8] ScienceDaily. (n.d.). Watermelon May Have Viagra-effect. [online] Available at: https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/06/080630165707.htm [Accessed 29 Jul. 2021].

[9] Office for Science and Society. (n.d.). Watermelon and Sex. [online] Available at: https://www.mcgill.ca/oss/article/food-health-news/watermelon-and-sex [Accessed 29 Jul. 2021].

[10] Dissanayake, D., Wijesinghe, P., Ratnasooriya, W. and Wimalasena, S. (2009). Effects of zinc supplementation on sexual behavior of male rats. Journal of Human Reproductive Sciences, 2(2), p.57.

[11] NHS (2018). Exercise. [online] nhs.uk. Available at: https://www.nhs.uk/live-well/exercise/#:~:text=do%20at%20least%20150%20minutes

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