Erectile dysfunction, commonly abbreviated as ED, is the inability to achieve or maintain an erection firm enough to have sex. Though the condition is not "normal," per se, it is quite common. As many as 52 percent of men will experience it at some point in their life.

Erectile Dysfunction and the Possible Causes

However, ED is largely age-related, with 90 percent of cases occurring in men older than 50. After all, people often become more sedentary as they get older, and a lack of exercise decreases the blood circulation that is necessary to get an erection. Additionally, testosterone levels drop as a man gets older, reducing libido and overall sex drive.

Erectile problems may be due to psychological factors such as depression, anxiety, stress and low self-esteem. Other causes of ED include certain medications, hormonal imbalances and chronic medical conditions. Many, if not most cases of age-related ED are due to problems with circulation and testosterone levels, so these factors are the focus of this article.

There are a lot of things about your lifestyle that could increase your risk of developing ED. Studies show that exercising for three hours every week decreases your risk by 30 percent. Being overweight or obese and smoking are detrimental to your erectile function. Staying active, managing your weight and quitting smoking can prevent and relieve this disorder.

Pharmaceutical Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction

Auto Draft 4There are four main FDA-approved erection medications:

  • Avanafil (Standra)
  • Sildenafil (Viagra)
  • Tadalafil (Cialis)
  • Vardenafil (Levitra, Staxyn)

The first ED drug was Viagra, which was synthesized in 1989 and was first intended to treat hypertension and certain heart problems. It was observed that the drug improved erectile troubles and other drugs to treat this sexual disorder were invented thereafter. All of these medicines promote erectile ability by improving blood flow to the genitals.

Many men who take a prescription for their ED see satisfactory results. However, as with any other type of drug, erection medications can carry unwanted side effects. These can include a backache, blurred vision, flushing, headache, indigestion, nasal congestion and sensitivity to light. Some people experience side effects more severely than others. If a man has intolerable side effects from his ED medications he may benefit from switching to an herbal supplement.

Avanafil, sildenafil, tadalafil, and vardenafil are not appropriate for everyone. Your doctor may recommend against taking such drugs if you have liver disease, kidney disease, blood pressure problems or heart problems, or if you take certain medications. If this describes you, natural herbs for ED remain a viable option.

Other prescription options for regaining erectile potential include vasodilator injections, surgery and vacuum devices. However, these options are not for everyone either. Most men would be hesitant to receive penile injections whenever sexual activity is desired; surgery and vacuum devices can be costly especially as they are not always covered by insurance. There is nothing to lose by trying out natural botanicals for ED.

Natural Treatment Options for Men with ED

Erectile Dysfunction: Know Your Medical and Natural OptionsThough modern medical science has produced countless wonderful innovations, there is still something to be said for traditional herbal remedies. Many of these have been used for thousands of years, forming an integral part of the folk medicine systems of the world, and recent scientific studies confirm their effectiveness. Consider trying L-arginine, Ginkgo biloba, Panax ginseng and Zinc.

L-arginine may be the most common amino acid found in men's supplements and for good reason. The body converts L-arginine into nitric oxide, a chemical that helps open up blood vessels and thus improve blood flow. Studies confirm that L-arginine improves circulation, making it useful for men with ED. This supplement should be taken 1-2 hours before sex for best results.

Ginkgo biloba is a tree native to China, the leaves of which are used as a traditional medicine. Its most widely-known use is as a potent cognitive enhancer. But, another great benefit is that taking this supplement can promote healthy circulation and thus contribute to optimal erection quality. This plant may also support healthy levels of dopamine activity in your brain, which in turn may boost sex drive.

Panax ginseng is a great herb for men who suffer from sexual concerns. The plant is native to China. Many studies show that this medicinal root is helpful for those with ED. It can also improve your sex drive. Other benefits of Panax ginseng include heightened cognition, better mood and improved sleep quality.

Zinc, though not an herb like the other supplements mentioned here, can be a great addition to your supplement regimen due to its testosterone-boosting abilities. If you think your ED is related to having little sex drive, give zinc a try. Many studies on zinc have demonstrated its efficacy. Zinc as a supplement is especially useful if you don't get much of this essential nutrient through your diet, and this is true of many Americans.

These natural supplements are effective for many men, and usually do not produce side effects. They are safe to take for most people. Nevertheless, consult with your doctor before starting any supplement if you take any prescription medication or have any type of medical condition. Failure to do so could result in serious health complications; for example, never take Ginkgo biloba if you have a history of seizures, as the herb could increase seizure risk.