Reviewer: Dr. I.A. Baig, MPharm, PhD (Pharmacognosy)
Thirty percent of adult males suffer from erectile dysfunction (ED) and impotence. The symptoms can cause sexual problems.
Half the men over 40 years old are susceptible to the condition. About 85 percent of the causes for ED are physical (organic).
In general, a large population of men over 40 years old have some form of ED. Even if you are not male, or have a partner that is experiencing such symptoms this should concern you.
The chance of having some form of ED increases by a rate of 10 percent per decade after 40.
About 40% of men have some form of ED by the time they are forty, as an average age for dysfunction.
This disease is mainly known to be caused due to a dysfunction and/or loss of the corporal smooth muscle cells. The same muscle cells that support a healthy erection.
Why does our sexual performance diminish as we age?
Recent research by the UCLA School of Medicine identifies the most common cause to be cavernosal veno-occlusive dysfunction (CVOD) or better known as "venous leakage".
The rigidity of an erection depends on the ability to store blood in the penis. The veins that become dysfunctional or unable to store blood are those that have venous leaks.
Dysfunction may occur due to vascular disease, diabetes, Peyronie's disease, some nerve conditions, and even severe anxiety.
How long have we known about this?
We have known about erectile dysfunction and sexual health issues for a long time. The term Aphrodisiac is derived from Aphrodite known as the Greek Goddess of love. The term is used to classify any food or drug that arouses the sexual instinct and increases pleasure or performance.
In traditional forms of herbal medicine such as Traditional Chinese Medicine, several herbs and herbal combinations are known to replenish qi and tonify the kidneys.
In Ayurveda, certain natural medicinal ingredients are known to promote Vrsya (sexual virility) or known to possess aphrodisiac properties. The effects from ancient practices such as tantric sexual practices may be complementary to the aphrodisiacs.
Among various forms of herbal medicine, several herbs, identified as aphrodisiacs, are utilized to improve sexual health and/or performance.
Why is traditional medicine used to support sexual health and performance?
Not only are these herbs traditionally known for their properties to cause an erectile state but also for their effects to relieve stress and promote nervine growth.
The herb Lepidium Meyenii - Maca - is known to support the emotional aspects of sexual health. Specifically, the herb has been used in Herbal Medicine as an ingredient for vitality and as a superfood of the Inca.
Similarly, various other herbs have been studied in traditional medicine systems that have been known to have an aphrodisiac effect such as adaptogenic compounds - Panax Ginseng - that act as nervine tonics to calm the nerves.
Modern science helps shed light on these powerful ancient aphrodisiacs and the role they play in sexual health. Turns out, some of the effects are due to physiological factors.
Epimedium Sagittatum contains Icariin that inhibits certain actions that in turn help produce an erectile state. Mucuna Pruriens is known to contain L-Dopa that helps to inhibit prolactin that helps to modulate testosterone.
Did you know that the popular blue pill Viagra® works by inhibiting specific enzymes in smooth muscle cells - especially "cGMP-specific phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5)" enzymes?
Typically the synthetic drugs are used to block the degradative action of PDE enzyme in the smooth muscle cells lining the blood vessels of the corpus cavernosum in the penis.
The Nitric Oxide system plays a critical role. The system plays a role in reaching an erectile state. The system maintains the ability to expand blood vessels for better blood flow.
The Nitric Oxide system is responsible for the neurogenic stimulation of Nitric Oxide (NO) to form the erectile state. This system works effectively if the enzyme that inhibits relaxation is blocked to achieve an erectile state.
In a study, funded by the California Urological Foundation, published in the Journal of Sexual Medicine it was noted that low dose Icariin, present in Epimedium, enhances the Nitric Oxide system. It was also noted that a low dose had a more profound effect versus a high dose. In essense, the effective functioning of the nitric oxide system improves dilation of blood vessels.
Higher doses of Icariin was shown to be associated with lower serum testosterone levels. The correct dosage is critical to promoting enhancement benefits and reducing any adverse effects.
The bottom line is there are many ways to help support the sexual system that is under stress. Modern science continues to discover natural medicinal ingredients that support the health of bodily functions and the organic system.
A popular and largely accepted method developed by major pharmaceutical companies is to inhibit the expression of PDE5. However, as most of us know these drugs have known to show side effects in patients and long-term use of synthetics is worrisome.
Can we naturally reduce the damage to the corporal smooth muscle cell?
Well, there are certainly various factors that can help. According to research science sponsored by the National Institute of General Medicine:
"Preliminary data suggest that products that upregulate this NO producing pathway and/or pharmacologically release NO, and/or protect its product, cGMP, show promise in halting or reversing the cellular changes associated with this aging process." ~ Translational Andrology and Urology (2017 Feb).
It is known that leading a healthy and active lifestyle can help reduce aging-related damage to our bodies. Specific supplements also reduce the damaging effects due to malnutrition, dysfunction and oxidation.
In a holistic sense, we should not ignore the fact that our organic function and nervous system requires support. Exposure to modern day stress and other factors diminish our ability to obtain peak performance.
Stress reducing or adaptogenic herbs have been used traditionally in Herbal Medicine for various ailments.
A natural solution that helps support the nitric oxide system may preserve the dilation of blood vessels. The solution may also help by limiting the effects of oxidative stress and the aging process.
Aging is a natural process, we know that certain lifestyle choices can help to slow down the damaging effects of this process.
Interested to learn more?
We constantly strive to research and develop resources to help combat aging and its related effects on the body and its organs.
The embedded links can help you learn more about aging related-erectile dysfunction — a potential mechanism to halt or delay its onset. And about the erectogenic and neurotrophic effects of Icariin, a purified extract of Epimedium (Horny Goat Weed).