Humans have traditionally used various foods and herbs to boost sexual desire and performance. People know that natural/traditional remedies work, but do not know how? Approval of Viagra by the US FDA has changed that all. It was the first highly effective medicine with a known and specific mechanism of action.
Viagra/Sildenafil inhibits an enzyme called phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5). Its inhibition results in increased concentration of cGMP in penile blood vessels, resulting in increased production of NO in response to sexual stimulation. This finally results in a prolonged and hard erection.
Science has now starting to study traditional remedies with new enthusiasm. It has now identified many natural compounds belonging to various chemical classes (flavonoids, alkaloids, and so on) to possess PDE5 inhibitory action (1, 2).
This article looks at some of the better and lesser-known natural PDE5 inhibitors.
Extracts from this herb are perhaps most commonly used to treat erectile dysfunction (ED), and it is also one of the most tested herbs too. Most studies show that it can help not just with the ED but also improves sex drive and fertility.
Clinical studies show that it significantly improves erectile function, without causing any severe side effects (3).
Researchers think that the beneficial effects of this herb are due to alkaloids with powerful PDE5 inhibiting properties. Recent research into its compounds has allowed science to identify some such natural compounds (4).
Horny Goat Weed
People observed that after grazing on this plant, there is an increase in the frequency of sexual intercourse among goats and sheep. There are lots of things common in the sexual physiology of men and other mammals. At first, researchers thought that this effect is due to increased testosterone.
However, now science knows that testosterone is overhyped. Since testosterone may improve libido, but it rarely helps get a hard erection. However, science understands that the inhibition of PDE5 has lots to do with erectile function. Studies show that Horny Goat Weed works due to its content of icariin, which is a potent PDE5 inhibitor or natural origin (5, 6).
Another more commonly used herbal remedy to treat erectile dysfunction. In recent years, researchers have done many studies to identify its active ingredient, and now they know more than 150 ginsenosides. Compounds in the herb increase tissue NO, improve cardiovascular functions, have a positive effect on lipid profile and hypertension. Researchers think that one of the underlying mechanisms of action of this herb is inhibition of PDE5 (7).
An excellent adaptogen that is also good for boosting sexual performance. Like all other natural remedies, it works in multiple ways. It is good for nerves, helps with chronic fatigue, positively affects hormone levels. Researchers think that it can also improve sexual performance, perhaps by boosting NO levels (7).
It’s an extract of the bark of the tree, which is native to Africa. In recent years it has gained lots of attention in the western world.
Studies show that Yohimbe works better when combined with other products known to boost NO levels. Thus, in one of the studies, participants showed considerable benefit and improved sexual performance after taking Yohimbe along with L-arginine (8).
Interestingly enough, studies also show that Yohimbe is safe to combine with Viagra/sildenafil. In one of the studies, it significantly increased the effectiveness of Viagra, without adding to its side effects like lowering the blood pressure. This may happen due to PDE5 inhibition or by boosting NO through other pathways (9).
Osage Orange/Maclura Pomifera
This tree is native to the US, and due to the specific shape of its fruit, it has many other names like monkey ball, monkey brain, mock orange, horse apple, and so on. The tree is now widely grown in the US due to its durable wood. However, native Americans have used various parts of the tree for treating disease conditions.
Researchers know that certain compounds found in the tree have anticancer, antibacterial, and antidiabetic properties. Recent studies show that it may also interact with PDE5 (10).
An orchid that is well known to possess’ number of medicinal properties like anticancer, antioxidant, antiseptic, and much more. In recent years its aphrodisiac properties have gained attention (11). An investigation into the various chemical compounds of the plant indicates that some of its biochemicals have potent PDE5 inhibitory activity, and thus extract from this plant may find broader use in the future (12).
A remedy from Ayurveda for improving nerve health, overcoming stress. Ayurveda regards it as a universal tonic. It is also part of the treatment of sexual disorders. It is though to improve sexual desire and quality of arousal. Modern science has started to study this plant more closely, and some of its effects may be due to PDE5 inhibition (13).
What this article has touched is just the tip of an iceberg. Nature has millions of well-kept secrets for us to discover. This is the reason why the preservation of global biodiversity is so essential. Almost every nation has tens or even hundreds of traditional remedies for erectile dysfunction, and science has just started to take them seriously.