Erectile dysfunction is embarrassing, even though it really shouldn’t be. It’s a very common condition, and in many cases one that is easily addressed with diet, exercise, and other natural remedies for erectile dysfunction. When we say natural we aren’t talking about those herbal pills available at a local gas station. Instead we mean food that helps you maintain a healthy weight and blood flow, and habits that do the same.

In the following excerpt from the book The Green Pharmacy by James A. Duke and Bill Gottlieb CHC the authors explain how foods are natural remedies for erectile dysfunction, and how habit changes can help you manage underlying conditions behind erectile dysfunction.

Erection Problems

If your erections don’t always measure up, you’ve got lots of company. Ten percent of men aged 40 to 70 have severe or complete erectile dysfunction (ED)—and an additional 25 percent of men in this age group have moderate or intermittent erectile difficulties. (ED is defined as the repeated inability to raise or sustain an erection adequate for intercourse and ejaculation.) That’s one out of three men between 40 and 70—and by age 70, it’s one out of two. (Younger men aren’t immune. A scientific paper in The Journal of Sexual Medicine found that ED affects one in four men under 40.) Not surprisingly, millions of men are currently under treatment for the condition, usually with prescription medication.

Doctors once believed erection problems were mostly psychological. Now experts agree that while some may have a psychological basis, most are due to physical causes. Having diabetes or heart disease can increase problems with ED, as can taking certain drugs for diabetes, hypertension, and depression. Erectile problems may also occur after heart or prostate surgery or an injury to the pelvic area. Basically, anything that reduces blood flow and deprives the penis of oxygen can lead to ED.

Although you may have no control over some physical causes, you’ll certainly want to stay on top of any chronic diseases you may have, such as diabetes or heart disease. Without that, no one food or herb has a chance of helping consistently. Lifestyle fac tors also play a role. Factors that make the problem worse include smoking, drinking too much alcohol, not getting enough sleep, eating a poor diet, and gaining too much weight. Fortunately, these are all things you can change.

One study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, found that obese men with erectile dysfunction perked up their performance just by losing weight and getting more exercise. The more they exercised and lost weight, the more their erections improved. At the end of the study, about a third of the men no longer had erectile dysfunction.

What if you suspect your ED is psychological rather than physical? Performance anxiety or depression, for example, can cause it. To find out, try the test suggested by Andrew Weil, MD, founder of the Arizona Center for Integrative Medicine. This simple test will tell you if you’re having normal spontaneous erections during sleep. If you are, chances are that no physical problem is preventing you from functioning normally.

To do the test, wrap a strip of postage stamps around the shaft of your penis before you go to bed. If the strip is intact in the morning, you didn’t have an erection during sleep, and you may have a physical problem. If the strip broke during the night, the problem may well be psychological. This test isn’t foolproof, but it’s a good place to start.

Whether you think the problem is physical or psychological, the next logical step is to discuss the results with your doctor. But before you go sticking needles into your penis, you might give these food remedies a try.

Healing Foods for Erection Problems

Fava beans. Think beans aren’t sexy? Think again. With an age-old reputation as an aphrodisiac, the fava bean is said to have incited the ancient Roman poet Cicero to passion.

While they haven’t been scientifically examined specifically for their potential as a remedy for ED, fava beans are our best food source of the compound L-dopa, which helps make dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain associated with pleasure, movement, emotion, and motivation. L-dopa is widely studied for its use in treating Parkin son’s disease, and as a result, we’ve learned that large amounts of it may cause priapism, a painful, persistent erection. But don’t let this put you off favas. Research suggests L-dopa causes priapism in no more than 3 percent of people, and, in any case, you’d have a tough time eating enough favas to cause the problem.

I suspect that a big serving of fava beans—8 to 16 ounces—just might contain enough L-dopa to help turn a dysfunction into a function. Try them Mediterranean-style, with a little pancetta, chopped onions, extra-virgin olive oil, and black pepper. If the beans seem to help, try sprouting them. The sprouts contain almost 10 times more L-dopa, and it’s easier to eat 2 grams of sprouts than a pound of beans.

Garlic. Popping a garlic appetizer before a hot date may sound like a bad idea if your goal is to remain kissable. But for the more ambitious, the odorous herb may also pro vide erectile benefits, according to both folk traditions and science.

In India, garlic has a long folkloric history as an aphrodisiac. When holy men pre pared food in their temples, they were forbidden to use garlic and other alliums for fear they would lead to passionate encounters.

Research on heart disease prevention and treatment suggests that garlic may positively affect blood flow. Allicin, a chemical in garlic, has been shown to produce hydro gen sulfide, which has a relaxing effect on blood vessels. This may also help prevent ED, according to a study at the National University of Singapore.

If you’re going to experiment, I recommend sharing the garlic with your partner so neither of you will notice the scent. For an ideal combo, prepare a candlelight dinner of oysters in garlic sauce with a little parsley to help freshen the breath. Share a glass or two of red wine (generally better for the blood vessels than white). And for a potential extra boost, chase it with a dose of ginseng.

Pomegranate. Along with this fruit’s many other benefits, drinking antioxidant-rich pomegranate juice may improve erectile function in men with mild to moderate ED. It wouldn’t hurt to try it with breakfast or instead of a soda at lunchtime to see if it works for you.

In a randomized, placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover study, researchers at the Male Clinic in Beverly Hills looked at 53 men with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction over a 6-week period. Those who drank pomegranate juice were more likely to have improved scores on the International Index of Erectile Function and to report an improvement on Global Assessment Questionnaires.

A subsequent study, from Tulane University Health Sciences Center, showed why pomegranate juice was so effective. It acts directly on the corpus cavernosum—the spongy tissue that fills with blood during an erection—increasing by seven-fold some of the cellular mechanisms that help this tissue do its job. In fact, the researchers theorize that pomegranate juice may work to improve erections in men who “do not respond well” to drugs such as Viagra and Levitra.

Also, unlike grapefruit juice, pomegranate juice is safe to drink even if you’re taking prescription drugs. Previous animal and in vitro studies hinted that pomegranate juice may inhibit CYP3A, an enzyme that allows the body to metabolize drugs. But a study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology debunked the earlier research.

Pumpkin. As if you needed more motivation to enjoy a pumpkin pie fresh out of the oven, this treat tops the list of foods with arousing aromas most likely to spice up a man’s sex life. You don’t even have to eat it to feel the effect, according to one intriguing study. Alan Hirsch, MD, neurological director of the Smell and Taste Treatment and Research Foundation in Chicago, found that many patients who had lost their sense of smell also lost interest in sex. That piqued his curiosity about the power of scents to boost desire. To see which, if any, aromas could provoke a sexual response, Dr. Hirsch asked a group of 31 men to sit in a laboratory with their penises attached to a machine that measures blood flow. Then he had the men sniff 30 odors.

Here’s what he found: The men responded sexually (with increased penile blood flow) to all of the scents, proving the theory that it doesn’t take much. But the hands down winner for most arousing smell (it increased penile blood flow by 40 percent) was the mingled scents of pumpkin pie and lavender. Runners-up were doughnuts with black licorice (32 percent) and pumpkin pie with doughnuts (20 percent).

From the Herbal Medicine Chest

In Asian countries, where it also goes by other names, such as silver apricot or white nut, ginkgo often appears in recipes. In the United States, it’s best known as an herb that improves blood flow to the brain, but few people know it may also boost blood flow to the penis.

In small studies, researchers produced good results with 60 to 240 milligrams daily of a standardized ginkgo extract. In one nine-month study, 78 percent of men with erectile dysfunction due to atherosclerotic clogging of the penile artery reported significant improvement with no side effects. Atherosclerosis is the same disease that clogs the blood vessels that supply the heart, leading to heart attacks.

Ginkgo extracts are available at many health food stores and herb shops. The active compounds in ginkgo leaves are too dilute to do much good, so standardized extracts concentrate it: A 50:1 extract means that 50 pounds of leaves were used to produce one pound of extract. You can try 60 to 240 milligrams a day, but don’t take more than that because in large amounts, ginkgo may cause diarrhea, irritability, and restlessness. Also, check with your doctor before using ginkgo if you’re taking a blood-thinning medication such as warfarin (Coumadin). And give it time; if it’s going to work, it will do the trick in about 6 months.

For more natural remedies to treat erectile dysfunction and other ailments purchase the Green Pharmacy from

Related Articles