9 Over-the-Counter Options For Erectile Dysfunction

June 11, 2021

Guys experiencing erectile dysfunction don't want to talk about it - can't blame us. It’s one of the reasons that online pharmacies and telemedicine providers like Rex MD have found such a welcome reception. Instead of visiting a doctor in person, guys can access prescription medications for a variety of men's health issues all from the comfort of home.

Alternatively, some guys go hunting for over the counter options for ED treatment. Unfortunately, the research behind many OTC ED meds is lacking, and when it comes to natural treatments for erectile dysfunction, your best best is to make lifestyle changes. The research is clear: more exercise, a healthier diet, losing weight, cutting back on alcohol, and quitting smoking can all naturally help to reduce the symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

However, these are some of the supplements that might help while making these lifestyle changes.

What To Avoid When Looking for Over the Counter ED Options

Start looking around and you'll find no shortage of potential options at pharmacies, grocery stores, and even gas stations when it comes to “natural male enhancement” pills. However, these supplements are held to much lower regulatory standards by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) than prescription meds. Just because a pill is packaged and sold does not mean that it's safe to use. In fact, hundreds of “male enhancement pills” currently have a health warning issued by the FDA.

Anything on this FDA list should probably be avoided, guys, as well as any other pill that:

  • Is available as a “single serving”
  • Claims to have incredibly fast, permanent results
  • Contains warnings that are similar to those found on prescription medications 
  • Has a label written in a foreign language
  • Is labeled as an alternative to prescription medications
  • Is marketed through spam or unsolicited emails or sketchy advertisements

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA)

Dehydroepiandrosterone, commonly shortened to DHEA, is a hormone that is naturally produced by the adrenal gland. This steroid helps to produce the male sex hormone testosterone and the female sex hormone estrogen. While DHEA is naturally produced by the body, it can also be found in some soy products and yams. 

For most people, their peak level of DHEA production is reached in their 20’s, and it will slowly decrease as they age. Lower levels of DHEA are associated with a higher risk of erectile dysfunction, although the exact reasons as to why remain unknown. 

DHEA is sometimes marketed to help increase energy, boost the immune system, slow the damages of aging, and improve the effects of weight loss, but more research is needed to measure how effective it can be for these goals. 

When taken daily, DHEA has been shown to potentially improve the symptoms of erectile dysfunction, but only in cases where the dysfunction was not caused by a nerve disorder or diabetes. As of now, it seems that DHEA may be an effective treatment for women with a low sex drive. Additionally, one study in mice concluded that DHEA helped to increase the overall strength of vaginal muscles, indicating some connection to sexual function -- at least in mice.

DHEA supplements can impact the natural levels of steroidal hormones in the body. These imbalances could result in oily skin, acne, hair loss, abdominal pain, and high blood pressure.

L-arginine

This amino acid may be able to improve blood flow to the penis, which is one of the most important aspects of an erection. Additionally, L-arginine might have a positive influence on the production and performance of nitric oxide, which helps to relax the smooth muscles of the penis and expand blood vessels as well, both of which are essential for an erection. 

Low levels of L-arginine are often associated with erectile dysfunction, but mostly in men that have poor blood flow. While L-arginine is typically paired with other treatments, one small trial found that a daily dosage of 2.5 grams helped improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction. Another study found that participants taking a daily dose ranging between 1,500 and 5,000 milligrams daily saw an improvement in overall erectile function. 

While L-arginine may be effective in treating some symptoms of erectile dysfunction, it comes with a few risks. Cramping, nausea, and diarrhea are common side effects, but it may also reduce blood pressure and increase the risk of bleeding.  

Ginseng

This supposed aphrodisiac has been used in alternative medicine for generations, particularly for sexual issues. Available in pill form, creams, and more, ginseng contains chemicals that are called ginsenosides which help to promote nitric oxide production. Nitric oxide is responsible for expanding the blood vessels and relaxing muscles in order to increase circulation, an essential part of the erection process. 

One clinical study separated participants into two groups: those receiving a daily 350 milligram dose of ginseng berry extract and those receiving a placebo. The experiment lasted a couple months, and over time the group taking the ginseng dose reported an improvement in erections, sexual satisfaction, orgasms, and libido. It should be noted, however, that the group taking a placebo also reported improvements as well.

A similar study looked into the effects of tissue-cultured mountain ginseng. The daily dosage was upped to 1,000 milligrams and taken twice daily. By the end of the eight-week experiment, there was a significant improvement in the group taking ginseng when compared to the group taking a placebo. 

Ginseng is a stimulant and might not be safe for anyone with heart disease, autoimmune syndromes, or bleeding disorders. It can also result in insomnia or sleep interruptions, as well as nausea, diarrhea, and headaches. 

Yohimbe

In the days before Viagra® became the gold standard in ED treatment, some doctors would prescribe yohimbe supplements in order to help with erectile dysfunction. This extract has a long history in alternative medicine and has been used as an aphrodisiac, weight loss supplement, and treatment for high blood pressure. 

While there isn’t a lot of scientific research to conclude definitive effectiveness at treating erectile dysfunction, it does seem to simulate blood flow to the penis and increases norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter that helps increase the heart rate and blood flow. Additionally, it may help to improve orgasm function and ejaculation.

Potential side effects of this supplement can include an irregular heartbeat as well as high blood pressure, stomach problems, and anxiety. 

Other Potential Options

This is a list of other options that could possibly help to treat some symptoms of erectile dysfunction, but still require more research. 

Ginkgo Biloba

While research is somewhat lacking, ginkgo biloba seems to have an effect on countering erectile dysfunction when it’s caused by antidepressants. One study showed that this extract was 84% effective when treating sexual dysfunctions caused by selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors. 

Horny Goat Weed

The effects of horny goat weed haven't been definitively proven on humans, but it's one of the most popular OTC products purported to help with erectile dysfunction. It contains a chemical compound called icariin, which is a known PDE5 inhibitor. Prescription medications like Viagra® are classified as PDE5 inhibitors, so it’s possible horny goat weed could produce similar effects. But studies have indicated that the PDE5-inhibiting qualities of icariin are orders of magnitude lower than prescription medications.

Pomegranate Juice

This fruit juice is rich in antioxidants and is known to help reduce the risk of heart disease and high blood pressure, two common causes of erectile dysfunction. It can also help to enhance levels of nitric oxide as well. While there has yet to be any official studies into the potential effects on erectile dysfunction, pomegranate juice may be beneficial for the cardiovascular system and may help to reduce some of the risk factors associated with ED. 

Propionyl L-carnitine

This naturally occurring chemical is a derivative of the amino acid L-carnitine. It can be used as a supplement to address issues related to blood flow and circulation, and can may enhance the effectiveness of sildenafil (the active ingredient of Viagra).

Pycnogenol

Derived from pine tree bark, pycnogenol has similar effects to those of L-arginine, and when paired together have shown the possibility of increasing erectile function. One study noted that after three months of using this mixture, over 90% of participants reported experiencing normal erectile function. 

The Takeaway: There are plenty of over the counter supplements available for erectile dysfunction that might have a positive impact, but overall the research isn't conclusive regarding the effectiveness of most options. Don't consider any natural supplement a panacea, and recognize that the prescription PDE5 inhibitors are doctors' go-to solutions for a reason.

When it comes to erectile dysfunction, prescription medications are the best treatment, approved by the FDA and backed by rigorous clinical research. It's possible that these over-the-counter supplements could make a difference and improve symptoms, but none of them have shown an ability to work as well as medications like Viagra®, Cialis®, or Levitra®. 

Curious about prescription ED meds? Rex MD can help guys get generics like sildenafil and tadalafil from home and with the help of a doctor, if prescribed. It's fast and simple. Click here to find out if a sample pack could be right for you.


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Disclaimer : This article is for information only and should not be considered medical advice. Always speak with your doctor about your health and the benefits or risks of any treatment or intervention. This information should not be relied on as a substitute for professional medical advice.