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Natural Alternatives for Erectile Dysfunction

by Dr. Dan Kenner

In my opinion, the recent release of the product IntimAct Naturel could be a boon for men complaining of erectile dysfunction who dislike the hazards and discomfort of using pharmaceuticals like Cialis andViagra. The effects on the body of a botanical product like this are substantially different from a drug; in fact, a botanical extract like this behaves more like a food than a drug.   

As men get older, testosterone levels decrease. Some men turn toward testosterone therapy, which includes testosterone in the form of injections, gels, or patches, as a way to regain youthful vigor and stamina. The recent fad of using bio-identical hormones has its fan base and there is often a justification for their use, but in almost all cases introducing hormones into the system can interfere with the ability of the glands to continue to produce them in adequate quantities. The result is a dependency on an external supply. Eventually the glands that are supposed to secrete the hormones can atrophy. There is a safer option. 

Natural alternatives are becoming popular and the most promise seems to be from plants containing substances called flavonoids and saponins. The advantage of botanical extracts is to support and nourish the endocrine glands so that they can continue to produce the hormones. We all know that our bodies need nutrients to sustain our vital processes. Nutrients like proteins, fats and carbohydrates are necessary for energy and tissue repair. But there are other nutrients that we get from foods and herbal medicines that we can’t get from peas and carrots. 

Flavonoids and saponins are nutritional factors found in many foods, but these nutrients are found in much higher concentrations in certain herbs, like tribulus, muira puama, ginseng, fenugreek and many other lesser-known plants. Saponins and flavonoids can have significant effects on the production and metabolism of sex hormones. Some saponins are steroidal and are hormone precursors. In fact, saponins are used in the pharmaceutical industry as a natural source of steroidal hormones. Some saponins can increase the number of testosterone receptors throughout the body, resulting in enhanced effects of the hormone. Flavonoids also have some structural and chemical similarities to steroids. Some flavonoids can increase the half-life of testosterone by slowing down its elimination by the kidneys. 

In Chinese medicine we use herbs that strengthen the “yang,” which has a wide range of meaning, but in the context of male health, botanical extracts have proved their worth in numerous Chinese research studies on athletic performance and for erectile dysfunction with subjects as old as men in their 80s.  

Building up testosterone levels can have a variety of benefits. When levels decline, there is not only a decline in libido but also in muscle mass, bone density and even neurological deterioration. Epidemiological studies have shown that a high testosterone level is protective against Alzheimer’s disease. I have used herbs for “supplementing yang” for decades with men (and women) of all ages and I always caution them not to depend entirely on a magic pill or potion. It’s important, even more important as we go into mid-life and beyond, to adopt lifestyle habits that will conserve our natural hormone supply. Too much alcohol, too much sugar and some prescription drugs, notably antidepressants and blood pressure medications can all interfere with libido and sexual performance. With some men stress reduction will also be a key element for a desirable outcome. Once again I prefer to use botanical and nutritionally-based treatment for calming the nervous system. If we can find natural products that are compatible with our needs, we can avoid the toxic effects of prescription drugs and improve longevity and quality of life – and that’s the only game in town.       

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