Impotence: remedies and treatments

Numerous mental and physical factors influence the ability to achieve an erection, so once more serious health problems have been ruled out, a multi-faceted approach to dealing with erectile dysfunction (ED) can be adopted.

How to treat impotence

Take up regular exercise and, at the same time, look at some of the mental factors that might be getting in the way, including anxiety. Some well-known herbs and supplements might also help to address this common problem.


Lifestyle changes to treat impotence

  • Try to get at least 6 to 8 hours sleep a night. Being fatigued definitely puts a damper on your ability to have an erection.
  • Exercise helps keep off excess weight, improves bloodflow throughout the body (including to the vessels that keep your penis working properly), boosts energy and reduces stress. Get 30 minutes of aerobic activity–such as walking, jogging, swimming or playing tennis–several times a week.
  • Too much cycling, or cycling on the wrong saddle, can damage the delicate nerves and blood vessels in the area you sit on. Make sure you buy a saddle that has a groove running down the centre. You should also make sure that your knees are slightly bent when your feet are at the bottom of each pedal cycle–this puts more of your weight on your legs instead of between them. Stand up at least every 10 minutes to let blood circulate to the genital area, and also level the pedals and stand up when you go over bumps to reduce jarring to your crotch.
  • Alcohol helps to relax you and stoke the fires of your desire, but it also makes you less likely to be able to perform. Limit your consumption to 2 drinks a day or fewer.
  • If you use tobacco in any form, give up now. Nicotine causes blood vessels to clamp down, impairing circulation. That means less blood can get to your penis.
  • Smoking marijuana has a detrimental effect on performance, too, as does the use of other recreational drugs, such as cocaine and amphetamines.


Relaxation techniques to improve erectile dysfunction

  • Reduce your stress levels. Anxiety and anger are not conducive to the frame of mind needed for sex–and worse still, anxiety causes your body to make a form of adrenaline that interferes with the physical process behind an erection.
  • If you have trouble unwinding, practise some form of relaxation technique, such as yoga or meditation. This can be as simple as spending a few minutes each day doing deep-breathing exercises–just focusing on breathing in and out.
  • Give hypnotherapy a go. Although this is a somewhat controversial area, some men who have undergone hypnosis sessions swear it has improved their sex lives.
  • If you keep the problem to yourself, you might be making it worse. Instead, talk about it with your partner. You can both work through possible reasons why this may be happening–perhaps a niggling disagreement or a preoccupation with money worries is stopping you from performing properly. Not only will you find out your partner's point of view, you also benefit from having 2 people thinking of possible solutions.
  • Let it go. Worrying about it too much will only make it worse. Focus on other parts of your life for a while, such as your hobbies or your children.


Impotence treatments in the bedroom

  • If your erectile problems are due to stress and emotions rather than something physical, there are lots of ways to get yourself back in the game. For example, enjoy bedroom intimacy without having intercourse. This takes the pressure off, relieving performance anxiety. Just get into bed and cuddle, massage each other or think of fun things to do that don't require an erection.
  • Keep variety in your activities. Boredom with routine can hinder your ability to have an erection. Try new positions or make love somewhere other than the bedroom.
  • Have sex in the morning. You may have more spark since your testosterone levels are higher at this time of day. Plus you shouldn't be as fatigued and frazzled as at the end of a long day.


Natural remedies for impotence

  • Take ginkgo biloba. It can improve bloodflow in vessels throughout your body, including your penis. Use supplements containing a concentrated form of the herb, standardised for content of ginkgo flavone glycosides and/or ginkgolides and bilobalides. Take in divided doses, according to manufacturer's instructions. You should notice a difference in 4 to 6 weeks. (Caution: Do not take ginkgo if you are taking blood-thinning medications, such as warfarin, without advising your doctor beforehand.)
  • Try Panax ginseng, sometimes called Asian, Korean or Chinese ginseng. It can improve bloodflow to the penis, reduce fatigue and improve energy. Choose a product standardised for its ginsenosides content and take 100-250mg twice a day. Start at the lower dose and increase it gradually. (Caution: Do not use if you have hypertension, except under the supervision of a doctor or if you have a heartbeat irregularity, or if you take antidepressants such as Nardil.)
  • Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) claim high success rates in treating male impotence with a combination of herbs and acupuncture. According to TCM, a man's ability to get and maintain an erection is dependent on his liver and kidneys functioning correctly. Herbs that nourish and support liver and kidneys are found in the exotically named Special Pill to Aid Fertility (Zan Yu Dan) and Two-Marvel Powder (Er Miao San).


Supplements for impotence

  • Buy zinc supplements and take 15–30mg a day. This mineral has beneficial effects on the production of various hormones including the male sex hormone, testosterone. Take zinc an hour before or 2 hours after a meal.
  • Take vitamin C. It helps blood vessels stay flexible, allowing them to widen when you need more blood flow. Take 500mg twice a day. Cut back the dose if you develop diarrhoea.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids from fish oils or flaxseed oil also improve blood flow. In the long term they can help lower cholesterol and prevent blood vessels from narrowing. Take 2 teaspoons of fish oil or 1 tablespoon of flaxseed oil a day.
  • Take a supplement containing 1000mg of evening primrose oil 3 times a day, as the oil contains essential fatty acids that promote blood vessel health. Take with meals to enhance absorption.
  • The amino acid arginine can improve blood flow to the penis by increasing the production of nitric oxide in the blood vessel walls, making arteries more flexible and helping blood vessels dilate. The best form is L-arginine. Take according to the manufacturer's instructions.

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