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If you experience less-than-stellar erections, chances are you’ve paid a visit to Dr. Google. There’s a wealth of information out there about vitamins for ED (erectile dysfunction) that claim to give you longer-lasting, harder erections and revolutionize your sex life–but what’s the best supplement for erectile dysfunction? Vitamin C and vitamin D could play a role in the quality of erections. Continue reading to learn more about the best vitamins for ED.
Vitamins for ED
Erectile dysfunction (ED) means you can’t get or keep an erection sufficient for satisfying sex. That might include erections that don’t last as long as you want or aren’t as firm as you’d like.
ED can be distressing, but it is very common—the most common sexual dysfunction there is. In fact, nearly one in five men experience ED by the age of 30, and about half of all men over 40 experience ED (Sooriyamoorthy, 2022).
And since many different factors can contribute to ED, there are many different methods you can try to treat it. Among them are various vitamins for ED.
One study found that men with a vitamin D deficiency were 32% more likely to have trouble with erections than men without (Farag, 2016). More in-depth research has shown that the testicles have many receptors for vitamin D, meaning the vitamin may play an important role in erections (Crafa, 2020).
Low vitamin D levels are pretty common. Between 2001–2006, one-third of the U.S. population had insufficient amounts of vitamin D (Looker, 2011). Your healthcare provider can test your vitamin D levels with a simple blood test.
To say for sure that vitamin D takes the “D” out of “ED,” we need more research. To date, there aren’t any studies showing that treatment of vitamin D deficiency might resolve erectile function. Still, if your levels are low, it’s a good idea to speak with your provider about supplementation.
Most of us know that vitamin C (ascorbic acid) is an important nutrient for overall well-being, but it may help your erections, too (Meldrum, 2010). Antioxidants like vitamin C boost a chemical in our bodies called nitric oxide (NO), which works similarly in the body to Viagra (see Important Safety Information)–nitric oxide opens up our blood vessels and improves blood flow (d’Uscio, 2003).
While that seems promising, there isn’t actually any research to prove that vitamin C can improve your erections. Still, if you have a deficiency, supplementing may be a healthy choice. Vitamin C is found in foods like citrus fruits, kale, cauliflower, berries, and more.
Speak with a provider to find out if you need to up your intake and explore ways to get the vitamin C you need.
Niacin (vitamin B3)
Vitamin B3 (a.k.a. niacin) is everywhere. It can be found in red meat, poultry, veggies, and fruits, meaning you likely get what you need already. But this vitamin can also be used to lower cholesterol in people with hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol), which is known to contribute to erectile dysfunction.
But here’s the kicker: when it comes to niacin, there actually is research to back up the claims. One study reported that people with high cholesterol and moderate to severe ED showed improvements in their ED after treatment with niacin (Ng, 2011).
Now, that doesn’t mean you should head out and pop a bunch of B3. But you should head to your healthcare provider to make sure your cholesterol levels are healthy. If your cholesterol is too high, your healthcare provider will help create a treatment plan that’s right for you.
If you eat a balanced diet, you likely already get your daily dose of niacin from your food. Foods that contain niacin include turkey, avocado, peanuts, and more.
Folic acid (vitamin B9)
Another B vitamin, vitamin B9, has also been linked to erections. Also known as folate, this vitamin plays a vital role in a range of different processes in the body, including the formation of new blood cells, as well as sperm development in biological men. One small study showed a correlation between folate deficiency and erectile dysfunction (Yang, 2014).
Taking a B complex supplement could raise your B9 levels, or you can consume more foods high in folic acid, including spinach, milk, and orange juice. Your healthcare provider can perform a simple blood test to see if you’re low on B9.
Sildenafil (Generic Viagra®)
As strong as the brand but more affordable. Treats erectile dysfunction for up to 90% less than the cost of Viagra®.
The Little Blue Pill works on demand. It works within 30-60 minutes when used as directed, so you’ll be ready for sex fast.
Cialis® can be taken either as needed or daily for erectile dysfunction. Unlike Viagra®, the effects can last 24–36 hours.
Don’t put your love life on hold. Get medication prescribed by a US-licensed healthcare professional.
Herbal supplements for ED
Some people prefer taking an herbal route to address their health concerns. While most herbal supplements don’t have much research behind them, we do have at least some evidence about how a few herbal supplements may impact erectile function. But what’s the best supplement for erectile dysfunction? Continue reading to determine if any of these supplements might work for you.
Horny goat weed
Horny goat weed is a medicinal herb that has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years to treat fatigue and low libido. Some anecdotal reports and animal tests suggest that horny goat weed might improve erections. Horny goat weed contains icariin, a substance that works similarly to Viagra (Dell’Agli, 2008). But so far, studies on icariin have only been conducted on animals and in test tubes–horny goat weed may not work the same way in the human body.
Yohimbine, the active ingredient in Yohimbe bark, is a common ingredient in supplements sold as aphrodisiacs or male sexual enhancers. Seven clinical trials determined that yohimbine was superior to placebo for the treatment of ED (Ernst, 1998). But researchers noted that studies have not directly compared yohimbine to medications like Viagra, meaning we don’t know how this herb stacks up against tried-and-true erectile dysfunction drugs.
Red ginseng (aka Korean ginseng) has been touted for the treatment of erectile dysfunction for years. In one large meta-analysis that examined the results of 24 other studies involving 2,080 men with ED, researchers found that ginseng “significantly improved erectile function” and “may be an effective herbal treatment for ED,” although they cautioned that more studies would be needed before the herb could be recommended as a treatment (Borrelli, 2018).
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands, which are small glands that sit on top of your kidneys. DHEA boosts sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen. Some studies have found that taking a DHEA supplement can boost testosterone levels, a hormone associated with erectile function (Liu, 2013). However, other studies found no improvement (Brown, 1999).
Citrulline and arginine
Citrulline, an amino acid, may help increase blood flow, a lot like Viagra. The body can also convert citrulline into arginine, another amino acid that may improve blood flow. However, whether or not these supplements work as a treatment for erectile dysfunction is up for debate. It may break down too quickly for your body to use, and L-arginine deficiency doesn’t usually cause ED. But if you’re interested in trying it with very little risk, watermelon is one food that’s a rich natural source of citrulline.
Unlike prescription drugs, vitamins and supplements are not FDA-approved or regulated. So you can’t be absolutely sure of their potency or quality. Many supplements lack sufficient evidence to support their effectiveness.
Certain vitamins and supplements could affect other health conditions you have or interact dangerously with prescription medications. You should always consult your healthcare provider before starting any vitamins or supplements.
Other ED treatments
Oral medications for ED, including sildenafil (brand name Viagra), tadalafil (brand name Cialis, see Important Safety Information), and vardenafil (brand name Levitra), are highly effective to treat erectile dysfunction.
If low testosterone is responsible for your ED, testosterone replacement therapy (TRT) can boost your testosterone levels via injection, a wearable patch, or a gel applied to the skin.
For some men with ED, using a device such as a penis pump, cock ring, or a surgically placed penis implant may improve erections for more satisfying sex.
Your erections will be best when you’re healthy. Making simple lifestyle changes, such as getting regular exercise, eating a healthy diet, quitting smoking, and limiting your alcohol consumption, might be enough to improve ED. But if you experience ED, it’s a good idea to talk with a healthcare provider. They’ll help you find the solution that’s right for you—and potentially nip any other contributing health problems in the bud.
If you have any medical questions or concerns, please talk to your healthcare provider. The articles on Health Guide are underpinned by peer-reviewed research and information drawn from medical societies and governmental agencies. However, they are not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.
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Dr. Chimene Richa is a board-certified Ophthalmologist and Senior Medical Writer/Reviewer at Ro.