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There are a number of medications on the market that can help men to overcome erectile dysfunction (ED). Known medically as PDE-5 inhibitors, the best known is Viagra, but there are alternatives to this well known brand of ED medication.

Cialis

Cialis (the trade name for tadalafil, the active ingredient) works in the same way as Viagra, by increasing blood flow to the penis to help men with erectile problems to achieve and maintain an erection. In common with Viagra, Cialis is taken as and when a man needs to achieve an erection for sex. A low dose can also be taken daily to help with ED.

Cialis won’t help you to get an erection if you are not also sexually stimulated. This is because it works by relaxing the blood vessels which supply the penis with blood, meaning that more blood can flow into the penis when you’re already aroused.

Cialis lasts for around 36 hours, whereas Viagra lasts for four to five hours. Cialis also works faster than Viagra, taking effect in around half an hour.

Although trials have shown Cialis to be a safe and effective drug, it is not right for everyone. It is not recommended for use in men who also take prescription or recreational drugs containing nitrates as it can slightly lower blood pressure. Taking Cialis and a nitrate-containing drug at the same time can cause a dangerous drop in blood pressure.

Levitra

In common with Viagra and Cialis, Levitra (vardenafil) is a PDE-5 inhibitor that takes effect half an hour to an hour after you’ve taken it. Levitra works for four to six hours, around the same time as you’d expect from Viagra. Your erection won’t last all this time, but you will be able to get an erection during this time frame if you are sexually aroused.

Levitra works by relaxing the smooth muscles in the walls of blood vessels in the penis, which increases blood flow to the area and causes an erection.

Levitra can be taken when you need it, around an hour before you have sex. As with Cialis, you will only achieve an erection when you’ve taken Levitra if you are also sexually stimulated. No more than one tablet of Levitra should be taken in a 24 hour period.

Levitra is not recommended for use by everyone. It can interact with other drugs, including other drugs for erectile dysfunction, certain antibiotics, some blood pressure and heart medications, and drugs used to treat HIV and AIDS. This is not a full list of drugs that can interact with Levitra, so always read the patient information leaflet that comes with your medication to be sure that you are taking Levitra safely.

Natural viagra

There are a number of ‘natural’ alternatives to Viagra. They should be approached with caution because ‘natural’ alternatives to prescription medications may not have undergone sufficient clinical trials or any trials at all, meaning that their potential side effects, both short and long term, may not be properly known.

Natural alternatives to Viagra include:

Horny Goat Weed

The most popular ‘herbal viagra’, it has been used for centuries in China for enhancing sexual performance. It is believed to have the same effect as PDE-5 inhibitors. A 2008 Italian study (1) researched herbal extracts and "horny goat weed" was found to be the most potent inhibitor of the enzyme which results in an erection.

Korean Red Ginseng

The root of Asian ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for a number of reasons, including the treatment of erectile dysfunction, for thousands of years. In 2002 a study (2) of 45 men concluded that Korean Red Ginseng was an ‘effective alternative for treating male erectile dysfunction’. However, a 2013 study (3) found that Korean ginseng berry did not improve sexual dysfunction any more than placebo across most of the areas tested, including erectile function.

Maca

Also known as ‘Peruvian viagra’, it contains phytochemicals (compunds extracted from plants), which are said to ‘support hormonal balance and normal sexual function’. (4)

Acupuncture

Traditional Chinese acupuncture is believed to restore the balance and flow in the energy of the body, and if the energy flow (qi) is disrupted or blocked, disease can occur. A 2003 study (5) in 22 men on whether acupuncture improved erectile dysfunction found that ‘acupuncture can be an effective treatment option in more than two-thirds of patients with psychogenic erectile dysfunction’. A 1999 study (6) also concluded that ‘acupuncture...did improve the quality of erection and restored the sexual activity with an overall effect of 39%. A controlled and blinded study including more patients will be needed before any definitive conclusion can be reached.’

Homeopathy

Homeopathic remedies are solutions that are often diluted to the point where there may be no molecules of original substance left. The British Homeopathic Association says that; ‘ultra-molecular homeopathic dilutions may possess unique physical properties and can exert physiological effects’. The herb Agnus Castus (Chaste Tree) is thought to help relieve erectile dysfunction but there appears to be no clinical evidence to support this.

Healthy lifestyle changes

Erectile problems can be caused by health conditions that affect the blood flow to your penis, making it difficult to get or keep an erection. Diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol can all restrict blood flow within the body, affecting your ability to achieve an erection.

Making healthier lifestyle choices including giving up smoking, cutting down on alcohol consumption, losing weight if you need to, taking more exercise and keeping stress to a minimum can all help to improve erectile problems without the need to take medication.

Sources

(1) http://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/np800049y

(2) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12394711

(3) http://www.nature.com/ijir/journal/v25/n2/abs/ijir201245a.html

(4) http://natural-fertility-info.com/maca

(5) http://www.nature.com/ijir/journal/v15/n5/full/3901021a.html

(6) http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10098953

 

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