Natural Alternatives to Viagra

Dietary, nutritional, and herbal choices to help turn impotence around.

While some men, and women, are using it as a recreational drug, the much-hyped pharmaceutical, Viagra, is approved only for the treatment of male impotence.

Michael T. Murray, N.D., and Joseph Pizzorno, N.D., in the revised second edition of their Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, explain: "Impotence, in most circumstances, is more precisely referred to as erectile dysfunction, as this term differentiates itself from loss of libido, premature ejaculation, or inability to achieve orgasm." Their research estimates that 10-20 million American men suffer from erectile dysfunction, affecting over 25 percent of men over the age of 50.

They cite some common causes of impotence/erectile dysfunction -- causes which must be addressed before treatment options can be made -- to include: vascular disease (atherosclerosis of the penile artery); side effects from certain prescription medications; long-term alcohol consumption and/or tobacco use; a variety of endocrine and hormonal disorders, including diabetes; and diseases or trauma to male sexual organs.

Improving impotence naturally
A changed/improved dietary and nutritional program is essential to a treatment regimen for those dealing with erectile dysfunction. Murray and Pizzorno advise eating a diet rich in whole foods, in particular, vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and legumes. In addition, adequate protein, from high-quality, low-fat sources, is a must. Key nutrients include zinc, essential fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin B-6, and vitamin E.

Herbs to the rescue
In addition, several pure herbal extracts, foods, spices, and tinctures are available for men and women who want to improve their sexual potency -- the natural way.

Cheri Annette Wagner, a medical herbalist at the Equipose Wellness Center in Rochester, N.Y., who is also a member of the National Institute for Medical Herbalists, says that "there are natural ways to enhance desire and arousal." In particular, ginseng (Panax ginseng), gota kola, saw palmetto (Serenoa repens), and damiana are all said to be able to help increase the blood flow to sexual organs, in most cases.

Such pure herbal extracts are also non-addictive and non-toxic when used in the proper doses as indicated on the label, says Wagner.

"Foods like pomegranates, figs, and dates are so good for enhancing the libido, too," she says.

Other spices and foods that are reported to help unlock sexual desire include nutmeg, saffron, parsley, vanilla, avocado, carrot oil, and celery, says Mary Ferrill, an associate professor at the University of Pacific School of Pharmacy and Health Sciences in Stockton, Calif.

"Most sexual dysfunction is caused by an accumulation of toxins; adding Viagra is a bit like pouring oil on a fire," warns Larry Clapp of Santa Monica, Calif., author of Prostate Health in 90 Days Without Drugs or Surgery. He, too, advises a diet rich in natural foods and vegetables, with little fat and refined sugar, to help promote natural sexual function for both sexes.

Other herbs which may be helpful, in addition to those aforementioned, say Murray and Pizzorno, include: Muira puama (Ptychopetalum olacoides), also known as potency wood; Ginkgo extract (Ginkgo biloba); and, surprisingly, an herb associated with female health, chasteberry (Vitex agnus castus).

James A. Duke, Ph.D., in his book, The Green Pharmacy, adds a few more herbs/spices to this list: anise (Pimpinella anisum); cardamom (Elettaria cardarnomum); cinnamon (Cinnamomum, various species); ginger (Zingiber officinale); oat (Avena sativa); quebracho (Aspidosperma quebrachoblanco); wolfberry (Lycium chinese); Ashwaghanda (Withania somnifera); country mallow (Sida cordifolia); guarana (Paullinia cupana); and assorted essential oils, including clary sage and jasmine.

Any of a number of dietary supplement formulations, combining some of the nutrients and botanicals mentioned in this article, can be found in your local health food store. It is best to seek the advice and care of a health-care practitioner before taking any supplements for a health condition or disorder.

PHOTO (COLOR): Michael T. Murray

PHOTO (COLOR): Denise Mann

REFERENCES
Duke, James A., Ph.D. The Green Pharmacy. Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Press, 1997.

Murray, Michael, N.D., and Pizzorno, Joseph, N.D. Encyclopedia of Natural Medicine, Revised Second Edition. Rocklin, Calif.: Prima Publishing, 1998.

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By Denise Mann

Denise Mann is a medical/health editor for Data Centrum Communications. In addition to writing freelance articles on health, Denise is working on an alternative medicine book for Avon Books/Hearst.

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