What are the best testosterone boosters for erectile dysfunction (ED)? Read on to find out.
When men have problems getting hard, there can be an instinct to take it personally — as if how hard you can get is a measure of your manhood or worth. This is, as we say in the medical profession, false.
Sexual performance doesn’t define you. You’re no less valuable or manly just because you’re having problems with ED. You might, however, have a problem with your testosterone levels.
Don’t get us wrong — there are many potential causes of ED, from obesity and low self-esteem to stress and insomnia. But if low testosterone production happens to be your cause, you’ll want to get it addressed as quickly as possible — which is where testosterone boosters might come in.
Testosterone boosters typically refer to a specific group of testosterone booster supplements and herbs thought to increase testosterone levels (as opposed to testosterone-replacement therapy). However, the term can also be applied to aphrodisiac and GMO ingredients that create testosterone.
Seriously, everything from Panax ginseng to boron has been named as a potential testosterone booster. Testoprime, testogen, Korean red ginseng, nettle leaf or pomegranate might be touted as a supplement with a money-back guarantee.
While the evidence behind these treatments is still relatively scant, there’s some reason to be optimistic about certain natural ingredients.
Below, we’ll explain the relationship between testosterone and ED and how boosting testosterone might solve the problem. We’ll also share the modest science behind nine of the most popular supplement ingredients.
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Bodybuilders know testosterone for its ability to help them get more out of their workouts. That’s because the best testosterone booster can give you higher energy levels, help you build lean muscle mass and improve muscle growth.
As the prime male hormone, testosterone plays a crucial role in male sexual function, including the regulation of erectile function.
The scientific explanation for how testosterone can help in the treatment of erectile dysfunction lies in its effects on the physiological processes involved in achieving and maintaining an erection.
It does this in four essential ways:
Nitric oxide production. Testosterone is known to enhance the production of nitric oxide (NO) in the body. NO is a signaling molecule that helps relax and dilate blood vessels in the penis, allowing for increased blood flow. This increased blood flow is essential for the development and maintenance of an erection.
Penile tissue sensitivity. Testosterone influences the sensitivity of penile tissues to the effects of NO. It can enhance the responsiveness of penile smooth muscle cells to NO, leading to improved erectile function.
Neural signaling. Healthy testosterone levels play a role in the regulation of neural pathways involved in sexual arousal and erectile response. It affects the release and action of neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin, which are involved in sexual desire and the signaling processes that control penile erection.
Managing low libido and sexual desire. Testosterone is closely associated with sexual desire and libido. Adequate testosterone hormone levels are necessary for maintaining a healthy sex drive, and a decrease in testosterone can lead to a decline in sexual desire, potentially contributing to ED.
Supplementing testosterone in individuals with low levels may help restore libido and sexual desire, thus indirectly improving erectile function.
It’s important to note that testosterone isn’t the sole factor contributing to erectile function. Also, ED can have multiple underlying causes, including psychological, vascular and hormonal factors.
With this in mind, testosterone treatment may not be suitable or effective for all individuals with ED. A comprehensive evaluation by a healthcare professional is necessary to determine the underlying cause of ED and the most appropriate treatment approach.
So, what works and what doesn’t? As we said, the science is modest. But below are the most commonly mentioned all-natural ingredients for natural testosterone boosters and what studies suggest they could do.
Some evidence suggests that the following nine supplement ingredients may help boost testosterone levels, which may help alleviate symptoms of erectile dysfunction.
A deficiency in vitamin D has been linked to low testosterone levels. Therefore, increasing vitamin D (and specifically vitamin D3) through supplementation or exposure to sunlight may help boost testosterone levels.
In 2011, a small study of 165 men showed significant improvement in testosterone levels over one year with supplementation, though more research is needed to understand why.
Vitamin B6 and B12 are essential for healthy hormone production, and a deficiency in these vitamins has been associated with lower testosterone levels.
We’ve known this for a long time. A 1984 study in rats found that those deficient in B vitamins were the most sensitive to testosterone and most able to readily absorb it due to a testosterone deficiency.
Omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil (and fish — one of the foods that may boost testosterone) have been shown to increase testosterone levels in some studies. Additionally, omega-3 fatty acids are important for overall cardiovascular health, which can impact erectile function.
A 2020 study pointed out that fish oil supplementation can, among other abilities, increase testosterone levels in obese men, who often suffer from low T.
Of the items on this list, ginseng would appear to have the most impressive resume. It’s been shown to increase testosterone levels in some studies.
Ginseng may also improve overall sexual function and increase libido. Various studies have shown these benefits, but unfortunately, none of them have uncovered a particular mechanism to fully explain why it works or how much to use.
Magnesium is important for healthy hormone production, and a deficiency in the mineral has been associated with lower testosterone levels. So it would make sense that supplementing with magnesium may help increase testosterone levels.
Studies are light, but one 2011 study looking at sedentary people and taekwondo athletes found that both groups saw increased testosterone levels after using magnesium supplements for four weeks.
Ashwagandha has been shown to increase testosterone levels in some studies. It may also improve overall sexual function and reduce stress and anxiety, which can impact erectile function.
One 2019 study showed very promising results for ashwagandha versus a placebo, but it called for more research short of stating any beliefs about what was proven. In other words, more people need to look at this before we can make any big claims.
A 2020 meta-analysis of studies found that fenugreek increased serum testosterone levels and that fenugreek extract also increased testosterone. Still, more research is needed to determine optimal dosing.
Saw palmetto has been shown to increase testosterone levels in some studies, though it’s very difficult to explain how or whether it’s safe. It may improve prostate health, which can impact erectile function.
A 2021 review found that a significant number of animal studies showed that saw palmetto could be used as a treatment for benign prostatic hyperplasia. Researchers believe it did so by prohibiting the conversion of testosterone to something else, though they had little information on how or why this works.
Zinc is important for healthy hormone production, and a deficiency in the mineral has been associated with lower testosterone levels. Supplementing with zinc may help increase testosterone levels.
A small 1996 study of 40 men looked into the potential causes of a significant drop in healthy testosterone levels. After 20 weeks of zinc restriction, all of them (across a wide age range) showed reduced testosterone levels.
It’s important to note that while these supplements may help boost testosterone levels, they may not be effective for all individuals. Additionally, you should consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen, especially if you have a medical condition or are taking medications.
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Testosterone-boosting supplements, like any other dietary supplements, come with potential health risks. It’s crucial to understand and consider these risks before using such supplements.
Some potential health risks are associated with testosterone-boosting supplements. Whether they work or not, many testosterone boosters and supplements can cause adverse effects, including:
Risk of cardiovascular issues, such as heart disease, high blood pressure and stroke
Increased risk of benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH) or prostate cancer
Disruption in the normal production of testosterone
Sudden drop in testosterone levels
Mood swings, irritability and aggression
Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any testosterone-boosting supplements to understand the potential risks and benefits specific to your situation.
A healthcare provider can provide personalized guidance based on your medical history and current health status and go over any potential interactions with other medications you’re taking.
Googling things like testodren, luteolin, natural supplement or T-booster for a testosterone deficiency is absolutely not the safe and effective way to deal with low testosterone.
And while brands like Testrx, Testo-Max and Testofuel may indeed affect your levels of testosterone, they’re likely not what a healthcare professional would prescribe for treating problems with T levels and sexual health.
Testosterone supplements are widely available if you’re willing to believe claims on over-the-counter packaging. But as promising as the above research might seem, you’ve probably noticed a theme running through what we shared.
The theme for testosterone boosters for ED is that, well…they’re not really proven effective yet.
YES, testosterone is necessary for erectile function. It’s also essential for the management of cholesterol, the production of cortisol, muscle synthesis, muscle gain and general well-being.
AND testosterone-replacement therapy and similar treatments can increase your testosterone levels, which can combat infertility by increasing your sperm count, trigger weight loss and help you lose body fat.
BUT herbs and supplements are not the same as FDA-approved treatments.
PLUS, they may have side effects we don’t understand yet.
SO, if you have ED, you should instead be considering treatments that are proven safe and effective.
Not sure what these treatments are? Want to know more? Our erectile dysfunction resources are where you should go next. They’re a great place to learn about medication for ED, including brand names like Cialis, Levitra, Stendra and Viagra.
The bottom line: Leave the herbal supplements on the shelf. Talk to a doctor about science-backed testosterone replacement options and ED treatments that can actually help you.
Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.