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Natural Viagra: Herbs & Other Alternatives to Treat ED

Mike Bohl, MD, MPH, ALM

Reviewed by Mike Bohl, MD

Written by Geoffrey C. Whittaker

Published 08/15/2020

Updated 01/10/2024

No one wants to experience erectile dysfunction. As a matter of fact, it can feel pretty damned embarrassing — even depressing. 

There are numerous possible solutions and treatments available to help men regain their sexual health. Medications like Viagra® are just one popular, safe and FDA-approved option. 

For men interested in non-prescription solutions, there are natural alternatives for the treatment of erectile dysfunction, including so-called “natural Viagra pills.” But buyer beware. 

The jury is largely out on just how effective these might be — and there’s substantial evidence that they’re not always safe. 

In other words, before you go adding the maca and ginkgo biloba you bought online to your protein shake, you should probably read the fine print.

Below, we’ll explain what natural Viagra is, outline some Viagra alternatives that are considered safe and tell you what we — and most experts — think is the best treatment for ED you can get your hands on.

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Is natural Viagra a thing?

When it comes to treating a medical condition, the word “natural” can mean many things. It’s become a buzzword regarding food, skin care products, treating illnesses and everything in between. 

Viagra is a lab-created medicinal compound that the FDA has approved for the treatment of ED. The medication — also called sildenafil in its generic form — is what’s known as a phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitor

PDE5 is an enzyme that can keep a key step in the process of staying hard from happening.  Viagra promotes erectile function by stopping this enzyme from stopping your erection.

Natural Viagra, on the other hand, is usually natural, but is not Viagra. 

You may have seen natural Viagra products — sexual enhancement herbal remedies often sold in gas stations — that claim to do the same things as prescription Viagra, just without a prescription. 

With apologies to exotic tree roots and rare flowers, however, many of these products have slim scientific backing, and at least some have questionable safety. 

Are we telling you they’re dangerous? Sort of. Certain products have been noted to contain things they’re not supposed to — for real, some of these supplements have even been found to illegally contain sildenafil itself without so much as a mention on the label.

(Related: What are the Treatment Options for Erectile Dysfunction?)

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Add a boost to your sex life with our new chewable formats

If you’re still with us, you’re probably realizing that alternatives to Viagra aren’t always a great (or effective) option. But there’s more nuance to this category of ED treatments than that. 

Consider the list of non-prescription treatments for ED. 

  • Natural "Viagra" supplements

  • Vacuum pumps

  • Sex therapy

  • Foods that can help with ED

  • Lifestyle changes

  • A recently FDA-authorized topical gel

Some may be dangerous, but others are pretty straightforward and well-backed. Below, we’ve examined these popular options in more detail, so you can be the judge. 

Natural “Viagra”  Supplements 

There are currently many non-prescription herbal supplements marketed as natural remedies for erectile dysfunction.

Some products like dietary supplements that promote nitric oxide have a basis in fact and could offer some erectile health benefits, though they’re unlikely to be what a healthcare provider recommends.

But many of these other herbs and homeopathic remedies haven’t been thoroughly tested or approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and their claims should be taken lightly at best. 

  • Epimedium or horny goat weed, for example, has been shown to produce small improvements in erectile dysfunction. Still, no high-quality human studies have confirmed these effects on a broad scale. 

  • Red ginseng (an antioxidant) and L-arginine (a type of amino acid) are two other products frequently marketed as natural Viagra alternatives, but lack much scientific evidence that they could be natural ED remedies. 

  • Finally, a small study published in the Asian Journal of Andrology (involving 29 men) of yohimbine was shown to be a useful treatment option for orgasmic dysfunction.

(Related: What to Expect from Erectile Dysfunction Medication)

Choose your chew

Vacuum Pumps 

Vacuum devices are a mechanical treatment for sexual dysfunction. Used since the late 1800s, vacuum devices use a pump to create a vacuum on the penis, which helps increase blood flow and lead to the engorgement of your corpora cavernosa (aka causes an erection). 

Once the vacuum has enlarged and stiffened the penis, a ring is placed at the base to keep the tissue engorged for sexual activity. 

Satisfaction with the results of a penis pump or vacuum varies. 

One smaller study published in the Journal of Urology of 100 men with ED problems found the overall satisfaction rate with the penis pump was 68 percent, and those who were unsatisfied cited pain, inconvenience and fleeting effects as their reasons.

Sex Therapy 

For men whose ED is caused or worsened by psychological factors, counseling or sex therapy for ED may provide some relief. 

Things like anxiety, relationship conflicts, trauma, cultural taboos and unresolved relationship attachments can all be addressed with the help of a mental health professional.

It’s obvious that erectile dysfunction can be frustrating. Talking to a licensed therapy provider or mental health professional can help you work through any mental health issues that could be causing your ED and may improve your sex life

(Related: Is Viagra Over the Counter?)

ED-Friendly Foods  

One way to create your ED improvement plan without a trip to the doctor is to change up your diet. You can think of them as really mild sexual function medications without any side effects.

A number of foods that might — and we’re really stressing the might — be associated with better erectile health include:

You can see more on these and other erectile super foods in our guide to foods that help ED. Oh, and if you’re in the market for aphrodisiacs, read this.

Lifestyle Changes

Because there are certain lifestyle factors that increase your odds of developing ED, managing these risk factors can both make you less likely to develop ED and possibly help get rid of existing ED. 

There are many ways to naturally maintain an erection. Losing weight, getting regular exercise, quitting smoking and managing chronic health conditions such as heart disease, high blood pressure, or diabetes can go a long way in improving erectile function and sexual health.

(Related: Is Cialis Over the Counter?)

A Recently FDA-Authorized Topical Gel

Recently, the FDA authorized a new treatment for ED — a non-medicated hydro-alcoholic gel called Eroxon. This gel can be obtained without a prescription and is applied topically to the head of the penis. It works by stimulating the nerves to promote an erection.

(Related: What is the Most Effective Male Enhancement Pill?)

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We’re venturing a guess, but perhaps you’re searching for “natural” solutions because you aren’t ready to seek medical advice for your sexual performance. That’s totally understandable. 

Perhaps you’ve avoided Cialis (tadalafil), Levitra (vardenafil), Viagra (sildenafil) and other pills because prescription medications are more expensive and harder to access. We get that too. 

But ED medications aren’t the only reason you should want to talk to a professional. Consider the following points:

  • Erectile dysfunction can be a sign of more serious medical issues. Talking with a healthcare professional will ensure that something more serious isn’t behind your ED.

  •  You need an expert to help you treat both ED and most underlying causes — your healthcare provider has heard it all about men’s health, and they’ve got the experience you want. 

  • You won’t get dangerous stuff from a healthcare professional. Talking to a healthcare provider is the safest way to get an active ingredient that is clinically proven to work, instead of something dangerous.

With Hims, you can even meet with a medical provider and, if prescribed, get prescription drugs like Viagra (or another erectile dysfunction medication) shipped to your door.

4 Sources

  1. Ali, et al. (2013, January). Exploring scientifically proven herbal aphrodisiacs. Pharmacognosy reviews. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3731873/
  2. Adeniyi, A.A., Brindley, G.S., Pryor, J.P., and Ralph, D.J. (2007). Yohimbine in the treatment of orgasmic dysfunction. Asian Journal of Andrology. Retrieved April 27, 2023 from http://www.asiaandro.com/archive/1008-682X/9/403.htm
  3. Carrieri, et al. (n.d.). Oral L-citrulline supplementation improves erection hardness in men with mild erectile dysfunction. Urology. Retrieved September 20, 2022, from https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/21195829/
  4. Office of the Commissioner. (n.d.). FDA 101: Dietary supplements. U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Retrieved November 17, 2022, from https://www.fda.gov/consumers/consumer-updates/fda-101-dietary-supplements
Editorial Standards

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]!

This article is for informational purposes only and does not constitute medical advice. The information contained herein is not a substitute for and should never be relied upon for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment. Learn more about our editorial standards here.

Mike Bohl, MD

Dr. Mike Bohl is a licensed physician, a Medical Advisor at Hims & Hers, and the Director of Scientific & Medical Content at a stealth biotech startup, where he is involved in pharmaceutical drug development. Prior to joining Hims & Hers, Dr. Bohl spent several years working in digital health, focusing on patient education. He has also worked in medical journalism for The Dr. Oz Show (receiving recognition for contributions from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences when the show won Outstanding Informative Talk Show at the 2016–2017 Daytime Emmy® Awards) and at Sharecare. He is a Medical Expert Board Member at Eat This, Not That! and a Board Member at International Veterinary Outreach.

Dr. Bohl obtained his Bachelor of Arts and Doctor of Medicine from Brown University, his Master of Public Health from Columbia University, and his Master of Liberal Arts in Extension Studies—Journalism from Harvard University. He is currently pursuing a Master of Business Administration and Master of Science in Healthcare Leadership at Cornell University. Dr. Bohl trained in internal medicine with a focus on community health at NYU Langone Health.

Dr. Bohl is Certified in Public Health by the National Board of Public Health Examiners, Medical Writer Certified by the American Medical Writers Association, a certified Editor in the Life Sciences by the Board of Editors in the Life Sciences, a Certified Personal Trainer and Certified Nutrition Coach by the National Academy of Sports Medicine, and a Board Certified Medical Affairs Specialist by the Accreditation Council for Medical Affairs. He has graduate certificates in Digital Storytelling and Marketing Management & Digital Strategy from Harvard Extension School and certificates in Business Law and Corporate Governance from Cornell Law School.

In addition to his written work, Dr. Bohl has experience creating medical segments for radio and producing patient education videos. He has also spent time conducting orthopedic and biomaterial research at Case Western Reserve University and University Hospitals of Cleveland and practicing clinically as a general practitioner on international medical aid projects with Medical Ministry International.

Dr. Bohl lives in Manhattan and enjoys biking, resistance training, sailing, scuba diving, skiing, tennis, and traveling. You can find Dr. Bohl on LinkedIn for more information.

Publications

  • Younesi, M., Knapik, D. M., Cumsky, J., Donmez, B. O., He, P., Islam, A., Learn, G., McClellan, P., Bohl, M., Gillespie, R. J., & Akkus, O. (2017). Effects of PDGF-BB delivery from heparinized collagen sutures on the healing of lacerated chicken flexor tendon in vivo. Acta biomaterialia, 63, 200–209. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1742706117305652?via%3Dihub

  • Gebhart, J. J., Weinberg, D. S., Bohl, M. S., & Liu, R. W. (2016). Relationship between pelvic incidence and osteoarthritis of the hip. Bone & joint research, 5(2), 66–72. https://boneandjoint.org.uk/Article/10.1302/2046-3758.52.2000552

  • Gebhart, J. J., Bohl, M. S., Weinberg, D. S., Cooperman, D. R., & Liu, R. W. (2015). Pelvic Incidence and Acetabular Version in Slipped Capital Femoral Epiphysis. Journal of pediatric orthopedics, 35(6), 565–570. https://journals.lww.com/pedorthopaedics/abstract/2015/09000/pelvic_incidence_and_acetabular_version_in_slipped.5.aspx

  • Islam, A., Bohl, M. S., Tsai, A. G., Younesi, M., Gillespie, R., & Akkus, O. (2015). Biomechanical evaluation of a novel suturing scheme for grafting load-bearing collagen scaffolds for rotator cuff repair. Clinical biomechanics (Bristol, Avon), 30(7), 669–675. https://www.clinbiomech.com/article/S0268-0033(15)00143-6/fulltext

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