In the Western world, turmeric is best known for two things: adding a delightful, slightly sweet and earthy flavor to Indian- and Asian-inspired cuisine, and staining the heck out of everything it touches. (Okay, that was a little dramatic — but if you’ve ever cooked with turmeric powder, you know.)
Turmeric is a potent, orangish-yellow powder derived from the rhizome (underground stem) of the Curcuma longa plant, which is in the same family as ginger. It’s commonly used for flavoring recipes, as well as religious ceremonies and dying fabrics (go figure).
With its long history of use in traditional Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric has been the subject of countless research studies on its potential health benefits. For instance, it’s been observed to have antioxidant, anticancer and anti-inflammatory characteristics — largely attributed to its predominant active compound, called curcumin.
Given all of these benefits, many men wonder whether turmeric could be helpful for erectile dysfunction (ED), a common condition where achieving or maintaining an erection during sex is, for lack of a better word, hard.
ED is a multifactorial problem which may be triggered by things like:
Pre-existing health conditions affecting your vascular, nervous or hormonal systems, like type 2 diabetes, heart disease or kidney disease
Mental health problems like depression and anxiety
Lifestyle habits like smoking, drinking excessively or being sedentary
Perhaps you’re a natural remedy kind of guy for ED and other health problems, and we respect that. But is turmeric an effective approach for ED or should you reserve it for your golden milk recipe? Let’s take a dive into what the evidence says.
Erectile dysfunction is a very common condition, affecting an estimated 30 million men in the United States alone. And as you might imagine with a condition so common, there are many potential underlying causes at play.
This also means there’s no one solution for ED. For some people, one treatment like medication may be enough, while other people may need a combination of treatments — it really depends on the situation. But what about turmeric for erectile dysfunction?
First things first: There’s tons of research showing that curcumin — the active compound in turmeric — really shines in its antioxidant, cardioprotective and anti-inflammatory properties.
However, there’s not enough specific evidence about the benefits of turmeric for erectile and sexual health to make it part of your primary ED management plan.
The majority of current studies on turmeric and ED have been animal models, which don’t always translate to humans. We need a lot more data here before we can make recommendations.
But let’s take a look at what data does exist.
Although turmeric isn’t a magic spice for staying hard, it may offer general health benefits, which can also positively impact the functionality and wellness of your penis.
First, some studies have linked turmeric use to improved blood flow. For example, in a small 2017 randomized controlled trial, 39 healthy men and postmenopausal women were given either 2,000mg of curcumin per day or a placebo for 12 weeks.
The authors found that those who received curcumin experienced improvements in their arterial endothelial function compared to the placebo group. The curcumin also helped reduce oxidative stress and increase the bioavailability of nitric oxide in the arteries.
What this all means is that it helped their arteries relax, ultimately improving blood flow and supporting a healthy blood pressure — which is important for having better erections.
Additionally, a 2008 randomized double-blind controlled trial evaluated the effects of curcumin supplementation on the blood lipid panel of 63 patients with acute coronary syndrome (ACS), a group of conditions related to reduced blood flow to the heart.
Participants were given curcumin at increasing doses (a low dose of 15 mg given three times per day, a moderate dose of 30 mg given three times per day and a high dose of 60 mg given three times per day) for approximately one year.
At the end of the study, the low-dose curcumin intervention was associated with a reduction in total cholesterol and LDL “bad” cholesterol.
There’s no conclusive evidence that having high cholesterol is a direct cause of ED in humans, but some researchers think it may contribute to difficulty getting hard.
While turmeric has plenty to offer for your general wellness, it’s not recommended for everyone. Consuming turmeric, particularly in the form of higher-dose supplements, isn’t a great idea for men with some existing health conditions or who are taking certain medications.
Don’t use turmeric without first speaking to your healthcare provider if you:
Have liver disease: There are a growing number of liver injury cases developing as a result of turmeric supplementation in the United States. This supplementation is especially risky for men who already have liver disease.
Are at risk of iron deficiency: There is some data that turmeric can bind with iron in the body and prevent its absorption, leading to iron deficiency. While more research is needed, it’s important to note this potential risk, given both the widespread use of turmeric and risks for iron deficiency anemia.
Take blood thinning medications: Curcumin has natural blood thinning properties. This means it shouldn’t be used by men who are taking blood thinning medications, such as warfarin or heparin.
If you have an existing health condition or are taking any supplements, over-the-counter medications or prescription drugs, always disclose these to your provider. This information is important to ensure that adding a turmeric supplement is safe and appropriate for you.
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Turmeric consumed moderately in food is unlikely to cause side effects for most people.
And overall, curcumin supplements are considered safe with no major adverse side effects reported, even at doses of 12 grams per day for three months.
However, these supplements may have a higher risk of side effects than turmeric in food, but not usually from the spice itself.
For example, turmeric or curcumin supplements may contain filler ingredients, like wheat, barley or rye flour, which could trigger symptoms for people with gluten intolerance or celiac disease.
Some may also contain questionable food colorants or high levels of lead, depending on their origin. This could potentially have adverse effects on health when taken for a long time or in large quantities.
Choosing supplements that have been third-party tested for safety, purity and quality — by independent bodies like NSF International, Consumer Lab or USP — is a good rule of thumb when seeking higher-quality supplements.
Okay, so turmeric probably isn't a one-stop shop for naturally curing your ED — but don't sweat it. There are plenty of other options that have been shown to be helpful, such as:
Medication: For most men, a prescription erectile dysfunction medication is among the recommended first-line treatment options. A healthcare professional may recommend sildenafil (generic for Viagra®), avanafil (generic for Stendra®) or tadalafil (generic for Cialis®). You might also consider our hard mints, which are chewable ED meds that contain the active ingredients in Cialis, Levitra® and Staxyn® but tailored to your individual needs.
Mental health: Psychological factors may be playing a role in your erectile dysfunction. Many men experience sexual performance anxiety or depression that make it difficult to get hard during sex. Consider seeking therapy if you think this might be a factor for you.
Lifestyle: Leading a sedentary lifestyle and fueling your body with ultra-processed foods that are high in saturated fat, sodium and added sugar can negatively impact erectile function. Make healthy lifestyle modifications where needed, like aiming for 30-60 minutes of exercise most days. Prioritize minimally processed and whole plant foods in your diet, as these are high in fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants that benefit overall health.
While turmeric might be the missing flavor in your home-cooking adventures, it’s probably not going to add the spiciness you’re seeking in the bedroom.
If you're experiencing erectile dysfunction, it's essential to consult with a healthcare professional for medical advice and keep these things in mind:
You’re not alone. ED is very common and affects men of all ages and stages of life. This also means that health experts know enough about it to help you diagnose and manage it well (meaning, don’t try to blindly fix it yourself).
ED has many underlying causes. For most men, it’s not just one thing. ED is often a combination of physical, psychological and lifestyle-related factors. Just adding one supplement or medication is highly unlikely to address the full picture, especially in the long term.
There are other effective treatments. ED medications like Viagra can be very effective in helping men achieve and maintain erections during sex. Pairing these with other treatment methods, like lifestyle change and mental health support when needed, are your best bet for improving your sex life.
Ready to pursue a solution for ED? Start by taking our free quiz to find out the best plan of action.
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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.