Erectile dysfunction (ED) is when someone has difficulty getting or maintaining an erection. Some evidence suggests that certain supplements may help with ED. However, this may only be true for people with a vitamin deficiency.
Many health conditions can contribute to ED, including hormonal disorders, cardiovascular disease, anxiety, depression, and certain medications.
Moreover, the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases reports that ED is more likely to occur in older adults, people with obesity, and individuals who smoke.
Vitamins and minerals help the body, including the reproductive system, function efficiently. Getting enough nutrients can improve general health. There is no firm evidence that specific vitamins can cure ED, but there may be a link between specific nutrient deficiencies and the condition.
In this article, we look at some vitamins and supplements that may help with ED, and other ED remedies.
– Vitamin D
A 2020 review and meta-analysis notes a link between vitamin D deficiency and severe ED.
Research had previously suggested that people with hypogonadism also had low levels of vitamin D. After receiving human chorionic gonadotropin treatment for hypogonadism, their vitamin D levels rose.
Hypogonadism develops when the body does not produce enough sex hormones. This can lead to low sexual desire and difficulty getting an erection.
Another study involving young males with low vitamin D status found that those with a vitamin D deficiency had lower erectile function.
These results suggest a link between vitamin D deficiency and ED.
Vitamin D may reduce oxidative stress, regulate blood pressure, and stimulate nitric oxide production. All these may contribute to erectile response.
The main source of vitamin D for humans is sunlight. A person can get more vitamin D by regularly exposing their skin to the sun while using an SPF to protect the skin from UV damage. It is also possible to get some vitamin D from foods such as:
- oily fish, including salmon and sardines
- fortified milk
- fortified cereal
- egg yolk
- beef liver
Some people may need to take vitamin D supplements in order to maintain optimal levels.
– Vitamin B9
Vitamin B9, or folate, may also play a role in ED. In a 2014 study, many participants with ED also had a folate deficiency.
A 2020 study involving 100 people found that supplementation with folic acid, the synthetic form of folate, led to improvements in the severity of ED.
Folic acid comes in two forms: a synthetic version that manufacturers add to food products, and folate, which occurs naturally in foods.
The following foods are rich in folate:
- beef liver
- greens, such as spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli
- citrus fruits and bananas
- beans, peas, lentils, and other legumes
People can also take folate in supplement form, and folic acid is present in fortified foods, such as cereals and pasta.
– Vitamin B3
Vitamin B3, or niacin, may also improve erectile function. One older study concludes that niacin alone could improve moderate to severe ED. However, more research is necessary to confirm these findings.
Foods rich in vitamin B3 include:
- beef liver
- turkey and chicken breast
- salmon and tuna
- brown rice
- sunflower seeds
– Tribulus terrestris
Tribulus terrestris has long played a role in traditional medicine in India and China. It often features in male sexual health products.
Results from animal studies suggest it can:
- boost erectile function
- increase sexual behavior
- possibly increase testosterone levels, although there are no measures to confirm this
It also appears to increase nitric oxide production and boost vasodilation. However, more evidence is needed to show how it works and how effective it is.
– Vitamin C
A review notes that vitamin C helps improve blood flow and increase testosterone levels, both of which are important for sexual function.
However, a 2021 review concludes there is no evidence that vitamin C supplements can improve ED.
While companies market many herbs and supplements as ED remedies, only a few have scientific evidence to show their efficacy.
A 2021 review included data on 587 males with mild to moderate ED. The authors conclude that ginseng may have a small effect on ED, compared with a placebo.
A small 2021 study involving 52 participants found that combined supplementation with ginseng and vitamin E improved ED scores over 6 weeks.
A 2019 review found evidence that arginine may help with mild to moderate ED, compared with a placebo or no treatment. However, 8.3% of the participants experienced side effects.
The authors of a 2020 study conclude that males aged 60 years or older seeking to reduce symptoms of ED may benefit from a combination of Cialis (tadalafil) and L-arginine.
Where to find quality vitamins and supplements?
There is some evidence that these vitamins and supplements can help with ED, but more research is necessary to confirm their safety and effectiveness.
It is important to note that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate herbal supplements in the same way it regulates medications.
The FDA has also found numerous products online marketed as “natural” ED remedies, when, in fact, they contained undisclosed or illegal substances.
A person should discuss with a doctor any supplements before trying them. The doctor will be able to recommend a suitable place to purchase them.
Lifestyle and complementary remedies
General physical and mental health have a significant impact on ED. As such, making lifestyle changes may also benefit a person’s symptoms. These changes could include:
Diet and exercise
A 2019 review notes that people with obesity may have a 40% higher risk of ED.
Reaching or maintaining a moderate body weight by following a balanced diet and getting physical exercise may help reduce the symptoms or progression of ED.
This may also help manage underlying conditions that can contribute to ED, such as diabetes or hypertension.
According to a review, chronic stress may cause ED. This may occur because stress reduces blood flow to the penis, reducing the firmness or duration of erections.
The reduction in blood flow may be due to changes in nerve signaling in various pathways relating to erectile response. Therefore, learning to manage and relieve stress may help with ED.
ED itself can also cause stress or anxiety. Someone with persistent worries or a low mood can seek guidance and support from a doctor or therapist.
Smoking can damage blood vessels and decrease blood flow.
A 2020 study found that erectile function was directly proportional to participants’ exposure to tobacco smoke and that quitting smoking improved sexual function in males aged 30–60 years.
A 2019 review suggests that acupuncture at key acupressure points may improve nerve sensitivity and promote blood circulation.
When to contact a doctor
Some people may find it difficult to talk about ED. However, understanding the cause of ED is the best way of finding a treatment or approach that helps.
If an individual has persistent difficulty maintaining an erection, they may wish to ask a doctor about treatment options.
Frequently asked questions
Here are some questions people often ask about supplements for ED.
Can vitamins really help cure ED?
Vitamins can boost overall health, and some vitamins may help improve conditions that cause ED, but they cannot cure ED.
How much vitamin D should a person take if they have ED?
There are no specific dose recommendations for ED.
Males aged 19–70 years need 15 micrograms (mcg), or 600 international units (IU), of vitamin D per day, rising to 20 mcg (800 IU) from age 71.
People should not consume more than 100 mcg (4,000 IU) per day, but doctors may recommend higher doses if levels are low or deficient.
Can too much vitamin D cause ED?
There is no evidence that too much vitamin D increases the risk of ED.
Very high levels of vitamin D can lead to high calcium levels, or hypercalcemia. Possible symptoms include nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, and kidney stones.
ED is a common condition with a range of possible causes. A person may find that getting enough vitamins and minerals improves their health, but there is no evidence that vitamins can cure ED.
Vitamins B3, B9, and D are important for male sexual health and may help manage ED. Ginseng and arginine may also prove effective, but more research is necessary to confirm this.
A person can usually get enough vitamins through safe sun exposure and a balanced diet, but both vitamin and other supplements can help boost levels if a doctor advises this.