Impotence, the inability to achieve or maintain an erection, is a common condition suffered by up to two million men in Britain.
It is linked to psychological factors including stress and depression or physiological factors such as diabetes, nerve damage due to excess alcohol or smoking.
Reduced blood supply to the penis can also be a side effect of blood pressure or anti-depressant medication.
According to research carried out by the Impotence Association, the condition has been found to be a factor in the break up of 21 per cent of relationships and affects one in 10 British men.
Stress is blamed for impotence among most men. In a recent survey by Men’s Health Week, out of 1,500 men questioned, 40 per cent blamed stress for poor sexual performance.
With this in mind, we’ve found five natural cures to help reduce stress, increase blood flow and restore potency in your sex life.
The extract from the leaves of ginkgo biloba, also known as the Chinese maidenhair tree, is recommended for circulation problems, low energy levels and general fatigue. Ginkgo’s role in regulating circulatory disorders can also help improve impotence.
Research in Sweden has shown the complex chemicals in the leaves, known as flavonoids, relax blood vessels while simultaneously improving sluggish circulation caused by paralysed or flaccid blood vessels. Another study showed that Ginkgo helped sexual function in three-quarters of men tested.
A clinical trial two years ago found Ginkgo biloba to be 84 per cent effective in treating impotence caused by depression, raising desire, excitement and orgasm results.
Recommended dose: 40-80 mg of standardised extract of Ginkgo biloba, three times a day.
Known as the ‘male remedy’ in China, there is evidence to suggest that gingseng can do much to enhance vitality and protect from the effects of stress.
The chief organs in the body responsible for dealing with stress are the adrenal glands, which secrete a variety of hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol, which have important roles to play in the body’s response to stress.
Gingseng is believed to improve the body’s capacity for mental and physical exertion by mopping up cortisol and adrenaline – which can stir up stress in the body.
A clinical trial from Korea shows that 60 per cent of patients taking ginseng benefitted from its therapeutic properties during intercourse.
Recommended dose: 150mg, three times a day.
Reflexologists claim they can work on impotence in two ways. Using the thumbs, a reflexologist applies pressure to certain reflex points – or energy channels – found on the inside and outside of the ankle.
According to the principles behind reflexology, these points correspond to the reproductive areas in the body. This thumb action stimulates blood supply to the penis, encouraging an erection.
Reflexology also works by stimulating the nerve pathways leading to the brain. This lowers the breathing rate in the heart and lung area, thus helping to reduce stress.
Although reflexology is not widely used for impotent men, reflexologist Ann Gillanders says there is no reason why it shouldn’t help with the problem.
‘Impotence caused by stress can cause lack of blood supply to the penis. By stimulating the right reflex points, an increased blood supply should trigger an erection.’
Cinnamon, ginger and cloves
Herbalists believe that eating these spices literally warms up the blood, triggering blood circulation around the body, including the penis.
Herbalist Simon Mills says: ‘Although there is no clinical evidence to prove that cinnamon, ginger and cloves can cure impotence, ancient civilisations have been using these spices as an aphrodisiac to warm up the blood for centuries.’
Recommended dose A quarter to 1g of powdered ginger, cloves or cinnamon three times a day.
Give up smoking
Smokers are almost twice as likely as non-smokers to be impotent, according to American research.
In the short-term, every time a cigarette is lit nicotine circulates in the blood, constricting vessels and restricting the rush of blood which is essential to triggering an erection. It also interferes with a valve mechanism that stops blood flowing out of the penis. Without this, an erection cannot be sustained.
Long-term damage is caused by a build up of fatty deposits in the penile arteries thought to be the result of arterial lesions – a wound or infection – caused by smoking, thus restricting blood flow to the penis.
Research carried out by Action on Smoking and Health (ASH) and the British Medical Association (BMA) showed that smoking increases the risk of erectile dysfunction by around 50 per cent for men in their 30s and 40s.
It also showed that diabetes, high cholesterol levels and drugs used to treat high blood pressure are also important risk factors.