Traditional Chinese Medicine for ED: Everything You Need to Know

  • May 11, 2020
Today, there are several ways of treating erectile dysfunction including drugs, lifestyle changes, and even surgical treatment. Traditional Chinese Medicine, aka TCM, is just one them – and the vast majority of men are looking to embrace it.

ED affects up to half of all the men 40 years and above. Out of this, an unfortunate small group – about 5% – suffers from complete dysfunction.

TCM in Male Sexuality

Before we get to the specific available TCM remedies for ED, here are a few thoughts on male sexuality, at least from the TCM perspective. According to TCM, the liver has the penis as its root. Meanwhile, kidney and liver disharmony are believed to be responsible for ED.

To understand Chinese medicine, we have to understand Qi, also known as life force or energy flow. This is the vital energy that animates the body internally. Every living entity has it, according to Chinese medicine. Qi is responsible for producing and distributing body fluids and blood.

Qi itself is created by the interaction of yin and yang, which translate to “dark” and “bright”, respectively. Yin and yang are the basic principles of Chinese medicine. They are two opposing, yet complimentary and connected elements.

Good health comes from a balance of the two. The table below highlights their differences.

Yin Yang
Female Male
Negative positive
Darkness Light
Rest Activity
Right Left

Impotence is caused by the obstruction of the free flow of qi due to stagnated liver qi.

In TCM, liver qi stagnation is believed not to be a lone culprit, as it is often accompanied by pathologies like cold, dampness and heat. Lifestyle factors are believed to greatly contribute to the identified pathologies. For example, excess dampness is caused by overconsumption of alcohol and spicy, greasy foods.

TCM classifies sexual dysfunction among men into three main patterns, namely:

  • Kidney yang deficiency: Symptoms include low libido, fatigue, and an inability to obtain an erection.
  • Damp heat in the lower jiao (kidneys, bladder, small and large intestines): Symptoms include difficulties in obtaining an erection and premature ejaculation.
  • Liver qi stagnation: Main symptoms include lower abdominal pain, emotional/mental stress and low libido – accompanied with difficulties in maintaining an erection, often, with painful urination.

How the whole thing works

TCM practice is based on the understanding that there are two organs related to ED. That’s the kidney (which stores the essence – ying) and the liver (which stores the blood – xue).

The liver controls sexual and reproduction functions, in addition to maintaining blood flow and modulating blood volume.

The TCM uses a natural approach in treating humans. Which is, in fact, based on the following factors:

  • Ying-yang
  • Herbology
  • Acupuncture
  • Clinical diagnosis
  • The five elements: water, metal, fire, wood, earth

TCM remedies for ED

TCM has a number of remedies for ED. They include acupuncture, herbs and herb compounds.

Acupuncture treatment for ED

Acupuncture is one of the main therapeutic TCM methods employed in treating various diseases. It is simply the insertion of thin needles into specific points on the skin and tissue. These points are known as acupoints.

In TCM, acupoints are identified as the Qi control points. When there is excess Qi in an organ, they release it to the vacuous organs, helping to bring back qi balance in the body, in the process.

Acupuncture for erectile dysfunction has been confirmed to regulate how the nervous, circulatory, and endocrine systems function. Endocrine systems are chemical messenger systems between organs. They transport hormones released by glands to distant target organs.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) has provided sufficient evidence showing that acupuncture is a useful therapy in treating a variety of diseases.

Studies on Acupuncture and Male Sexual Dysfunction

Several studies have been done to gauge acupuncture’s effect on ED. In one of the studies, where 60 patients with nonorganic ED were treated with acupuncture, a decent 60% percent reported sexual activity satisfaction after the therapy was administered.

Another trial conducted on 90 heterosexual and sexually active men showed that acupuncture had strong ejaculation delaying effects.

In another study, out of all the patients with psychogenic ED that were treated with acupuncture, approximately 68% reported improved sexual satisfaction. Acupuncture is therefore a promising remedy to ED.

Commonly used Chinese herbs

Let us now explore the second category of ED treatments in TCM. I’ll quickly highlight several herbs or extracts that have been used so far. This is different from compound formulas. Compound formulas use more than one herb in treatment instead.

Tribulus terrestris

This is the fruit of the zygophyllaceae plant, and it mainly grows in north China. While further investigation needs to be done to establish the specific mechanism by which it works, several experiments have confirmed that it could help cure ED.

Morinda officinalis How

Widely used in China, it is obtained from the dried roots of morinda officinalis. It treats both impotence and rheumatoid arthritis. It does that by increasing serum testosterone levels, whether by injection or oral administration.

Tests done on rats have shown consistent results with both forms of administration. The underlying mechanism by which it works needs further investigation.

Angelica sinensis

The dried roots of angelica are used to make Angelica sinensis, which, when injected into the bloodstream, helps relieve pain and increases blood volume. Angelica sinensis is administered through injection performed within the pelvis.

Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort

Planted mainly in southwestern China, Ligusticum chuanxiong Hort relieves pain and promotes blood flow. So, yes, another option that helped do justice to my list of Chinese herbs for male performance.

Epimedium (Icariin)

This is another traditional Chinese herb used to treat ED. Because it features icariin, which helps boost erectile dysfunction in various ways, Epimedium is one of the Chinese herbs you want to add to your arsenal.

Tetrandrine

Another one on my list is tetrandrine. An extract of Stephania tetrandra S Moore, tetrandrine can only share in the root’s properties. So, yes, you guessed right. It’s an antipyretic, anti-inflammatory, and analgesic herb. The reason you DON’T WANT to think twice when it comes to using it to cure ED.

Ginseng

A widely used, yet costly Chinese herb, ginseng is simply the root of the Araliaceae plants. And thanks to its main components, ginsenosides, ginseng boasts anti-inflammatory properties in addition to anti-tumour and antioxidant effects. Ginsenosides also inhibit cell death.

Common Cnidium Fruit

This fruit of Cnidium monnieri helps treat erectile dysfunction, thanks to the active ingredient it contains: Osthole. This component has both relaxant and vasodilating effects. That alone is enough to initiate nitric oxide (NO) production from endothelium, as well as inhibit phosphodiesterase.

Lycium barbarum

The polysaccharides that are extracted from this herb help shorten the latency of penis erection. Yes, it’s a good thing that they feature antioxidant effects. Grab this Chinese herb and male infertility will be a thing of the past.

Panax notoginseng

Studies have revealed that Panax notoginseng saponins, the major components of Panax notoginseng, help boost erectile dysfunction. This herb that is planted in the Yunnan and Guangxi provinces of China.

Semen Cuscutae

Semen cuscutae has been used by the Chinese for thousands of years to treat seminal emission and impotence. It’s obtained from Cuscuta chinensis Lam seeds. The seeds have to be ripe and dry before the herb is extracted from them.

Semen cuscutae flavones could treat ED by reversing the yang deficiency symptoms in the kidneys. This is achieved by the restoration of receptor expressions of androgens and testosterone levels in both testicles and kidneys.

Berberin

Berberin has been confirmed to improve ED thanks to its antioxidant properties. It is found in Chinese herbs like radix berberidis and phellodendron and in the rhizome coptidis rootstalk. Tests have shown that it could initiate the relaxation of corpus cavernosum.

Kaempferia parviflora

Kaempferia parviflora is mainly found in Southwest China. This plant contains extracts that prevent the degradation of smooth muscle cells lining blood vessels that supply various tissues, including the penis.

One of the extracts has been reported to cause human cavernosum relaxation. The cavernosum is the spongy tissue that runs through the penis shaft. It carries blood vessels that fill up with blood to help make an erection.

Herba Cistanche

This one is extracted from the dry stems of cistanche species. These grow in the arid regions of China with intense sunshine. Studies have revealed its antioxidation effects that prolong erectile duration and shorten erectile latency.

Besides impotence, the herb has been used to treat a number of gynecological diseases and chronic renal disease.

Neferin

Thanks to its antipyretic, hemostat, and sedative properties, Neferin helps cure impotence in men. The herb protects the thin inner layer of cells that line arteries and veins. It also controls the formation of blood platelets, which clot to stop bleeding.

Folium Ginkgo Bilobae

It’s reported that the herb heightens production of dopamine in the brain, a process that boosts erection in men. The Ginkgoaceae plant – which is common in China as it grows throughout the country – is credited with producing this herb (Folium Ginkgo Bilobae).

Chinese herb combinations

The third TCM category of ED treatment is the use of combinations of herbs. This is currently the most popular application of TCM. The Chinese apply strict rules in creating these formulas. Often, four basic elements are used, each playing a unique role.

The elements are “Monarch”, “Minister”, “Assistant” and “Servant”. Each element might be made up of one or more drugs. Formulas are more popular than single herbs because they are less toxic than single herbs and they have greater therapeutic effect.

Here’s two of the formulas (plus additional ones) that have been used to fight impotence in men.

Yidiyin

It is extracted by boiling the herb in water. It is used to treat diabetes-related ED. It has been shown to reduce erectile dysfunction. When combined with hypoglycemic drugs, Yiyidin has shown better results among diabetic patients than when hypoglycemic drugs alone are used.

Hypoglycemic drugs treat diabetes by raising sugar levels.

Shuganyiyang capsule

This formula is made from 15 different Chinese herbs.  Its functions include replenishing necessary essence, activating yang, and the inversion of blood circulation. Shuganyiyang capsule improves penile erection in rats and humans.

Other formulas

Apart from the above two, there are a few more formulas already in clinical use in treating ED. They include Fufangxuanju capsule, Yougui pill, and Xiaoyao pill.

Advantages of TCM

  • One of the biggest advantages of TCM is that natural products have been known to have little or no side-effects at all. There are no recorded harmful side-effects from using TCM to treat ED.
  • TCM reduces ED by going for multiple targets and systems in the body. It improves the general health of patients over and above treating ED. That’s because its goal is ensuring the overall balance of the body, soul and mind, besides regulating the testis.
  • TCM treats the source of the condition rather than just treating symptoms as drugs like Viagra do.

Point of Caution!

Note that ED treatment through TCM is more challenging among patients after they have been treated for prostate cancer. This is due to the damaging effects of radiation and prostatectomy, which often damage tissues associated with erection. This affects all ED treatments, not just TCM.

More research needs to be conducted on the therapeutic effect of acupuncture and clarify further the effects and clinical use of some of the herbs. Additionally, effects of acupuncture after the initial treatment has ended remains unknown. However, there is sufficient evidence to show that TCM is a great option for ED patients

Your Take-Away

When utilizing TCM, you don’t want to overlook the root cause of ED – and probably how to manage it. For example, if you’re suffering from stress, you’d cultivate healthy habits like workouts and stress management programs.

Other common conditions like heart disease, metabolic syndrome, and diabetes should not be neglected, either. Manage them in addition to using TCM for ED.

On a side plate…

Pharmaceutical drugs like Viagra, Levitra and Cialis only treat the symptoms; not the root cause of erectile deficiency. Even though they serve a purpose, they are not the go-to solution.

TCM is therefore a great option that ED patients should consider. Why? It has been in use for an exceptionally long period of time, and it has lower chances of side effects. There is currently a number of herbs or combinations of herbs that have given satisfying outcomes.

Last but not least, considering more than half of sexuality is dependent on the mind, if the mind is right, the organ will likely be.