Erectile dysfunction is the “persistent inability to attain and maintain an erection sufficient to permit satisfactory sexual performance,” according to an article published in the BC Medical Journal. It is estimated that erectile dysfunction affects 49.4 per cent of men over the age of 40 in Canada. Many factors contribute to erectile dysfunction including hypertension, hyper­lipidemia, smoking, diabetes mellitus and chronic stress. However, there are many natural options to help improve sexual performance. We’ll explore some of those here.

Vascular and Nerve Health

Erectile dysfunction may be a symptom of cardiovascular disease. Chronic conditions such as diabetes mellitus, elevated cholesterol and high blood pressure can damage the nerves arteries and veins that control the function of the penis. Following the Mediterranean diet, a diet high in fresh colourful vegetables, low in refined carbohydrates and high in omega 3 and omega 9 fatty acids can help keep your cardiovascular system in peak condition which will support healthy sexual performance.


A native cruciferous vegetable of the Andes, Maca Root has been used to improve sexual dysfunction, with many people anecdotally reporting its benefits, over the years. In a 2010 study, researchers concluded that although more research is needed, Maca shows promise and may have a significant positive effect on sexual performance. The powdered root is often used, and it can be taken in capsule form or the powder can be added to smoothies.

L –Arginine

L-Arginine is actually an amino acid which works to dilate or open the blood vessels of the penis to help attain and maintain an erection. It works by producing nitric oxide, the chemical responsible for the dilation effect. Doses range from 500 mg to 1500 mg per day. L-Arginine is usually taken in capsule form on its own or as part of a sexual enhancement formula.

Panax Ginseng

Panax Ginseng is an adaptogen. This means that regular use may help your body to adapt to periods of chronic stress. Known as the herbal Viagra, Panax Ginseng contains plant chemicals known as ginsenosides. In research studies the typical dose range for Panax Ginseng is up to 1000 mg per day of an herbal extract. Although scientists do not know exactly how this plant improves erectile dysfunction, it is thought to be most effective in men with elevated cholesterol.


Zinc is an essential mineral that can be found in seafood such as oysters, pumpkin and sesame seeds, and red meat. It plays an important role in the immune system and in cellular metabolism. With respect to erectile dysfunction, zinc plays a role in the production of testosterone, a key hormone for maintaining an erection. A deficiency in zinc can reduce your sense of smell which may in turn affect arousal. In a 2013 study, it was found that in young men, a decreased sense of smell may have a negative effect on libido. Researchers concluded that this was due to the inability of the participants to smell the chemicals that contribute to arousal. A diet low in this important trace mineral may explain this negative effect.


The walnut is a tree nut and it is one of the healthiest nuts available for consumption. It contains alpha linoleic acid, an omega-3 fatty acid which has anti-inflammatory and heart disease prevention benefits. The physical shape of the walnut resembles that of the prostate. This is an example of the doctrine of signatures; when an herb looks like the part of the body it is used to treat. A small research study from the University of Malaysia in which 40 healthy subjects took a walnut extract, demonstrated positive effects against erectile dysfunction. The effects lasted up to 4 hours after taking it. I encourage patients who aren’t allergic to nuts to have a handful of nuts each day and to be sure to include the walnut, in order to reap the vast health benefits of this powerful nut.

Erectile dysfunction has a significant impact on interpersonal relationships and the overall quality of life of sufferers. In order to successfully manage this condition, take a holistic approach. Ensure that you’ve ruled out diabetes, hypertension and elevated cholesterol by having your doctor perform the necessary examinations and lab tests. A naturopathic doctor can help you improve the diet and lifestyle factors that contribute to erectile dysfunction and it may require the use of some of the herbs and supplements described here. Always check with your healthcare provider before taking supplements and herbs as there is always the possibility of interaction with medications.

About the Author

Dr. Olivia Rose graduated from the University of Guelph with a Bachelor of Science Honours degree in Nutritional and Nutraceutical Sciences and in 2006, she graduated from the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine.

In addition to her private practice, Dr. Rose is the director of Fertility Acupuncture Services, a mobile service that brings acupuncture to couples undergoing in vitro fertilization and intrauterine insemination at Toronto fertility clinics. Her special areas of interest include infertility; children and teen health; stress management; weight loss; heart disease; digestive and immune health; skin rejuvenation and pain management. She is a birth doula and has additional training in cosmetic acupuncture and needle-less therapies for skin rejuvenation and joint pain.

Dr. Rose is a sought-after lecturer for community organizations; a freelance writer and mentor to new graduates. She has been interviewed by various media outlets including Global Toronto’s, “The Morning Show”, “News at Noon” and “News Hour”. In her free time, she unplugs at the spa and she enjoys spending quality time with her husband, son and tea-cup Yorkie. For more information on Dr. Rose's practice and special events, please visit -