Happy Valentine's Day from the Natural Standard Research Collaboration!

February is here, and that means romance is in the air! You may be looking forward to spending quality time with a loved one, but if you suffer from sexual dysfunction, you may also be feeling anxious. However, you shouldn’t let that ruin your Valentine’s Day. Many all-natural complementary and alternative medical (CAM) therapies have been studied for use in erectile dysfunction, low libido, premature ejaculation, and other related conditions.

You shouldn’t be shy about discussing sexual issues with your healthcare providers. We are here to help and want to ensure that you choose safe and effective prevention and treatment options. After all, sexual dysfunction affects millions of people. Defined as difficulty during any stage of the sexual act (including desire, arousal, orgasm, and resolution), sexual dysfunction is estimated to affect approximately 19-50% of women in the U.S., as well as one in 10 men in the world who have erectile dysfunction.

Last year, the Natural Standard Research Collaboration provided a review of herbs and supplements studied for sexual performance enhancement (http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/natural-standard/201202/alternative-...). We wanted to be sure that you have the most up-to-date information at your fingertips, so we have provided additional research results below.

Based on Natural Standard research, there is unclear or conflicting scientific evidence for the effectiveness of the following treatments. However, if you work with your doctor or pharmacist before trying them, we can help screen for interactions, ensure that studied dosing and safe products are chosen, and work together on a monitoring plan to prevent side effects.


The practice of applying finger pressure to specific regions of the body has been used for thousands of years in China. Acupressure is believed to encourage relaxation and promote wellness, and has been used for a variety of health conditions. Early studies suggest that vaginal acupressure and pelvic massage may help reduce sexual dysfunction. Further research is needed to confirm these findings. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/hw/patient-shiatsu.asp)


The practice of acupuncture originated in China 5,000 years ago. Today it is widely used throughout the world and is one of the main pillars of Chinese medicine. There are many different varieties of acupuncture. Traditional Chinese medicine often combines acupuncture with Chinese herbs, while classical acupuncture uses a different needling technique. Acupuncture has been studied for use in erectile function, but currently there is not enough evidence to recommend it for this condition. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/hw/patient-acupuncture.asp)

Horny goat weed

The herb known as horny goat weed is translated from the traditional Chinese medicine term, “yin yang huo,” literally meaning “obscene goat leaves of pulse plants.” Horny goat weed has been used for many different purposes: bodybuilding, improvement of muscle and bone strength, and enhanced liver and kidney health. Traditionally, it has been used to increase fertility. One study suggests that horny goat weed may improve sexual performance and quality of life in people with kidney failure, although further study is needed before further conclusions can be made. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/patient-hornyg...)


L-carnitine is found naturally in the human body, where it is created in the liver, kidney, and brain. It plays an important role in metabolism and works to transfer important molecules to different parts of the body. Ninety-eight percent of total body L-carnitine is found in the skeletal and cardiac muscle at concentrations approximately 70 times higher than in the blood serum. Early studies suggest that supplementation with propionyl-L-carnitine may improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction, though more studies are needed to determine its effectiveness. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/patient-acetyl...)

Muira puama

Historically, all parts of the plant Muira puama has been used medicinally. In Europe, it has a long history in herbal medicine as an aphrodisiac, while in Brazil, the tea is believed to help treat neuromuscular problems, rheumatism, flu, and even baldness. Brazilian indigenous people have also used it to treat impotence and erectile dysfunction. Additionally, muira puama is thought to enhance libido, although more studies are needed to study its effects alone. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/patient-muirap...)


Pomegranate is a popular fruit that is grown around the world and has a long history of use as both food and medicine. One pomegranate delivers about 40% of an adult's daily vitamin C requirement and is high in antioxidants. Pomegranate juice has been studied in the treatment of mild-to-moderate erectile dysfunction, but early research is unclear and more studies are needed before a conclusion can be made. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/patient-pomegr...)


Saffron has a long history of use as a spice, medicine, and yellow dye. It comes from the crocus flower, and about 75,000 blossoms are needed to make a single pound of saffron, which is why it can be pricy and range from $50 to as much as $300 per ounce. Saffron is thought to have many health benefits, including anticancer, antidepressant, nerve protective, and antioxidant effects. Based on early study, dried saffron may be effective in the treatment of erectile dysfunction, though more research is needed. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/patient-saffro...)

Vitamin D

This essential nutrient can be found in fish, eggs, fortified milk, and cod liver oil, and can also be acquired through exposure to sunlight. The major role of vitamin D is to maintain normal blood levels of calcium and phosphorus, through which it can increase bone mineral density and decrease fractures. Research also suggests that vitamin D may provide protection from osteoporosis, high blood pressure, and cancer. Vitamin D has been studied for use in sexual dysfunction, although evidence supporting its effectiveness is mixed. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/patient-vitami...)


Zinc is another important nutrient that is needed for the proper functioning of more than 300 different enzymes in the body. It plays a vital part in enhancing the immune system and is also believed to have antiviral activity. Zinc has been used for numerous medical purposes, including wound healing, diarrhea in malnourished children, skin conditions, and diabetes. It has also gained popularity for its use in the prevention of the common cold. Several studies have been conducted to determine whether zinc may improve libido and erectile dysfunction in men on chronic maintenance hemodialysis. However, results are conflicting and further study is needed. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/patient-zinc.asp)


And here’s a therapy that has gotten a lot of media hype but has less scientific evidence than the therapies mentioned above. You may want to steer clear until we know more.


Deer velvet

Deer velvet, also known as antler velvet, refers to antlers that have been removed during the growth stage, when they are covered with soft velvet-like hair. After removal, the antlers are dried and ground. Deer velvet has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, and the powder is sold as a dietary supplement that is believed to improve sexual function, increase overall energy, reduce stress, and strengthen the body. However, early studies found a lack of effect of deer velvet on sexual functioning in middle-aged men. Based on Natural Standard research, there is fair negative scientific evidence for the use of deer velvet in improving sexual performance. (http://www.naturalstandard.com/databases/herbssupplements/patient-deerve...)

Buyers beware! Therapies used for sexual dysfunction do not necessarily protect against sexually transmitted diseases nor pregnancy. It is very important that you are aware of this difference and that you choose appropriate birth control methods.

Also, nothing replaces a healthy diet, exercise, and sleep for physical performance of any kind.

So enjoy Valentine’s Day, but perhaps indulge in the chocolates that abound in moderation. You’ll look and feel better…. in bed ;).

About the Author

Catherine Ulbricht, Pharm.D.

Catherine Ulbricht, Pharm.D., co-founder of Natural Standard Research Collaboration, is the Senior Attending Pharmacist at Massachussetts General Hospital.

You are reading

Natural Standard

Dietary Supplement Interactions

Even all-natural herbs and supplements can interact.

Music Therapy for Health and Wellness

Music has been studied as an integrative therapy for many conditions.

Attention: Integrative Therapies

Herb and supplement use in ADHD