Ayurvedic Herbal Management of Erectile Dysfunction

Description, Symptoms & Etiology

Erectile dysfunction (ED or "male impotence") is a sexual dysfunction characterized by the inability to develop or maintain an erection of the penis sufficient for satisfactory sexual performance. Erectile dysfunction is not a rare condition, being very common and affecting approximately 40% of all adult males. Male impotence or erectile dysfunction is a condition and not a diseases. This condition occurs when our body or mind do not work properly as they used to in normal conditions. About 80% of erectile dysfunction or male impotence is estimated to occur due to physical cause (e.g., lowered testosterone levels, malnutrition, environmental contaminants, trauma to the pelvic region, pharmacotherapy, substance abuse and addiction, etc.) and about 10% is believed due to psychological factors (stress, overwork, emotional difficulties with partner) and the cause of the remaining 10% is unknown.

Erectile Dysfunction is treatable at any age. Ayurveda’s treatment protocol for impotence is known as Vajikarana therapy (Re-virilization therapy), as this therapy increases the strength of the male to perform sexually “like a horse: 'Vaaji' is Sanskrit for ‘horse’. Procreation and recreation, gratification, sound health, the production of progeny and the arousal of pleasure are the goals of Vajikarana. Vajikarana promotes the sexual capacity and performance on the one hand; on the other hand it also improves the physical and psychological health of the individual and hence is helpful in the preservation and promotion of positive health.

Vaajikarana therapy leads to personal satisfaction and a sense of contentment, heightened strength, enhanced potency to produce healthy offspring and an increased span and quality of erection. Vajikarana therapy can be administered to persons who are between 18 to 70 years of age and not afflicted with a severe mental illness.

Vajikarana therapy uses diet, and lifestyle changes to help restore depleted sexual energy, and an important place is given to herbal regimens.

Before vajikarana herbs are administered, the client’s system must if necessary be detoxified. Firstly, a doshically-appropriate diet is followed. Behavioral measures, such as the adoption of a calmer state of mind through the practice of meditation, the cultivation of a positive outlook, and the limited practice of celibacy is implemented. Celibacy, or at least modest restraint, is believed to be essential for good health, particularly for men who exhaust their reserves of life energy (ojas) through the indiscriminately constant loss of semen. Over time, excessively wasting semen is classically believed to result in poor health, loss of will-power and intellect, and (eventually) impotence and premature aging.

Vajikarana herbs are introduced after purification is complete; the more common ones include ashwagandha, bhadra, kapikacchu, safed musali and shatavari.

Also known as Indian ginseng, Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) is considered sattvic (conferring greater consciousness and lightness). It generates ojas, helps produce semen, nourishes the reproductive system, acts as an aphrodisiac, and is commonly recommended for any sexual debility.

Bhadra (Epimedium grandiflorum) is a nutritive herb and aphrodisiac which also has multiple therapeutic applications. It increases sexual potency and promotes the formation of reproductive fluids as well as boosts libido and relieves fatigue. It is commonly referred to in the West as "horny goat weed" because goats eat the leaves prior to and during their mating season. Epimedium functions as an aphrodisiac by restoring low levels of both testosterone and thyroid hormone.

Shatavari (Asparagus racemosus) is a member of the asparagus family; its name means "one who possesses a hundred husbands" in Sanskrit. Used exclusively by women, this herb nourishes shukra dhatu and increases fertility and the capacity for lovemaking. Shatavari has rejuvenative effects on the female reproductive system, and possesses a sattvic quality as well as enhances feelings of love and devotion. Shatavari also helps generate healthy reproductive fluids and blood and can help regulate a woman's menstrual cycle. It can be used during any time from puberty until menopause.

Kapikacchu (Mucuna Pruriens) is a tropical legume known as velvet bean or cowitch, found in Africa, India and the Caribbean. The plant is infamous for the extreme itchiness it produces on contact with the skin, but has a wide range of medicinal properties. Contemporary research has indicate its usefulness in treating the envenomed bites of at least five snake species and it has also been found to have antidepressant properties in cases of depressive neurosis when consumed. Formulations of the seed powder have shown promise in the management and treatment of Parkinson's disease. Kapikacchu is well established in Ayurvedic practice for its aphrodisiacal qualities and it is known to augment the sperm count, boost testosterone levels and enhance sexual appetite.

Safed Musali (Asparagus adscendens) is a powerfully aphrodisiac herb widely recommended in Ayurvedic texts for improving sexual appetite and performance and promoting fertility. The phytochemicals present in the tuberous roots of Asparagus adscendens help to heal underlying conditions and remedy deficits that inhibit the secretion of sex hormones that suppress the normal functions of the reproductive system. Contemporary studies suggest that Asparagus adscendens is useful in diminishing the effects of stress and is especially effective in preventing stress-related immune disorders that induce production of the hormone corticosterone, elevated levels of which suppress the production of testosterone by down-regulating the functions of the testes.

With Ayurveda’s relatively simple and affordable measures that have been successfully utilized over countless ages, the overwhelming majority of instances of erectile dysfunction can be quickly and easily addressed.

Article provided by William Courson, BVSA, D. Ayur., an Ayurvedic Practitioner, faculty member and the College Dean of Institutional Development at Sai Ayurvedic College & Ayurvedic Wellness Center.

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