Erectile dysfunction

Updated 06 April 2017

7 alternative remedies for erectile dysfunction

There is no shortage of home or alternative remedies for erectile dysfunction (ED). Here are a few unorthodox ways of getting a tired soldier to stand to attention.


The number of (largely male) “sexual enhancement” products in South African pharmacies and health stores suggests that problems with erections and sexual prowess could be a lot more common than one might think.

A recent Health24 article cautions that many of the pills marketed as safe herbal alternatives to Viagra and other prescription sex medications pose a hidden danger and warns that for men on common heart and blood-pressure drugs, popping one could lead to a stroke, or even death.

Over-the-counter "cures" are however only the tip of the iceberg, and there are many other alternative remedies for erectile dysfunction. Some seem feasible while others are just too outlandish to even consider.

You be the judge!

(We warn sensitive readers that some of the following examples are not for the squeamish or fainthearted.) Here are seven examples of alternative ED treatments:

1. As mentioned above, the large number of “male enhancement” products sold in pharmacies and other outlets promising “longer and stronger erections”. (We won’t name any products; readers can check these out for themselves.)

Middle-aged man in pharmacy

2. Acupuncture, the ancient Chinese practice where fine needles are stuck into the body to remove energy blockages is still regarded as an effective way to treat ED. Acupuncture has also become popular in many Western countries.

Embedded acupuncture needles

3. One ancient Egyptian remedy for a limp noodle was to rub mashed crocodile hearts onto the uncooperative organ. Another one of their remedies, the blue lotus flower, might have been surprisingly effective as it contains apomorphine, known to be an effective remedy for ED.

Blue lotus flower

4. Not all ED remedies involve swallowing a substance. Placing a cylinder connected to a vacuum pump over the penis and sucking out the air is an effective way of achieving an erection. This device is falsely touted as a way to permanently increase penis size. What it can do, though, is help a man maintain an erection for up to half an hour.

A (pool) vacuum pump

5. Some Asian medical practitioners believe that consuming the genitalia of Cape fur seals can enhance sexual performance. Poaching of these animals is illegal, but the practice unfortunately continues.

Cape fur seals

6. Traditionally Spanish fly, which is harvested from a beetle (Lytta vesicatoria), is considered to be a treatment for erectile dysfunction and female sexual unresponsiveness. It contains cantharidin which causes irritation in the urinary tract that can result in an erection. However, Spanish fly has nasty side effects and can even be deadly.

Lytta vesicatoria beetles

7. Both Taoist physicians from China and Indian Ayurvedic doctors have recommended drinking large quantities of one’s own urine to cure erectile dysfunction. Urine does contain a bit of testosterone, but definitely not enough to overcome ED.  

'Manneken Pis'

Read more:

Causes of ED

Home treatment of ED

1 in 4 with ED is under 40


Ask the Expert

Erectile Dysfunction Expert

Dr Kenny du Toit is a urologist practicing in Rondebosch, Cape Town. He is also consultant at Tygerberg hospital, where he is a senior lecturer at Stellenbosch University. He is a member of the South African Urological Association, Colleges of Medicine South Africa and Société Internationale d’Urologie. Board registered with both the HPCSA (Health professions council of South Africa) and GMC (General medical council UK). He has a keen interest in oncology, kidney stones and erectile dysfunction.

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