Some Dietary Supplements for Men Are Not Just Nostrums

With regular use, dietary supplements may make you all the man you can be, in the post-drug, loaded sense of that phrase. And also take you to places that are not on the itinerary of a certain highly touted drug. That is because there are health products with a broad spectrum of benefits intended to take you back to where you were before sexual dysfunction entered your vocabulary.

The ingredients mentioned below may be chosen to provide benefits beyond erectile function and enhancement of libido. All are backed by scientific studies that indicate effects ranging from cognitive increases to mental fitness to robust well-being. A drug is not the final word. We want a holistic state of health, where sexual energy is but one beautiful part of an integrated life.

Arginine is an amino acid that may be the single most important nutrient you can take (see the preceding article in this issue). In addition to its myriad benefits in many aspects of human physiology, arginine is the precursor of nitric oxide, a vasodilator that plays a vital role in providing ample blood flow to the penis (and, for that matter, to the clitoris and vagina in women).


  • Panax ginseng, a phytonutrient known to enhance athletic energy.1 It has also been found to decrease total serum cholesterol and triglycerides, counteract stress, and operate as a vasodilator by enhancing nitric oxide synthesis.2
  • Muira puama, a phytonutrient used for neuromuscular problems, rheumatism, flu, cardiac asthenia, gastrointestinal asthenia, and baldness, as well as for sexual debility and impotence.3
  • Ginkgo biloba, a phytonutrient used for vertigo, short-term memory,4 and to help reverse antidepressant-induced sexual dysfunction caused by SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).5
  • Urtica dioica (stinging nettle), a phytonutrient that is beneficial for benign prostatic hyperplasia.6 It binds to the same receptor sites on human sex-hormone-binding globulin (SHBG) that testosterone does, thus increasing the amounts of free testosterone.7,8
  • Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera), a phytonutrient with a wide variety of beneficial properties, such as helping to reduce the pain of osteoarthritis9 and to increase libido and sexual function.10
  • Wild oats (Avena sativa), a phytonutrient that enhances many aspects of sexual function, including sex drive, firmness of erections, speed of arousal, and pleasure. For men with subnormal testosterone levels, it increased free testosterone by 50% to 185%.11,12 When colts are fed wild oats, they often kick up their heels in delight, a nice metaphor for the reported benefits of this extract.
  • Magnesium and potassium aspartate, which have been shown to reduce fatigue13,14 and to prolong exercise endurance,15,16 work endurance,17 and, probably, sexual endurance.
  • Zinc, which is related to semen volume and serum testosterone levels.18 When marginally zinc-deficient normal elderly men were given zinc, their testosterone doubled in just six months!19
  • Copper, which is thought to help maintain high-level performance.20 The effects of nitric oxide, so important in erectile function, may be compromised without adequate copper.21
  • Selenium, a deficiency of which is associated with male infertility22 and reduced sperm motility (the speed and agility of movement).23
  • Choline, the precursor to acetylcholine, which helps transmit sexual arousal messages from the brain to the penile arteries, thus controlling the releasability of erection-facilitating nitric oxide.24

These ingredients have been shown not only to improve sexual function in men, but also to enhance many aspects of their health.



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  3. Schultes RE, Raffauf RF. The Healing Forest. Medicinal and Toxic Plants of the Northwest Amazonia. Dioscorides Press, Portland, OR, 1990.
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  6. Krzeski T, Kazon M, Borkowski A, Witeska A, Kuczera J. Combined extracts of Urtica dioica and Pygeum africanum in the treatment of benign prostatic hyperplasia: double-blind comparison of two doses. Clin Ther 1993 Nov-Dec;15(6):1011-20.
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  8. Hryb DJ, Khan MS, Romas NA, Rosner W. The effect of extracts of the roots of the stinging nettle (Urtica dioica) on the interaction of SHBG with its receptor on human prostatic membranes. Planta Med 1995 Feb;61(1):31-2.
  9. Kulkarni RR, Patki PS, Jog VP, Gandage SG, Patwardhan B. Treatment of osteoarthritis with a herbomineral formulation: a double-blind, placebo-controlled, cross-over study. J Ethnopharmacol 1991 May-Jun;33(1-2):91-5.
  10. Kupparanjan K, et al. Effect of ashwagandha on the process of aging in human volunteers. J Res Ayurveda Siddha 1980;1:247-58.
  11. Schmidt K, Geckeler K. Pharmacotherapy with Avena sativa - a double blind study. Int J Clin Pharmacol Biopharm 1976 Oct;14(3):214-6.
  12. McIlvenna T. Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality:
  13. Kruse CA. Treatment of fatigue with aspartic acid salts. Northwest Med1961;60:597.
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  15. Ahlborg B, Ekelund LG, Nilsson CG. Effect of potassium-magnesium aspartate on the capacity for prolonged exercise in man. Acta Physiol Scand 1968;74:238.
  16. Wesson M, McNaughton L, Davies P, Tristram S. Effects of oral administration of aspartic acid salts on the endurance capacity of trained athletes. Res Q Exercise Sport 1988;59:234.
  17. Gupta GS, Srivastava KK. Effect of potassium-magnesium aspartate on endurance work in man. Ind J Exp Biol 1973;11:392.
  18. Hunt CD, Johnson PE, Herbel J, Mullen LK. Effects of dietary zinc depletion on seminal volume and zinc loss, serum testosterone concentrations, and sperm morphology in young men. Am J Clin Nutr 1992 Jul;56(1):148-57.
  19. Prasad AS, Mantzoros CS, Beck FW, Hess JW, Brewer GJ. Zinc status and serum testosterone levels of healthy adults. Nutrition 1996 May;12(5):344-8.
  20. Bordin D, Sartorelli L, Bonanni G, Mastrogiacomo I, Scalco E. High intensity physical exercise induced effects on plasma levels of copper and zinc. Biol Trace Elem Res 1993 Feb;36(2):129-34.
  21. Schuschke DA. Dietary copper in the physiology of the microcirculation. J Nutr1997 Dec;127(12):2274-81.
  22. Maiorino M, Wissing JB, Brigelius-Flohe R, Calabrese F, Roveri A, Steinert P, Ursini F, Flohe L. Testosterone mediates expression of the selenoprotein PHGPx by induction of spermatogenesis and not by direct transcriptional gene activation. FASEB J 1998 Oct;12(13):1359-70.
  23. Scott R, MacPherson A, Yates RW, Hussain B, Dixon J. The effect of oral selenium supplementation on human sperm motility. Br J Urol 1998 Jul;82(1):76-80.
  24. Blanco R, Saenz de Tejada I, Goldstein I, Krane RJ, Wotiz HH, Cohen RA. Dysfunctional penile cholinergic nerves in diabetic impotent men. J Urol 1990 Aug;144(2 Pt 1):278-80.