Traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), including acupuncture and Chinese herbs has been shown to be an effective alternative therapy to increase the curative effect for erectile dysfunction (ED). A large number of studies have been conducted to investigate the effect and mechanism of TCM for treating ED. The therapeutic effect of acupuncture on ED is still controversial at present.
However, Chinese herbs exhibited satisfying outcomes and may improve erectile function by activating nitric oxide synthase (NOS)-cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) pathway, increasing cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP) expression, elevating testosterone level, reducing intracellular Ca2+ concentration, down-regulating transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1)/Smad2 signaling pathway, or ameliorating the oxidative stress.
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common disease which affects about half of men aging from 40 to 70 years, and the prevalence is almost the same in China. Oral phosphodiesterase type 5 inhibitor (PDE5-Is) is the first line therapy for ED. However, its effective rate is only 60–70%. In this condition, various alternative or complementary therapies are being investigated to increase the curative effect for ED, with traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) at the forefront of this trend.
TCM is a holistic modality deriving from ancient oriental philosophy, whose concept believes that human body has a set of inner homeostatic system maintained by Yin-Yang balance. Yin and Yang are two opposite yet complementary forces, which could be understood as anabolic and catabolic processes from a western perspective. According to TCM philosophical theories, disease results from the imbalance between the two forces over a period of time. Thereby, the goal of treatment is to restore the balance between Yin and Yang.
In TCM, the fluids and blood in human bodies are produced and distributed by Qi, a vital energy permeating the whole universe. Qi is generated from the interaction between Yin and Yang. It flows through meridians in human bodies and nourishes the organs. Besides, Qi is responsible for enhancing the immune system and protecting the body from external pathogens. Each organ has its own Qi that maintains its normal function. From the perspective of TCM, an organ is not an existing entity but a theoretical construct with a certain functions. Even though the organs in TCM have the same name with the organs in Western medicine, they refer to different things with different functions.
Kidney and liver are the two primary organs related to ED in the TCM understanding. The kidney stores the essence, while liver stores blood. Essence can be recognized as a power that is responsible for growth, development and reproduction. Besides, it participates in the generation of blood and can enhance immunity. In addition to storing blood, liver can modulate blood volume and maintain the flow of blood.
Sexual and reproductive functions are also under the control of liver. Thereby, kidney and liver are two important organs with a wide range of functions in TCM. Both the essence and blood belong to Yin in nature, hence the kidney and liver are thought to be of the same source. The weakness of one organ usually leads to the imbalance of the other one. The diagnosis of disease in TCM lies in identifying patterns of disharmony, which is also called syndrome differentiation.
ED commonly involves the kidney or liver patterns of disharmony, such as kidney yin vacuity, kidney yang vacuity and binding depression of liver Qi. Recognizing the relationship among the organs involved in ED is critical for making an effective therapy plan.
Various techniques are employed in TCM, including acupuncture, moxibustion, cupping, massage and herbal medicine. Over thousands of years of development, practitioners of TCM have established a comprehensive framework for treating ED. Acupuncture and herbal medicine are both shown to have benefits to erectile function.
These and other Traditional Chinese practices all form part of TCM, each adding a little to the history and methodology of Acupuncture and Herbs that can help with ED.
Eca Brady is a fully licensed physician of Chinese Medicine BSc(Ac) MBAcC PGDip(CHM), practicing Acupuncture and Chinese Herbs from Harley Street, London. Make an appointment for an acupuncture or Herbs treatment and we can discuss how we can help you, to read more about Eca click here.
This article includes excerpts from the original article in Translational Andrology and Urology.