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.
Chinese herbal treatment for ED
A great number of traditional Chinese herbs have been used to treat ED, applied singly or in the form of compound formulas. Most of the herbal remedies are used empirically and thereby are not convincing. In this condition, many studies are being conducted to investigate the underlying mechanism of those Chinese herbs using modern biotechnology.
Single Chinese herb or herbal extracts
It was revealed that the mechanisms of Chinese herbs for treating ED involve changes in nitric oxide synthase (NOS)-NO-cyclic guanosine monophosphate (cGMP) pathway, cyclic adenosine monophosphate (cAMP), testosterone level, transforming growth factor β1 (TGFβ1)/Smad2 pathway, oxidative stress as well as intracellular Ca2+ concentration. Some Chinese herbs ameliorate ED through one pathway, others involve several pathways.
Chinese herbal compound formula
Most Traditional Chinese herbs are now used in the form of compound formulas according to some strict rules. A typical Chinese herbal formula consists of four basic elements playing different roles: “Monarch”, “Minister”, “Assistant” and “Servant”, each of which may include one or several drugs. This kind of combination can enhance the therapeutic effect and reduce the toxicity of single herb. A variety of compound formulas have been created to treat ED, such as Shuganyiyang capsule and Yidiyin.
TCM is an effective alternative therapeutic method for ED. Various Chinese herbs are used for patients with ED in clinical practice and show satisfying outcomes. Result of some basic studies showed that Chinese herbs could improve erectile function by activating NOS-NO-cGMP pathway, increasing cAMP expression, elevating testosterone level, reducing intracellular Ca2+ concentration, or relieving the oxidative stress.
This facilitates our understanding of the mechanism and effect of Chinese herbs. All in all, TCM is a promising therapy for ED and needs further research.
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.