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Do OTC treatments for erectile dysfunction work?

By: Medically reviewed by Suzanne Falck, M.D., FACP — Written by Valencia Higuera
Source: Medical News Today
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Erectile dysfunction is a male sexual dysfunction that is more common as men get older. Medications to treat this condition were previously available on prescription only, but options are now available over the counter.

It is important to determine if these over-the-counter (OTC) options work and if they are safe for long-term use. There are also several OTC dietary supplements claiming to be natural erectile dysfunction (ED) medications. This article will take a look at some of these options and see what evidence exists for their use.
OTC treatments and supplements
There are several over-the-counter remedies available which can help manage the symptoms of ED.36

Here are four OTC treatments that are available and may help with the management of ED.


Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is a hormone that is made in the brain and produced by the adrenal gland. It is involved in the production of male and female sex hormones.

Levels in the body begin to decrease naturally after age 30. Some men have lower levels of DHEA than others, and DHEA has become a common OTC supplement. Although it may be helpful to some men, there is not enough evidence to say for certain that it helps with ED.

DHEA can cause adverse side effects as well. Men may experience the following problems:

breast tenderness
urinary urgency
reduced size of the testes
sleep problems


This is the most common amino acid in men’s health supplements. L-arginine is converted in the body into a chemical called nitric oxide. Nitric oxide helps the blood vessels to open wider, improving blood flow.

Caution is advised when taking L-arginine, or similar supplements, as it can lower blood pressure. It can increase the risk of bleeding when taken with certain drugs. It may also alter blood sugar levels.


Ginseng is a popular and widely used herbal remedy. It is supposed to help with fertility as well as improve sexual function. It is available as pills or a cream.
Ginseng is a natural remedy with a number of possible health benefits, including improved sexual function.

Ginseng is a stimulant and can cause insomnia. Also, it may not be safe for people with heart disease, autoimmune diseases, or bleeding disorders.

Adverse side effects include:

blood pressure abnormalities

Ginseng can also interact with a variety of medications. Individuals should check with their doctor before using ginseng as a complementary treatment.


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