Have you ever wondered which ingredients and supplements actually work to support sexual function and testosterone levels? What about popular minerals like zinc, magnesium and boron – do they really help in any measurable way? As a urologist and pelvic surgeon, I get these questions a lot. In this article, I’ll go over the most popular ingredients, explain which ones are backed by science, and share my top 5 supplement recommendations.
Taking supplements for sexual health is very common, especially for those experiencing erectile dysfunction or low testosterone. However, not all supplements are created equal when it comes to proven benefits. I’ll cover the most popular options, looking at clinical research where available. I’ll also bust some myths and talk about the role of placebo.
By the end, you’ll understand the science behind common ingredients like L-arginine, maca root and horny goat weed. You’ll also learn key minerals and vitamins that support sexual function, along with my top 5 supplements for overall health. Let’s dig in!
L-Citrulline and L-Arginine for Nitric Oxide Production
Nitric oxide is crucial for blood flow, which directly impacts erectile function. Anything that helps your body produce more nitric oxide can support erections. Two popular supplements for this are L-citrulline and L-arginine.
L-citrulline is actually a precursor to L-arginine. It boosts arginine levels better than taking arginine itself. Multiple studies show citrulline supplementation increases nitric oxide production and improves erection hardness in those with mild erectile dysfunction.
Arginine also boosts nitric oxide, although not as potently as citrulline. However, one study found taking antioxidants with an ED drug like Viagra, along with arginine, improved erectile function better than the drug alone. This highlights the importance of a multi-pronged approach.
The takeaway is that L-citrulline and L-arginine can support nitric oxide production and blood flow. However, they work best as part of an overall plan to improve sexual health over time.
Herbs Like Maca, Ashwagandha and Horny Goat Weed
Certain herbs have been used for centuries to enhance libido and performance. Some of the most popular include maca, ashwagandha, ginseng and horny goat weed. Do they really work though? Let’s take a look.
Ashwagandha is one of my favorites. This Indian herb is a proven adaptogen, meaning it helps your body handle stress. It seems to boost testosterone while lowering cortisol. High cortisol suppresses testosterone, so ashwagandha’s ability to modulate cortisol is key. Multiple studies confirm its benefits for sexual health.
Horny goat weed, also known as epimedium, contains a compound called icariin that acts as a mild PDE5 inhibitor similar to Viagra. While human research is limited, animal studies show horny goat weed relaxes blood vessels while increasing testosterone and nitric oxide production. It may offer moderate support for erectile function.
Maca root has traditionally been used to enhance energy and stamina. Animal and cell studies indicate it may improve sexual function by modulating sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen. However, multiple human studies show mixed results. The jury still seems to be out on maca.
Overall, herbs can support sexual health but seem most effective when combined with proven approaches like lifestyle changes. They likely provide an added boost rather than a standalone solution.
Key Minerals and Vitamins
Certain vitamins and minerals play important roles in sexual function. Deficiencies in these nutrients can negatively impact testosterone, erectile function and overall health. Let’s look at the top minerals to consider.
Magnesium – This mineral is involved in over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Studies show many adults don’t get enough magnesium from diet alone. Proper magnesium levels are linked to improved blood pressure, migraine relief, muscle relaxation and sleep quality. It may also help “free up” testosterone by reducing proteins that bind to it.
Zinc – The prostate contains very high levels of zinc. This mineral is vital for immune function, protein synthesis, DNA integrity and testosterone production. Zinc is also important for the health of the Leydig cells in the testes which produce testosterone.
Boron – Like magnesium, boron may help increase levels of free testosterone. One study found that taking 10 mg of boron per day for just 7 days significantly increased free testosterone while lowering estrogen levels in older men. Boron may also improve cognitive function and bone health.
In addition to minerals, sufficient vitamin C and vitamin D intake supports sexual health. Deficiencies in these vitamins are relatively common. Ensuring adequate intake from both food and supplements helps maximize their benefits.
Top 5 Supplement Recommendations
Very few people can get all their nutritional needs from food alone. Here are my top 5 supplement recommendations for supporting health and function:
- A quality multivitamin – This covers any potential gaps in nutrition by delivering key vitamins and minerals. Look for ones with activated forms of B vitamins like methylfolate and methylcobalamin.
- Omega-3 fish oil – Helps reduce inflammation, boost heart health and support cognitive function. Those who don’t eat fish can use algae-based omega-3s instead.
- Magnesium glycinate – One of the best-absorbed forms of magnesium that also promotes relaxation. Take 200-400 mg daily.
- Vitamin C – Important for immune function, collagen production and nutrient absorption. Look for buffered vitamin C around 500 mg per day.
- Curcumin – The active compound in turmeric is a potent anti-inflammatory and antioxidant. Enhances exercise recovery and joint health. Take 500 mg daily.
Honorable mention goes to ashwagandha, an excellent adaptogenic herb with a wide range of benefits. I hope this provides a helpful overview of science-backed supplements for optimizing health and sexual function. Please let me know if you have any other questions!