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Alternative medicine has grown increasingly popular over the last three decades. It has been defined as any system of healing or treating disease not included in the traditional medical curricula, often based in belief systems at odds with scientific knowledge. Today, even medical doctors have become more open to guiding patients in exploring other treatment options such as acupuncture, massage, aromatherapy, herbal medicines and chiropractic medicine. Many are turning to these alternative treatments to treat chronic illnesses that modern medicine has not been able to help them with or to alleviate symptoms.

One of these chronic illnesses is sexual impotence. It is one of the most common medical conditions afflicting sexually mature men today. Also referred to as erectile dysfunction (ED), the main symptom of sexual impotence is the consistent inability to obtain and/or maintain an erection for successful sexual intercourse. Reasons for sexual impotence include pelvic trauma, neurological problems, smoking, alcohol abuse, conditions such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, stress, hormonal deficiency, and psychological problems. Treatment will largely be determined by the underlying cause and can range from oral prescriptions, direct injections to the penis, psychological counseling, mechanical sex aids or surgery. Among the most popular treatments for sexual impotence are prescription oral phosphodiesterase type 5 (PDE5) inhibitors such as Viagra (sildenafil citrate), Cialis (tadalafil) and Levitra (vardenafil hydrochloride), which regulates an enzyme the body produces to diminish erections. They also help the penile muscles to relax, allowing the shaft to become engorged and stay firm longer. Unfortunately, these drugs only work in about 75% of sexual impotence cases and are contraindicated for patients taking nitrate-based drugs or alpha-blockers, because interaction with PDE5 inhibitors can be fatal. Patients may also experience a myriad of side effects such as headache, flushing of the face and body, indigestion, runny nose, palpitations, nausea, vomiting, muscle pains and vision disturbances.

It is mostly because of these side effects that men have begun looking for alternative treatments for sexual impotence. Some feel that continuous intake of prescription medication will have negative effects in the long-term, and surgery is too radical a solution to even consider. To them, alternative medicine seems to be the most holistic way of dealing with this condition. For example, drugs such as Viagra are ignored in favor of horny goat weed, garlic, gingko biloba and yohimbe root as oral supplements for sexual impotence. Horny goat weed is based in traditional Chinese medicine and is a popular aphrodisiac with testosterone-like effects, stimulating sexual desire, and sensory nerves. Garlic has been shown to help the body react to nitric acid, which is important in maintaining an erection. Gingko Biloba improves vascular function in the body, which means it increases blood flow in the penis as well. Yohimbe root is approved by the FDA for the treatment of sexual impotence. Yohimbine, an extract of yohimbe, has proven effective in treating erectile dysfunction in scientific studies.

Some alternative treatments for sexual impotence are complimentary to medical treatments. Massage, aromatherapy and acupuncture have been known to decrease stress and fatigue, two major components in sexual impotence. Another option is chiropractic, a non-invasive and non-drug treatment that involves manipulation of the spine and extremities for mechanical musculo-skeletal dysfunction. Some practitioners believe that manipulation will help impotent men regain their erections by improving the transmission of nerve impulses from the extremities to the brain.

However, contrary to popular belief, some of these alternative treatments have side effects and risks. Yohimbine for example has been known to cause allergic reactions and irregular heartbeats, both of which can lead to serious problems if the patient does not discontinue drug intake. Chiropractic can cause spinal injury. The most important thing for impotent patients to remember is that while alternative treatments can be holistic and effective, consulting with a licensed medical doctor is equally beneficial.