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 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.
Acupuncture treatment for ED
Acupuncture, identified as insertion of needles into acupoints at the skin and underlying tissues, is an important therapeutic method of TCM to treat various diseases. These acupoints are recognized as the control points of Qi, which regulate the flow of Qi. They can bring more Qi to the vacuous areas or organs and release the excess part when there is too much Qi accumulating in some areas, thereby maintaining the homeostasis of our bodies. There is sufficient evidence to support that acupuncture can regulate the function of endocrine, circulatory and nervous systems. Acupuncture was confirmed as a promising therapy for a wide range of diseases by the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
It is now believed that the neurophysiological effects of acupuncture result from the central nervous system activation as well as neurotransmitters modulation. Acupuncture might modulate the release of nitric oxide (NO) and some neuropeptides involved in the process of erection . Some studies were conducted to investigate the effect of acupuncture on erectile function in patients.
In 1997, Aydin et al. carried on a randomized controlled study with 60 patients suffering from nonorganic ED, in which the patients were treated with acupuncture on the legs and abdomen for 6 weeks. The result showed that 60% patients of the treatment group were satisfied with sexual activity after acupuncture therapy compared with 43% in placebo group. However, the results of another study indicated that acupuncture is an effective treatment for psychogenic ED. A total of 68.4% patients in the treatment group showed a satisfactory response, which was significantly higher than the placebo group .
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.