The ability to achieve and maintain erections when aroused is a common health issue for many males. While females don’t experience the phenomenon the same way, inadequate blood flow to female genitalia is also common, and sometimes related to the same phenomena.
There are many potential causes of erectile dysfunction, but they generally revolve around vasodilation—the widening of blood vessels, which allows them to accommodate more fluid, and thus allow the penis to become erect. Nitric oxide is a chemical messenger that tells blood vessels to dilate, and a breakdown in signaling is a common reason for erectile dysfunction and high blood pressure. Nitric oxide precursors and substances that lead to greater nitric oxide synthesis are commonly found in drugs and supplements aiming to improve erections. Sex hormones are involved in nitric oxide synthesis, and men with low testosterone are more likely to have erectile dysfunction. Anything that leads to endothelial dysfunction, such as smoking, inactivity, and excessive eating, can increase the risk for erectile dysfunction as well.
Sometimes, however, erectile dysfunction isn’t a breakdown in vasodilation or a hormonal problem but is secondary to psychological issues of anxiety and anhedonia. In this case, while some libido-enhancing supplements may be useful, the answer may not be found in supplements or dietary modification.