Swanky saxophone music melodically trots along in the background as the camera pans past the rising stacks of a cigarette-smoke filled hotel room to land upon a couple embraced under sheets half-exposed. One partner sits a bit more upright as if victorious from battle with a thousand-yard stare as if contemplating the great philosophical questions of humanity. This, while the other lays in what appears to be a state of physical and romantic bliss too exhausted to communicate save for the lustful longing look of love in their eyes… At least this is how Hollywood portrays sexual relations.
In the world where everyone else lives, male sexual performance or erectile dysfunction (as no man ever wants to refer to it) plays a role in a surprisingly large number of lives worldwide. Erectile dysfunction or ED is defined as the persistent inability to achieve or maintain an erection sufficient to permit satisfactory sexual performance. Data has shown as of 2015 that roughly 22% 1 of men in the US are affected by ED along with 150 million men worldwide. Keep in mind that number is only the reported cases.
The feeling of virility in men (and women) represents more than just the ability to please a partner sexually. It embodies vigor, youth, energy and the feelings of an indescribable, indestructible force. Perhaps more importantly for many, it is a symbol of our existence on this Earth. One’s sex drive can be viewed as a representation of their health and well-being. That being as such, if this most basic of experiences and abilities were to be hindered or taken away in some cases a man would be left to feel powerless. Bereft of this deep energetic drive can lead one to feel his/her finite mortality in a more physical sense.
Fortunately, this issue does not represent new territory for Chinese Medicine. According to TCM, the ability to become and stay aroused is primarily a function or the Kidney and Liver meridians. The Kidney, specifically the Yang or fire aspect of the Kidney meridian engenders the psychological aspect while the Liver meridian controls the domain of the physical function. Given the interrelated nature of the body these organs and their correlated meridians have a more primary role in developing and maintaining an erection. However, they do not act independently. To say more specifically there are other factors that can negatively affect male sexual performance, drive and desire that are not specific to the Liver and Kidney meridian. Of course weakness of these two systems can be a primary suspect but contributions from dampness and heat (often combined) from consumption of alcohol and fatty/fried foods has an influence. Overwork, mental or physical exhaustion can weaken the Spleen meridian and digestive system to inhibit the body’s ability to properly digest food. This can inhibit the body’s ability to assimilate food into energy that is required for daily living not to mention any other any other more passionate activities. Western pharmaceuticals have a reputation for disrupting male virility in many individuals based on the side effects of that pharmaceutical as well as other drug-to-drug interaction. Additionally, physical trauma can contribute to inhibition of blood vessels and nerves that innervate sensitive and related areas causing issues to arise as well. While physical factors play an enormous role in male sexual performance the psychological aspects cannot be overstated. Using TCM, the psychological aspects of the individual are taken into consideration as the patient is viewed as an integrated being where the role of one’s thought process and physical function are seen as two aspects on larger continuum.
A study was performed in 2004 using 102 patients who sought treatment for ED. Given this was not a double blind study all of the patients received treatment with some form of TCM. This included acupuncture, moxibustion and specific acupuncture point injections of vitamin B12. Patients were treated once a week for 10 weeks. Out of the 102 participants, 73% experienced complete symptom alleviation, and another 18% experienced symptom alleviation. This a near 90% efficiency rating. Now the degrees to which these men were experiencing symptoms were not divulged in the study and this may be for numerous reasons. Regardless, this is a very positive outlook for those affected by ED looking for treatment.
In short, the high prevalence of ED and male sexual performance issues has been looked at in numerous medicinal practices all over the world. From Ayurveda to TCM, health care practitioners realized that vitality and sexuality have a close relationship and given the prevalence of this in today’s society it is imperative that treatment options are provided. This is where TCM can provide a path to vitality for those who are seeking treatment for their ED or a boost in their libido.