It is now 25 years since the impotence drug Viagra was launched in the United Kingdom. Originally conceived as medication for the treatment of heart conditions, the American pharmaceutical company Pfizer struck gold when the male participants in the drug trial discovered unexpected side effects on their sexual organs.
This unexpected discovery would soon bring smiles of relief and delight to millions of men, their sexual partners, and the shareholders of the company.
There was no longer a need to swallow vast quantities of oysters, or illegally purchase powdered horns of endangered species; the problem of impotence, or “erectile dysfunction” could be now overcome with the ingestion of a simple pill.
Sales took off as soon as the drug became available to the general public. Revenues of over one billion dollars in the first year alone confirmed that there was a widespread medical demand worldwide.
It is estimated that around half of the male population will suffer from erectile dysfunction at least once in their lifetime.
To achieve, and maintain an erection, a man needs to be first sexually aroused (unless he uses Viagra).
Sexual arousal occurs in the limbic system, the part of the brain regulating our emotions. This triggers a physiological response to the male sexual organ; more blood is now diverted to the erectile tissue around the penis, which makes it rigid. This facilitates the penetration of the woman’s vagina, and the ejaculation of semen necessary for reproduction, and the survival of our species.
So the inability to achieve an erection can be due to emotional reasons, such as a lack of interest in sex due to stress or depression.
Or it can be the result of different medical conditions affecting the blood circulation throughout the body.
For this reason, doctors consider the onset of erectile dysfunction as an early warning sign of a potential heart attack or the imminent risk of stroke in a few years time.
Viagra uses a chemical (Sildenafil citrate), which relaxes the arteries supplying blood to the penis, thus increasing the blood flow to the sexual organ without any input from the brain. Unfortunately, since Viagra does not cure impotence, men with this condition have to keep taking the medication for as long as they wish to remain sexually active.
One of the unfortunate side effects of long-term consumption of the drug, besides auditory, visual and digestive disturbances, is the potential risk of involuntary prolonged erection caused by the chemically induced extended dilation of the blood vessels. So Viagra might not be a miracle cure after all!
The problem of male impotence has been with us since the origin of mankind, and it is not surprising that Traditional Chinese Medicine has been treating this dysfunction for literally thousands of years.
According to this Oriental medical framework, the physiological process of obtaining an erection involves the accumulation of both Yang Qi (energy) and blood to the penis. Four organs are involved in this process: the kidneys, the liver, the spleen and the heart.
The male and female genital areas of both sexes are encircled by the liver meridian. So any dysfunction with that organ or channel can have a negative impact on our sexual health. Since it is the kidney’s energy which provides our sexual drive, in most cases regardless of the primary pattern, it is this organ that will have to be strengthened.
Around the world, the pace of living has significantly increased in the last few decades and this rising level of stress in the workforce has taken its toll.
Nowadays, most men with erectile dysfunction are overworked professionals.
Living in a state of anger and stress for long periods easily leads to the abuse of alcohol, recreational drugs, junk foods, and excess smoking. These are the major causes of cardiovascular disease, which damages the arteries circulating the blood throughout the body, including the sexual organs.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, there is a correlation between the mind and the body. Each major organ is associated with a specific emotional pattern.
The liver is particularly vulnerable to anger, stress, and depression causing the Qi and blood to stagnate. The male sexual organ becomes deprived of both nutrients causing the impotence to occur. It is often seen in combination with other digestive problems, irritability, dizziness, and chest pain.
The kidney channel can alternatively be affected by internal cold due to poor diet or local climatic factors. This creates an imbalance in the liver’s function, and the blood circulation is gradually affected.
For all these patterns, a dual approach including acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is recommended.
In both the Western and Oriental medical systems, erectile dysfunction is considered to be only a reflection of a larger pattern of poor health and disease in the body.
When the overall condition of the patient is taken into consideration and treated accordingly, there is ample evidence that Traditional Chinese Medicine’s approach can be very effective in treating this condition which affects the lives of so many couples today.
Olivier Lejus BHSc.MHSc. is a registered acupuncturist and Chinese herbalist practicing in Sydney. A former casual university lecturer and tutor in Oriental medicine with over 15 years experience in clinical practice, Olivier specializes in Japanese- style acupuncture for the treatment of male and female infertility, migraine, pain, and insomnia.www.olejusacupuncture.com