According to this oriental framework, the physiological process of obtaining an erection involves the accumulation of both Yang Qi (energy), and blood to the penis. The four organs involved with this process are the kidneys, the liver, the spleen and the heart.
The male and female genital areas of both sexes are encircled by the liver meridian. Therefore, any dysfunction with that organ or channel can have a negative impact on our sexual health. Also, the dilation of the blood vessels in the erectile issue of the penis will not occur unless a minimum level of sexual arousal has been obtained. Since it is the kidney's energy, which provides our sexual drive, in the majority of cases regardless of the primary pattern, this organ will have to be strengthened.
In the Western world, the pace of living has significantly increased in the last few decades, and, as a result, the rising level of stress in the workforce has taken its toll. Nowadays, most males with erectile dysfunction are overworked professionals. Having to live in a state of anger and stress for long periods of times 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. A disharmony in that organ is one of the most common causes of male erectile dysfunction.
In this pattern, the liver Qi stagnates due to an emotional imbalance, and lack of physical activity, and there is not enough energy to circulate the blood around the channels of the body. The male sex organ is deprived of both nutrients causing the impotence to occur. It is often seen in combination with other digestive problems, irritability, dizziness and chest pain.
Alternatively, the kidney channel can be affected from 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 the use of acupuncture and Chinese herbal medicine is recommended. The treatment strategy is aimed at harmonising the liver, warming the kidney's yang energy, and relieving the blood stagnation, which is causing the impotence. Other acupuncture points or Chinese herbs will be prescribed to nourish the blood and calm the mind or, in the case of internal heat, to expel that disturbance.
The herb renshen (Korean ginseng) has a legendary status in many Asian countries, where it has been traditionally used to prolong life, and improve sexual stamina. It is a powerful tonic, which not only increases energy, but also is beneficial for relieving stress, although it shouldn't be taken for long periods of time.
For the treatment of impotence, ginseng is often combined with the herbal substance Lu Rong (cornu crevi parvum), which is scraped from the velvet of the young deer antlers. It is a powerful kidney yang tonic used for treating fatigue, cold lower back, or knee pain from kidney weakness, as well as impotence. It has a warming action, and it increases the blood circulation.
If the patient suffers from excess heat or high blood pressure, cooling herbs such as Mei Gui Hua (flos rosae rugosae) could be prescribed. It is a local Chinese rose, which is often made into medicinal wines or paste. This flower is recognised in both our cultures as a symbol of love and romance. It has a cold action on the body, and a harmonising effect on the liver organ, being beneficial in relieving the stagnant energy (Qi) in that channel.
If the internal heat is not excessive, the flower bud of the spice clove called Ding Xiang (flos caryophylli), is commonly prescribed in Chinese medicine to warm the kidney yang, move the Qi and increase the libido. It has an antibiotic effect, facilitates the digestion, and relieves pain. It is commonly used in Asian countries to relieve toothache. Due to its warming action, the spice clove has for centuries been prescribed in traditional medicine for enhancing sexual desire and provoking arousal.
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.
Impotence and TCM, part one of this two part series appeared in our February issue - www.novamagazine.com.au See Articles Vol 17 No 12
Olivier Lejus MHSc (TCM), BHSc (Acup.) is an accredited acupuncturist practising in Sydney