Treating Erectile Dysfunction and Low Libido with East Asian Medicine

Here are two related topics that are often mentioned to me in hushed tones, after we have talked virtually all of the other health issues the patient wants to address using acupuncture: erectile dysfunction and low libido. For men, erectile dysfunction can be a difficult subject to broach, especially from the affected patient to a female practitioner. Still, bringing it up is the first step towards dealing with this potentially stressful issue once and for all. In my experience, once a male patient who has this problem starts talking about it, he seems relieved and hopeful for change. Erectile dysfunction seems to be talked about more in the mainstream these days, with prescription drugs Viagra, Cialis, Levitra, and all different types of male enhancement products flooding the consumer market. The inability to achieve and/or maintain erection can be a side effect of another health concern like diabetes or prostate cancer treatment, or it can be from psychological causes. Ikeda Masakazu sensei describes treatment that will “definitely result in a cure” given the cause is addressed correctly based on the responsible pattern involved, which in turn is based on proper diagnosis (1).

Low libido tends to be a complaint of women rather than men, although some men report having it. Ikeda sensei reports that rather than having a truly low libido, some women find sexual activity to be more trouble than it is worth (2), and I would definitely agree with that based on what many of the women I see in practice say about their sexual lives. Patients want to use acupuncture to help raise flagging libido for a variety of reasons: sometimes, it is to satisfy a partner’s desires or merely because they think their sex drive is lower or less consistent than it should be. In women of childbearing age, they sometimes are trying to become pregnant, and sexual activity has become a chore. I have also treated women with hypothyroidism who have vaginal dryness as a side effect, leading to low libido due to the discomfort of sexual activity. Nevertheless, we can treat them by increasing the flow of blood to the pelvic area and organs, fostering relaxation and improving the function of the organ systems related to reproduction, regardless of any associated psychological overlay or underlying medical condition. Though some patients may be embarrassed to discuss these issues, both erectile dysfunction and low libido are problems that can be solved with sensitivity and persistence.  

(1-2). Ikeda, Masakazu. The Practice of Japanese Acupuncture and Moxibustion, trans. Edward Obaidey. Seattle:  Eastland Press, 2005. pp. 218-220. This was also an article reprinted as “Sexual Dysfunction.” North American Journal of Oriental Medicine, Vol. 11, No. 32, November 2004.


Kerri Winston, Ph.D., L.Ac., is a licensed acupuncturist with a practice in Atlanta, Georgia's Buckhead area. If you are interested in learning more about how acupuncture can help you or your loved ones, please call 404-949-0550 or send email to