Health problems typically do not exist in isolation, they are usually interconnected and can aggravate each other. There is a reciprocal relationship between erectile dysfunction and depression, for example.

There has been recent research that has shown certain herbs and spices can be effective in helping battle depression, as well as ED, particularly the spice saffron, harvested by hand from the crocus sativus flower, which shows promise as an all-round treatment.

The National Institute of Mental Health has pointed out that having a persistent low mood and lack of self-esteem can lead to sexual dysfunction as men are likely to lose interest in activities, and this lack of enthusiasm could lead to a lack of appeal in sex.

The struggle to maintain an erection could then intensify the depressive symptoms too, through an increased sense of unfulfillment and disappointment. Both of these issues are complex, and may not necessarily be related, but the evidence does point to effective interventions that target both.

Taking a look at depression first, in a review of five separate studies, saffron supplements were shown to be significantly more effective than placebos in the treatment of mild-to-moderate depression.

Other studies revealed that 30mg of saffron taken daily was as effective conventional treatments for depression, such as Fluoxetine, Imipramine, and Citalopram. Additionally, fewer people experienced side effects from saffron compared to other treatments.

Furthermore, both the saffron petals and thread-like stigma appear to be effective against mild-to-moderate depression.

More studies have shown that saffron may potentially have aphrodisiac properties, particularly for those who are taking a course of antidepressants. An aphrodisiac is a food or drug that awakens and arouses sexual instinct, brings on desire, or increases sexual pleasure or performance.

One study showed that taking 30mg of saffron daily over four weeks had significant improvement on erectile function, libido, and overall sexual satisfaction, without affecting semen characteristics.

The same 30mg dose over four weeks was also shown to increase sexual desire and lubrication and reduce sex-related pain in women with low sexual desire due to taking antidepressants, compared to a placebo.

When is erectile dysfunction most likely the result of emotional problems?

ED is more likely to be an emotional issue if erection problems occur only some of the time.

“For example, you get an erection when waking up in the morning, but not during sexual activity,” explains the NHS, adding that anxiety and depression can be treated with counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT).

CBT is a talking therapy that can help you manage your problems by changing the way you think and behave.

“A GP might recommend sex therapy, either on its own or in combination with other psychotherapy,” says the NHS. However, there is usually a long wait for these services, and especially so during the current coronavirus pandemic, as the health service is stretched thin.

As the NHS explains, you can also pay to see someone privately.

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