Vaseline in Place of Viagra: Is It Safe and Effective?

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Can You Use Vaseline in Place of Viagra?

Medically reviewed by Matt Coward, MD, FACS — Written by James Roland on March 17, 2021

This article is a repost which originally appeared on Healthline

Edited for content.

If you experience erectile dysfunction (ED), you may be willing to try just about anything to restore healthy sexual function.

However, there are plenty of potentially dangerous options that people have tried, including the injection of Vaseline or other petroleum jelly products into the penis.

For many years and in many cultures, the practice of injecting or inserting something into the penis to make it larger or to improve sexual stamina has been done, often without the guidance of medical experts.

If you’re tempted to use Vaseline in place of Viagra or any other approved treatment for ED, don’t waste your time or take the risk. There are plenty of safer and more effective options available.

You may also have heard of topical gels or essential oils for ED, but there has yet to be any evidence to suggest that applying Vaseline as a topical treatment to your penis will have any effect on sexual function.

The science

Numerous studies have shown that injecting Vaseline into your penis is a danger, rather than a cure. The practice can lead to:

  • infections
  • serious skin and tissue injury
  • other medical complications

In a small 2008 study of 16 people who were treated for Vaseline injections, researchers found that “urgent surgery” was necessary to prevent further injury.

A 2012 case report concluded that Vaseline injections are usually done without medical supervision and can lead to severe complications if the petroleum jelly or other foreign objects aren’t removed promptly.

Clinical treatments

Instead of trying risky self-help solutions for ED, consider proven medications and other treatments that have a track record of success.

Oral medications

While Viagra, known clinically as sildenafil, may be the best known ED pills, there are other FDA-approved medications. They all vary somewhat in their:

  • potency
  • how quickly they take effect
  • duration of effectiveness
  • side effects

Other ED medications on the market include:

  • Tadalafil (Cialis). It’s available in a generic form and can be taken daily at low doses or as needed in higher doses.
  • Vardenafil (Levitra). It’s available in brand-name and generic versions. it tends to remain effective a little longer than sildenafil.
  • Avanafil (Stendra). It’s not yet available in generic form, Stendra is unique among ED medications in that it can become effective in about 15 minutes, while others take between 30 and 60 minutes to take effect.

Your lifestyle may help determine the best ED medication for you.

Vacuum pumps

This treatment involves the use of a tube that fits over your penis and attaches to a pump that withdraws air from the tube to create a vacuum.

The vacuum created around your penis helps draw blood to fill the blood vessels within and produce an erection. An elastic ring is also placed around the base of your penis to help maintain the erection.

A 2013 research review noted that the use of vacuum devices to treat ED is usually safe and effective, particularly when combined with ED drugs known as PDE-5 inhibitors, which include:

  • tadalafil
  • sildenafil
  • other standard medications

Penile injections

Certain medications can be injected into your penis to increase blood flow and create a firmer erection for intercourse. Those include:

  • papaverine
  • phentolamine
  • prostaglandin E1 (PGE1) or alprostadil (Caverject, Edex)

There are also combinations of the above medications available.

Penile implants

Some people choose to treat ED with surgically-implanted, flexible, or inflatable rods that you can activate on demand.

Penile implants are generally reserved for individuals who have not had success with other traditional ED treatments.

Alternative treatments

Many safer and more effective alternatives to Viagra are available, including several prescription medications and over-the-counter (OTC) supplements, as well as complementary therapies, such as acupuncture, according to a 2016 research review.

Some people have had success using herbal supplements to treat ED. Some OTC products that have been supported by research include:

  • Korean red ginseng. It’s a plant that grows in Asia and may help both ED and alertness with relatively few side effects.
  • L-arginine. It’s an amino acid that serves as a building block for certain proteins. A small 2019 research review of 10 studies found that L-arginine used in doses of 1,000 to 1,500 milligrams significantly improved ED symptoms compared with placebo.
  • Yohimbe. It’s an herbal supplement commonly used in West African cultures, proved to be at least partially effective in treating ED in about one-third of people who participated in an old 1989 study.

Lifestyle changes

In addition, improving your health may improve ED symptoms and provide other benefits, including:

  • more energy
  • better sleep
  • greater cardiovascular fitness

The following lifestyle changes may pay dividends in terms of sexual health:

  • regular aerobic exercise, at least 150 minutes per week
  • maintaining a manageable weight
  • no smoking
  • consuming little or no alcohol
  • maintaining a healthy blood pressure
  • getting 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night
  • managing stress through meditation, yoga, or other strategies

When to talk with a doctor

The first step in finding the solution that’s right for you is to talk with your primary care physician or a urologist.

And while ED can be an embarrassing and frustrating topic to discuss with anyone, understand that ED is a common condition, affecting an estimated 1 in 3 adults with penises.

In other words, you won’t be the first person to ask your doctor for advice or treatment in this department.

Occasional concern

If ED occurs occasionally, then you may not need any treatment at all. In this case, it may usually be chalked up to:

  • stress
  • fatigue
  • relationship concerns
  • a side effect of misusing alcohol

Keep in mind that ED can be a symptom of many physical and emotional health conditions, including:

  • cardiovascular disease
  • obesity
  • hypertension
  • diabetes
  • depression
  • anxiety

Sometimes treating an underlying condition can lead to improved sexual function.

Persistent concern

If ED is a persistent concern, then a conversation with your doctor is recommended. Your concerns may be an inability to:

  • achieve an erection at all
  • achieve an erection that is firm enough for satisfactory intercourse for you and your partner
  • maintain an erection for the duration necessary for satisfactory intercourse
  • become erect at certain times or with certain partners

Regardless of the nature of your ED, there is a range of treatments that may be helpful. Psychotherapy and relationship counseling may be very helpful too, so you may want to talk with your doctor about referrals for therapy.

But because medications are generally tolerated, the first approach may be a prescription for Viagra or any of the other approved ED medications.

The bottom line

ED can affect several aspects of your life, including self-esteem and relationships, so it’s not something to ignore — especially when viable treatments are available.

And rather than rely on unproven and potentially very harmful treatments on your own — such as injecting Vaseline or any foreign substance into your penis — address this common medical condition with your healthcare professional.

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