Vitamin E and Sexual Dysfunction

Erin Coleman, R.D., L.D.
Couple kissing

You may have heard that vitamin E can affect sexual performance, and indeed, some studies have examined the role this vitamin might play in the bedroom. The results have been mixed, but getting enough vitamin E in your diet has a host of benefits including, perhaps, sexual ones.

Does Vitamin E Improve Sexual Dysfunction?

It appears vitamin E may improve sexual function, but more research is needed to be sure. Few studies have examined effects of vitamin E on sexual dysfunction, and many of those recently published used animal models and not human study participants. One such study published in 2012 in Life Sciences found vitamin E supplements reduced age-associated erectile dysfunction in rats. Another study published in 2013 in the Journal of Human Reproductive Science found rats (exposed to stress) given honey and vitamin E showed less testicular tissue damage than rats who weren't given the supplements.

What About Human Studies?

Several animal-based studies examining effects of vitamin E on sexual function show promising results, which could mean benefits for humans as well. However, the University of Maryland Medical Center says to date there isn't evidence that any form of vitamin supplement can improve sexual performance in women and men.

Is Vitamin E Used for Sexual Dysfunction?

Just because science doesn't strongly back using vitamin E supplements as a natural remedy for sexual dysfunction in men and women, doesn't mean this treatment hasn't been used or recommended in the past. Cleveland Clinic says vitamin E has been used in women to treat sexual arousal disorder, and the U.S. National Library of Medicine says vitamin E has been used to treat sexual dysfunction. However, Mayo Clinic suggests while vitamin E supplements have historically been used to enhance sexual performance based on scientific theories or traditions, this form of treatment hasn't been thoroughly tested in humans, and effectiveness and safety aren't proven.

Why Vitamin E Theoretically Works

Though more research is needed to determine the exact role vitamin E might play (and appropriate dosages) in sexual function, there are reasons to believe it could enhance sexual dysfunction treatment. Because vitamin E is an antioxidant (and oxidative cell damage plays a role in sexual dysfunction) supplementing with vitamin E (especially if you're deficient in this vitamin) seems to make sense. A 2015 study in Plos One found smoking (a cause of oxidative cell damage) impairs erectile function. Because oxidative stress can impair sexual function, it seems likely antioxidants would be beneficial. Likewise, animal studies show promising results.

What About Infertility?

Taking antioxidants, such as vitamin E, may help improve infertility, according to several human studies. One published in 2011 in the International Journal of General Medicine found vitamin E and selenium supplements may improve sperm motility and semen quality in men. A 2012 study published in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics shows vitamin E may improve endometrial responses in women who are infertile.

Does Vitamin E Help?

Because vitamin E appears to be beneficial for sexual function in rats, it makes sense it could help people as well. Oregon State University says antioxidants show promise as a treatment for infertility in men and women, and some physicians are already using antioxidant therapy to help treat sexual dysfunction. However, larger-scale clinical trials are needed to know if antioxidants (including vitamin E) are indeed effective, and which dosage is safe.

How Much to Take

Because effects of vitamin E on sexual dysfunction in men and women require additional research, official guidelines for vitamin E dosing for sexual function don't exist. However, the 2011 study in the International Journal of General Medicine used doses of 400 International Units (IUs) of vitamin E daily (for 100 days) for treatment of male infertility. Likewise, the 2012 study in the Journal of Assisted Reproduction and Genetics used the same dosage (400 IUs daily) to treat infertility in women.

MedlinePlus says the highest safe dose of vitamin E from supplements is 1,500 IU per day from natural vitamin E, and 1,000 IU daily from synthetic (man-made) forms of vitamin E. At minimum, aim to get at least the recommended dietary allowance (RDA), which is 22.4 IU (15 milligrams) daily for adult men and women, notes the Office of Dietary Supplements. It's always best to check with your doctor to determine the best vitamin E dosage to meet your individualized needs.

Next Steps

The best recommendation is to get plenty of vitamin E-rich foods in your diet and take a multivitamin supplement containing vitamin E to prevent deficiency. Avoid taking more than 1,000 milligrams (1,500 IU) of vitamin E from supplements daily as a safety precaution.

Vitamin E and Sexual Dysfunction