Medical research has shown that about 20 million American men are affected by erectile dysfunction (ED). Since there is often a correlation between hypertension or diabetes and ED, lifestyle changes are key to improving the condition. However, low testosterone and other conditions can also contribute. This article explores the benefits of treating erectile dysfunction with red light therapy, a natural and safe treatment that can address the underlying causes of ED and deliver many benefits for overall health.
Note: Shop clinical-grade red light therapy panels in the PlatinumLED store.
How Red Light Therapy Helps Erectile Dysfunction and Penis Health
Erectile dysfunction, or ED, is typically associated with aging, as the natural production of testosterone decreases gradually over the years. However, younger men can also suffer from this condition which can lead to psychological and mental health problems.
Since we're looking at a relatively unconventional treatment here, the first question on your mind is probably, “Is red light therapy safe for the penis?” The answer is yes. And it's safe for the testicles too, which is equally as important. The procedure is becoming popular for men’s health in general, with known celebrities, including Turker Carlson, endorsing it.
Regarding safety: Many red light therapy studies use lasers to deliver the light in an approach called “low-level laser therapy.” Laser therapy is effective for treating many conditions; due to the risk of tissue damage, however, it needs to be administered by a medical professional.
But, thanks to technological advances in light-emitting diode (LED) technology, therapeutic red and near-infrared (NIR) wavelengths can be delivered safely via LED red light therapy devices.
The wavelengths used are the same (red and NIR); only the delivery is different. Unlike lasers, LED bulbs do not heat the tissues, which means LED red light devices offer all the beneficial effects of red light therapy – without the risks.
In fact, many new studies are conducted with LED red light devices rather than low-level laser devices. These studies may refer to the treatment as red light therapy, low-level light therapy (LLLT), or photobiomodulation, all of which are names for the same treatment.
How Red Light Therapy Works
Our bodies respond to light in different ways based on color/wavelength. Blue light, for example, is energizing, green light soothes, and as many studies have shown, red light therapy can promote healing.
The term “red light therapy” is used to refer to both red and NIR light. Red wavelengths range from 620 to 750 nanometers (nm) and NIR wavelengths range from 780 to 1200 nm. Hundreds of studies have shown that the greatest amount of positive biological effects on the human body are achieved within what's known as the therapeutic window: red wavelengths between 630 and 660 nm, and NIR wavelengths between 810 and 850 nm.
Red light therapy may use only red wavelengths, only NIR wavelengths, or (ideally) a combination of both.
Red light therapy supports penis health and sexual health in three direct ways: increased production of energy in the cells, increased blood flow, and reduced inflammation.
These benefits could be useful in treating the root cause(s) of ED. Indirectly, red light therapy can treat hormonal imbalances that could contribute to low testosterone levels, often called Low-T.
Red light therapy has also been shown to increase muscle mass, which stimulates the natural production of testosterone; as well as help with weight loss, which can likewise help improve sexual function.
An important fact to know about red light therapy for ED is that it doesn't work like ED pills, which are designed to help achieve and maintain an erection. Red light works at the cellular level, where it supports the body in functioning optimally. In other words, rather than just treating the symptoms of ED, red light therapy addresses what causes it.
Red Light Therapy Increases Cellular Energy
When cells don't produce enough energy, this is a condition known as mitochondrial dysfunction. Tiny organelles called mitochondria are present in most cells of the body, and their job is to convert raw materials into a type of cellular fuel known as adenosine triphosphate (ATP).
Sometimes, this process doesn't work as it should and cells become depleted. Then, they barely hang on and their performance suffers. When many cells within a system are affected, the whole system suffers.
Mitochondrial dysfunction can be caused by chronic inflammation, disease, or even chronic psychological stress.
Red light therapy has been shown to increase ATP production, which leads to better cellular functioning.
Why is cellular functioning important for ED?
Low-T is a common cause of erectile dysfunction. It's more common in men over 40, but even younger men can be affected by abnormally low levels of testosterone.
Red light therapy stimulates energy production in the Leydig cells, which are the cells responsible for producing testosterone. This can naturally increase the production of testosterone at any age.
With consistent red light therapy treatments you could, along with positive lifestyle changes, even restore age-appropriate testosterone levels – or better. Read more about red light therapy and testosterone production here.
A 2013 study by researchers from Korea involved stimulating increased production of testosterone in male rats with a combination of red and near-infrared light. This study suggests that red light therapy could potentially be used as an alternative treatment to conventional testosterone replacement therapy.
Reversing mitochondrial dysfunction could hold the answer to many chronic health problems, including Low-T.
Michael Hamblin, one of the world's foremost experts in red light therapy, published a paper in 2017 titled “Mechanisms and Applications of the Anti-Inflammatory Effects of Photobiomodulation. In the paper, Hamblin discusses the efficacy of red light therapy on reducing inflammation, which could be a contributing factor to mitochondrial dysfunction.
A 2008 University of California San Diego study confirmed that treatment with red and NIR light therapy increased ATP production by mitochondria. Red light therapy (i.e., both red light and near-infrared light) also positively influenced cell proliferation, as well as cellular homeostasis, which is optimal cell functioning under normal circumstances.
To recap, red light therapy boosts cellular performance in all cells, including Leydig cells – but this is just one way it can help with erectile dysfunction.
Red Light Therapy Increases Blood Flow
Erectile dysfunction is often due to poor blood flow, which is one of the reasons diabetics and men with heart disease often suffer from erectile dysfunction. High blood glucose levels decrease the elasticity of blood vessels and cause blood vessels to narrow, which impedes blood flow.
Increasing blood flow using red light therapy could be one way to treat erectile dysfunction. Red wavelengths absorb into the skin to promote microcirculation.
Near-infrared light penetrates the body deeper, up to about three inches, which means that NIR light therapy can reach the blood vessels in the penis to improve blood flow and help you achieve and maintain an erection.
A 2017 study on the effects of diabetic peripheral artery disease found that red light therapy stimulated vasodilation in both healthy and diabetic blood vessels. This holds promise in treating not only diabetic vascular disease but any condition where poor circulation could be a contributing cause – such as erectile dysfunction.
In a 2007 paper, Arthur L. Burnett, Johns Hopkins professor and researcher, wrote that a release of nitric oxide is key to achieving and maintaining an erection. Nitric oxide relaxes the smooth muscles in the veins, which allows them to expand and increase blood flow.
A 2013 study by researchers from Brigham Young University found that NIR light therapy increased nitric oxide levels in the veins. The researchers concluded that this was a viable treatment wherever increased peripheral blood flow is desired.
A 2017 study on diabetes-related vascular dysfunction found that red light therapy significantly dilated blood vessels, which suggests the potential for red light therapy to increase vasodilation in the penis.
Red Light Therapy Reduces Inflammation
Red light therapy is known for its anti-inflammatory properties, which makes it a potentially effective treatment for inflammatory disorders like rheumatoid arthritis.
Why does inflammation matter for ED?
Inflammation isn't always a localized problem, such as the acute (temporary) inflammation that occurs as the normal healing response after an injury. If it is widespread and chronic, inflammation can affect various systems like the endocrine system, which governs the hormones – including testosterone production.
Inflammation may not be the cause of Low-T, but it can be a contributing factor. Inflammation is associated with diabetes, cancer, and obesity, all of which are also linked to ED; therefore, it's reasonable to conclude that reducing chronic inflammation could potentially help with sexual dysfunction.
Other Benefits of Red Light Therapy that Can Help with ED
While the three benefits we've discussed are the primary ways that red light therapy could help treat erectile dysfunction, there are a few indirect ways as well. This is one of the hallmarks of red light therapy: it has a powerful ripple effect on the body by energizing cells, increasing blood circulation, and reducing chronic inflammation.
These are just a couple of the ways red light can help treat sexual dysfunction. When you add up the physical and psychological effects of red light therapy, you can see that it's a viable treatment for numerous reasons.
Red Light for Seasonal Affective Disorder and General Depression
When you're depressed, even seasonally, you know that your state of mind can have a negative effect on your sex life by decreasing sexual function and sexual satisfaction. Adding red light therapy to treatment for depression can help you feel more positive, which can potentially lead to better sex.
Red light has an antidepressant effect, which is good news if your mental health (and sexual health) is suffering because of depression.
While red light therapy isn't as powerful as bright light therapy for treating seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a 2012 study showed that red light helped with depression. The study participants who received the placebo (red) light first continued to have significant improvement of depression scores after receiving the active (bright light) treatment.
How Red Light Therapy Boosts Testosterone Levels
As mentioned previously, red light therapy can boost testosterone levels by stimulating the Leydig cells – but that's not the only way red light can help. Abnormally low levels of testosterone can be boosted with red light therapy because it has been clinically proven to improve hormonal imbalances, help build muscle mass and lose weight.
Elevating testosterone levels leads to more sexual arousal – but it also helps with mental health and brain function.
Red Light Therapy Improves Thyroid and Adrenal Health
Did you know that low thyroid or adrenal fatigue can make you feel tired seemingly for no reason, and this can contribute to ED?
Thyroid hormones are responsible for energy production. So, boosting the thyroid using red light therapy is a way to feel more energized – and sometimes, simply feeling more energized can lead to sexual arousal and better sexual performance.
Red light therapy reduces the need for a hypothyroid medication known as levothyroxine, according to a 2010 study by researchers from São Paulo, Brazil. Fifteen patients with hypothyroidism had been undergoing levothyroxine treatment and participated in the study. After ten treatments with NIR light therapy, all patients either had reduced levothyroxine dosage needs or no longer needed the medication at all.
Similarly, a 2018 study by researchers from Brazil confirmed that red light therapy using a combination of red and NIR light has long-term positive effects on thyroid health.
Since small amounts of male testosterone are produced by the adrenal glands, it's also a good idea to treat the adrenals with NIR light.
Red Light Therapy Aids with Weight Loss
Obesity and ED have been linked, especially since there is a strong connection between obesity, diabetes, and heart disease.
Red light therapy has also been shown to help with fat loss, as discussed in a 2014 paper co-written by Hamblin. The authors discuss an interesting mechanism by which this fat loss occurs: After just a few minutes of treatment, the wavelengths create temporary leaks to form in fat cells, which, in turn, allows lipids (fats) to leak out. The authors also state that red light therapy hastens fat cell death.
It's important to remember, however, that red light therapy is not a magic pill for weight loss. Along with a healthy diet and regular exercise, it can play a supporting role for a good fat loss routine.
Red Light Therapy Increases Muscle Mass
Increasing muscle mass is one way to boost testosterone levels.
Red light therapy has been shown to increase athletic performance through better cellular functioning, better circulation, less inflammation, and increasing muscle mass. The effects are measurable when red light is combined with resistance training or aerobic treadmill training.
Several studies have shown that red light therapy before and after workouts increases muscle mass, and also increases time to fatigue (endurance), helps muscles perform with greater power, and speeds up recovery.
In a joint 2016 review, researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Harvard Medical School, and the Universidade do Sagrado Coração (Brazil) analyzed more than 40 studies involving over 1,000 elite and non-elite athletes. The researchers concluded that red or NIR light therapy can increase muscle mass, as well as decrease inflammation and oxidative stress in muscles.
In fact, red light therapy was found to be so effective at improving athletic performance that the researchers questioned whether it should even be allowed in competitions since it could potentially give athletes an unfair “advantage in sports performance.”
The Takeaway: Higher Testosterone Levels Could Help Treat ED
While there have not yet been studies on the direct effects of red light therapy on erectile dysfunction, there are definite signs of hope. The treatment has been shown to successfully treat some of the underlying conditions that can cause ED, including boosting the body's natural testosterone levels.
The best way to raise your testosterone levels is through a combination of red light therapy, building muscle mass, and losing weight. Hormone replacement therapy could be a helpful add-on treatment, but it can cause unwanted side effects in many men, which red light therapy does not.
How To Use Red Light Therapy to Treat Erectile Dysfunction
Penile health, and by extension sexual health, can be treated at home with a red light therapy device. Red light therapy could be a wonderful new treatment in male reproductive medicine.
The Best Red Light Therapy Device for Treating ED
Treating ED at home means that your primary red light therapy targets are the penis, the testicles, and the thyroid. You can treat these individually with a small red light therapy panel such as the BIOMAX 300.
This small but mighty red light device delivers two red wavelengths plus three NIR wavelengths simultaneously to treat every layer of tissue: you get the benefits of red and NIR wavelengths in a synergistic combination that gives you the best of both.
When you're comparing red light therapy devices, look for “irradiance,” which is light energy output measured in milliwatts per centimeter squared (mW/cm2). The higher the number, the more powerful the device. The PlatinumLED BIOMAX 600 delivers 150 mW/cm2 at 6” from the device. Here's a comparison video that explains the difference (scroll down to see the video).
Note that red light therapy is completely safe for the penis and testicles, even at higher output levels such as 150 mW/cm2.
If you start treating small areas of the body and discover the many benefits of red light therapy, you may be interested in larger panels in the BIOMAX series, such as the BIOMAX 450, the BIOMAX 600, or the BIOMAX 900.
Using a larger panel makes it more convenient to address systemic inflammation, enhance athletic performance, boost thyroid health, improve blood circulation, and improve sexual health.
The Most Effective Therapeutic Wavelengths
For the best results in treating ED, use a combination of red light and NIR at the same time. Red wavelengths increase microcirculation for better overall testicular and penile health and improved sexual function.
With its longer wavelengths, NIR light penetrates deep into the testicles and penis where they reduce inflammation and boost production of energy in cells that red wavelengths can't reach.
Only PlatinumLED BIOMAX light therapy devices contain a proprietary combination of five different red light and NIR wavelengths: (630 nm, 660 nm, 810 nm, 830 nm, and 850 nm) for the most comprehensive coverage and benefits.
Consistency, and Patience
As beneficial as red light therapy can be, keep in mind that it is not a cure for erectile dysfunction. Rather, it plays a supporting role in boosting cellular performance; in so doing, it creates a positive ripple effect on various bodily systems including the circulatory system and the endocrine system, which regulates the production of sex hormones.
Treatments of 10 to 20 minutes a day can, over the course of several months, address the underlying conditions, including hormonal imbalances, that may be contributing to ED and unsatisfactory sexual function.
Remember to give your body a chance to “reset.” This could take weeks or months, depending on the severity of the condition.
Since red light therapy has been proven safe for long-term use, you could continue the treatments several times a week indefinitely to support sexual function and contribute to overall health and well-being.
Turn On the Red Light to Combat ED
Hopefully, this article has increased your understanding of what contributes to ED, and how red light therapy can address the underlying conditions that contribute to it.
It can also be a powerful treatment for so much more than ED. We invite you to browse our Learn page to discover the many other ways red light therapy can be used to enhance your health. You'll learn how this natural treatment can help with hair loss, weight loss, skin health, pain, and many more amazing benefits.And if you're ready to get started with red light therapy at home to boost testosterone and improve sexual function, here's a handy comparison chart that will help you choose the best device (scroll down to compare the panels side by side).