Korean Red Ginseng Benefits Men with Impotence
Men experiencing sexual difficulties due to inability to achieve erection may be helped by Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng), according to a study published in the Journal of Urology (2002;168:2070–3).
Impotence, also called erectile dysfunction, is a term used to describe the inability to achieve and maintain an erection. It is a problem that affects nearly half of men over age forty worldwide. It is sometimes associated with medical conditions that impair blood flow to the penis, including cardiovascular disease and diabetes, or those that affect nerve stimulation to the muscles of the penis, such as multiple sclerosis and Parkinson’s disease. It can also be a side effect of certain medications, or of drug or alcohol abuse.
Conventional treatments for erectile dysfunction include surgical implants, direct penile injections of medications that dilate blood vessels, and oral medications. Although oral medications are more popular than other approaches, their side effects can be serious or even life threatening, especially for people with the types of underlying medical conditions that can cause erectile dysfunction.
Korean red ginseng, also known as Asian ginseng, is an herb used traditionally in Asia for thousands of years. It is one of the most popular herbs in the world, and is used by an estimated six million people in the United States. Previous studies have supported its traditional uses by showing its ability to stimulate immune function and control blood sugar. Results of other studies suggest it may contribute to cancer prevention, improve mental and physical performance, and enhance sexual function.
In the new study, 45 men with erectile dysfunction were randomly assigned to receive 900 mg of Korean red ginseng three times per day or a placebo for eight weeks. After a two-week break, each person received the other treatment for an additional eight weeks. The ability of the men to achieve and maintain erections was significantly greater while they were receiving ginseng than while they were receiving placebo. Some 60% of participants reported improved erections while receiving ginseng. Improved sexual desire was also reported during ginseng treatment. Testosterone levels did not change with treatment, leading the researchers to conclude that improvements observed with ginseng are not due to hormonal effects. Instead, they suggest that ginseng may act on the nervous system, which is known to influence sexual function. This theory is supported by previous studies on the effects of ginseng in animals and humans.
A number of previous studies have suggested that Korean red ginseng might improve sexual function. Animal trials have demonstrated improvements in sexual desire and function with ginseng. In one human trial, ginseng in combination with other herbs and nutrients improved libido and sexual function in women. Another trial found a benefit of ginseng in men with erectile dysfunction. No significant side effects were seen in either of these trials.
Other types of ginseng, such as Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), do not have the same properties as Panax ginseng, and may not have the same benefit for men with erectile dysfunction.
Maureen Williams, ND, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her Doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine from Bastyr University in Seattle, WA. She has a private practice in Quechee, Vermont, and does extensive work with traditional herbal medicine in Guatemala and Honduras. Dr. Williams is a regular contributor to Healthnotes Newswire.