Can red ginseng help treat erectile dysfunction?

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By Rachel Nall, RN, BSN,
CCRN
   



Reviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD,
MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT


What is red ginseng? | Research | Benefits | Other treatments


Sexual performance affects
confidence and interpersonal relationships. When a man has difficulty with
erectile dysfunction, it can affect several aspects of his life.


Erectile dysfunction (ED)
occurs when a man cannot achieve or maintain an erection for enough time to
sustain sexual activity. ED is most common among men ages 75 and older,
according to the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP). However, men can
experience ED at younger ages.
ED can occur as a result of
impaired blood flow, psychological conditions, or other medical conditions that
impact one or both of these factors.
While there are prescription
medication treatments available, one herbal remedy reported to treat the
condition is red ginseng. However, there are many considerations to make before
using the herb as a treatment for ED.

What is red ginseng?

Red ginseng or Panax ginsenx
is a Korean herbal remedy. It is widely used for the treatment of a number of
conditions, including ED.
Red ginseng is the oldest form
of the herb and is not harvested until the plant is at least 6 years old. Fresh
ginseng is 4 years old or younger.
The plant is a root that has
stalks, which resembles the human body, with arms and legs. Practitioners and
herbal supplement manufacturers may prepare red ginseng as a tea or in pill
form for sale.

How might red ginseng help ED?

Researchers do not know the
exact mechanism by which red ginseng might help ED.
Red ginseng was first thought
to cause hormonal influences that are similar to testosterone. However,
researchers have measured testosterone levels of men taking red ginseng and
they do not usually increase.
Other possible mechanisms of
action include increasing levels of nitric oxide, which relaxes the muscles in
the penis and promotes blood flow. Researchers are still unsure if these or
other causes could reduce ED symptoms.

Research about red ginseng and
ED


A 2008 review of studies in
the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology regarding red ginseng and ED found
six of the studies reviewed reported improvement in erectile function when
compared with a placebo. However, the researchers wrote that larger-scale
research studies are needed.
Another study published in the
International Journal of Impotence Research researched 119 men with mild to
moderate ED. The participants took either 350 milligrams (mg) of red ginseng
four times per day or a placebo for 8 weeks.
At the end of the study, the
researchers found premature ejaculation decreased and sexual performance
improved in those who took red ginseng.
Red ginseng is sold in many
different preparations including a cream and in pill form. According to the
American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), taking 900 mg of red ginseng
three times a day may improve erections. However, the AAFP state that men did
not report enhanced sexual experience when taking red ginseng.
Side effects of red ginseng
One of the side effects of red
ginseng may be insomnia. Other effects that sometimes occur include headaches,
stomach upset, and constipation.
Researchers do not have a lot
of data on long-term effects of taking red ginseng. However, no current
reported drug interactions exist, according to the British Journal of Clinical
Pharmacology.

Other possible health benefits

Practitioners of traditional
Chinese medicine have used red ginseng to prepare a tonic designed to boost a
person’s energy. The ginseng plant contains compounds known as ginsenosides
believed to have this beneficial effect on the human body.
According to the National
Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), additional benefits
associated with using red ginseng include:

  • improving overall well-being
  • boosting physical stamina
  • healing health disorders, such
    as respiratory and heart problems
  • improving concentration
  • reducing the incidence of
    menopausal hot flashes
  • slowing the aging process
However, the NCCIH point out
that there are currently no studies that conclusively support red ginseng as a
treatment for any kind of medical condition. This includes ED.

Other possible treatments for
ED


Because many factors can
contribute to ED, it’s important for men to see a doctor to work out any
potential causes. This is especially true if affected blood flow from high
blood pressure may be the cause.
A doctor can often make
recommendations regarding lifestyle changes and prescribe medications to reduce
the incidence of ED. Examples of the many treatments and changes for ED
include:

  • Lifestyle changes: Stopping
    smoking, reducing alcohol intake, becoming more physically active, and quitting
    illegal drug abuse can all help reduce ED symptoms.
  • Mental health support:
    Counseling to help a man decrease anxiety and stress or enhance his
    relationship with his partner can all help people struggling with ED.
  • Prescription medications:
    Taking certain prescription medications can improve blood flow and reduce the
    incidence of ED. Examples of these medications include sildenafil (Viagra),
    tadalafil (Cialis), and vardenafil (Levitra).
  • Injectable medications:
    Sometimes, a man can inject medications that will result in an erection.
    Examples include alprostadil (Caverject, Edex). These medications widen blood
    vessels, resulting in an erection.
In addition to these
medications, some men may take other alternative medicines besides red ginseng.
One example is yohimbe, an herbal supplement.
The United States Food and
Drug Administration (FDA) caution against ordering dietary supplements that
promise to reduce the incidence of ED. While the products may promise
“all-natural” alternatives to prescription medications, they may have
unwanted ingredients added that could be harmful.
In a test of 17 all-natural
products advertised to reduce ED, 6 of the 17 products contained Viagra-like
substances.
In another example, the FDA
reviewed a supplement called Ginseng Power-X. This product promised an
“all-natural” supplement and herbal extract.
However, the FDA found the
supplement contained sildenafil and another active ingredient that was
chemically similar to sildenafil. This could be harmful for a man who is taking
medications that could interact with Viagra, such as nitrates.
The FDA maintain a list of
products sold online that a man with ED should avoid.
People who are taking
medications of any sort and are considering taking red ginseng should consult
their doctor first.





SOURCE: MEDICAL NEWS TODAY
Kayode Ojo
Kayode Emmanuel Ojo is the Co-Founder and Managing Director at SHEFFA Limited. He is presently studying Computer Science at the National Open University, Victoria Island, Lagos.