| Korean Red Ginseng May Treat Impotence
NEW YORK (Reuters
Health) - Korean red ginseng, a herb
considered an aphrodisiac in some Asian countries, seems to be
an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction, according to
the results of a small study from Korea.
In some Asian cultures, ginseng has
been used traditionally to boost sexual stamina, but the effectiveness
of the herbal remedy has been evaluated in only a handful of studies,
so a team at the University of Ulsan and the Korea Ginseng and
Tobacco Research Institute in Seoul evaluated Korean red ginseng
in 45 men with erectile dysfunction.
The men were randomly assigned to
take either 900 milligrams of ginseng or an inactive placebo pill
three times a day. Eight weeks into the study, the men were taken
off the treatment for 2 weeks, after which they switched treatments
for the next 8 weeks. Neither the researchers nor the participants
knew which pill--ginseng or placebo--the men were taking until
after the study.
Scores for erectile function, sexual
desire and satisfaction during intercourse were higher when the
men were taking ginseng than when they were on the placebo, the
researchers report in the November issue of The Journal of Urology.
The men reported being better able to achieve and maintain an
erection while taking ginseng than when on the placebo. While
they were taking ginseng, 60% of men said that their erections
improved compared to 20% while taking placebo.
"Considering that some patients with
erectile dysfunction are reluctant to depend on a drug to achieve
erection, Korean red ginseng could be used as an alternative remedy,"
the authors conclude.
The study did not examine how ginseng
might have improve erectile function, but the investigators speculate
that it may enhance the production of nitric oxide, a substance
that helps widen blood vessels. They do not think that ginseng's
apparent benefits stem from hormonal changes, since the herb did
not have a significant effect on testosterone levels.
Despite the apparent improvements
with ginseng, however, the researchers did not detect any improvement
in blood flow to the penis while men were taking ginseng. In addition,
most men who said that their erectile function improved did not
experience more frequent ejaculations or more satisfaction with
their orgasms, according to the report.
The Korea Ginseng and Tobacco Research
Institute provided the ginseng used in the study.
The study is "interesting," according
to Dr. Franklin C. Lowe, the associate director of urology at
St. Luke's Roosevelt Hospital in New York. In an interview with
Reuters Health, however, Lowe, who is the chairman of the American
Urological Association's alternative medicine committee, said
that the study did not appear to include any patients with significant
impotence. He noted that the sample did not include several types
of patients who often experience impotence, including individuals
who have had their prostate removed to treat cancer or those with
a history of alcohol abuse.
"You really wonder what sort of impotence
population they were treating," Lowe said.
Lowe also cautioned that the Korean red ginseng used in the study
is not the same type of ginseng commonly found in the US in ginseng
drinks and other products. Noting that "there is great variability
in herbal products," Lowe added that there is no way to know, from
the report at least, the consistency of the herbal supplement used
in the study.
As for side effects, Lowe said
that ginseng may interfere with the blood-thinning drug warfarin,
as the authors point out in the report. In addition, there are
some concerns that the herb may affect levels of hormones called
androgens, he said.
SOURCE: The Journal of Urology
Reference Source 89