We hear all sorts of claims about the ability of various herbs to help men achieve and sustain erections, but not too many of these preparations have been clinically studied to determine their effectiveness. A recent study reports that Korean red ginseng, which has been used in Asian countries as a "men's tonic" and aphrodisiac for hundreds of years, seems to have a positive effect on erection in animals and may be helpful in humans too.
Researchers at Yonsei College of Medicine in Seoul, Korea, studied the effects of Korean red ginseng on rats and rabbits in the laboratory. They fed the animals 50 mg/kg of body weight daily for three months. Then they measured the animals' response when the nerve that goes to the to corpus cavernosum was stimulated. The corpus cavernosum is the spongy tissue in the penis that becomes engorged with blood during an erection.
None of the animals showed any side-effects from taking ginseng. Their blood pressure and body weight remained similar to that of control animals.
Compared to rats that had received placebo, those who took the ginseng had a significantly greater response to stimulation, with larger increases in pressure within the corpus cavernosum.
In addition to studying live animals, the researchers also compared the penile tissue of ginseng-treated rabbits and control rabbits in vitro. Compared to the tissues of control animals, tissues of rabbits that had been treated with ginseng were more responsive to the effects of acetylcholine, a brain chemical that stimulates the nerves in a process essential to erection.
"Ginseng has long been used in maintaining physical vitality throughout the Far East, including Korea and China, as a tonic and restorative," the researchers noted, adding that it's also been reported to have helpful effects in people with diabetes, atherosclerosis, high blood pressure, and cancer.
In this study, reported in the October issue of "The Journal of Urology," Korean red ginseng enhanced the erectile response in normal animals. Now that they've shown this, the authors plan to study the effects of the herb in animal models of erectile dysfunction, especially that caused by diseases such as diabetes.