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Is Ginseng Good for Erectile Dysfunction? (From a Dietitian)

Michael Garrico
Published by Michael Garrico
Fact checked by Donald Christman, BHSc FACT CHECKED
Last updated: June 10, 2022

I find my fitness clients are becoming more open about their health concerns, and the topic of ED is far less taboo than it was just a few years ago.

Our conversations on erectile dysfunction center around natural supplements, and the latest hype is ginseng.

I was curious to know if there was something to the growing popularity of this herb for ED, so I solicited the advice of our dietitian and pored over all the online research data and user testimonials I could find in a few weeks I dedicated to research.

Let’s unpack what I’ve found.

Quick Summary

  • Ginseng is commonly called “man-root” for its resemblance to the human body, and it has been researched for its potential benefits in terms of reproductive function.
  • Korean red ginseng, red ginseng, Chinese ginseng, and Asian ginseng are all synonyms for Panax ginseng.
  • Beyond treatment for impotence, research suggests Panax ginseng extract offers whole-body health benefits.

What Is Ginseng?

Ginseng on moss

Ginseng is a perennial plant belonging to the genus (class) Panax, and its root has been popular in traditional Chinese medicine for generations.

Also known as “man-root” for its resemblance to a person, ginseng as an herbal supplement may provide whole-body benefits beyond treating erectile dysfunction.

There is also American ginseng, which many believe to be less potent than its Korean counterpart, especially when looking to improve erectile function.

There are three types of Korean ginseng related to how it is processed [1]:

  • Fresh ginseng: Less than four years old.
  • White ginseng: 4-6 years old, peeled and dried.
  • Red ginseng: 6+ years old, steamed and dried, not peeled.

Both white ginseng and Korean red ginseng are popular additions to dietary supplements. Many believe they vary in effects, where white is cooler and calming, and red is more warm and invigorating.

Ginseng is generally considered an adaptogen, which means it stimulates the body’s resistance to stressors.

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Ginseng Major Components

The main active component of Panax ginseng is ginsenosides which are similar in structure to steroid hormones [2].

Steroid hormones, like testosterone, have a crucial role in male sexual health, including beneficial effects on ED symptoms, sexual arousal, and erection maintenance.

The other major component of ginseng is gintonin, named “gin” for ginseng, “ton” for ginseng’s tonic effects, and “in” for protein [3].

Gintonins seem to work hand in hand with ginsenoside to offer many health benefits, including improved brain function and positive effects on aging [4].

Related articleDoes Ginseng Increase Testosterone?

Red Ginseng and Erectile Dysfunction

A collection of Red ginseng

Because of ginsenoside's close structure to steroid hormones, like testosterone, ginseng research related to sexual health issues is ongoing and promising.

Researchers looking at the effects of Korean ginseng berry extract on sexual function in men with mild to moderate ED conducted a multicenter, placebo-controlled, double-blind clinical study.

They found that standardized Korean ginseng extract improved all facets of the participants' sexual performance [5].

This research supports using Panax as an alternative medicine to improve the sex life of men with sexual dysfunction.

Additionally, a 2008 systematic review of ginseng for erectile dysfunction led to an optimistic conclusion of Panax’s efficacy for ED.

The Korean red ginseng group had significantly better responses and results than the placebo group [6].

I could continue citing study after study, but the plethora of research on Panax ginseng as an alternative to prescription medications to treat erectile dysfunction offers real hope to men suffering from ED.

“Possible breakthrough in treatment of erectile dysfunction could be arisen from active saponin extracted from red ginseng, bringing hope to many sufferers of erectile dysfunction.”   -International Journal of Impotence Research

Traditional Uses

According to the National Institutes of Health, ginseng has long been used as a tonic to improve overall well-being.

Additionally, people use ginseng supplements in an attempt to [7]:

  • Enhance concentration 
  • Slow the aging process
  • Increase physical stamina
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Aid heart disease
  • Stimulate immune function

Pros and Cons

A person holding a ginseng

There is no shortage of material to read about Korean red ginseng and its benefits. Here is a quick list of pros and cons I compiled from my research.

Asian Ginseng Pros

As I’ve gathered from my research, ginseng may be able to:

  • Improve memory
  • Regulate blood sugar
  • Significantly aid sexual problems
  • Relax muscles
  • Increase nitric oxide
  • Improve blood flow
  • Relax blood vessels

Asian Ginseng Cons

As with any supplement, there are a few adverse effects like stomach upset, primarily when used excessively.

I encourage my clients to remember that taking more doesn’t always mean more benefits, but it can certainly mean increased risks.

Another con to remember is that ginseng can interact with some medications, and I have outlined some prominent ones in the next section.

Side Effects

A man having a headache

Ginseng is considered generally safe, but I advise my clients to seek professional medical advice when considering herbal dietary supplements to determine any risks or interactions with other similar products or medications.

The most common side effect reported with Panax ginseng is insomnia. Other less common adverse effects include high or low blood pressure, headache, appetite loss, increased heart rate, and digestive issues.

A few rare occurrences reported were severe rash, liver damage, or severe allergic reactions.

There are a few drug interactions to be aware of when considering taking Panax ginseng [8]

  • Caffeine and other stimulants: both speed up the nervous system and together can increase the risk of increased heart rate and high blood pressure.
  • Insulin and other diabetes medications: Both decrease blood sugar levels, so your blood sugar levels could drop too low if you are on diabetes treatment and take ginseng.
  • Warfarin: Warfarin slows blood clotting, and ginseng may decrease that effect.
  • MAOIs: Taking ginseng alongside these drugs for depression may increase the risk of anxiety, headaches, and insomnia.

FAQs

How Much Ginseng Should I Take Daily for Ed?

The American Family Physician Journal reports that 900 mg of ginseng three times per day is an effective treatment for men with erectile dysfunction [9].

Does Ginseng Work Like Viagra?

Yes, ginseng may work like Viagra by relaxing muscles and improving blood flow to the genitals.

How Long Does It Take for Ginseng to Work on Erectile Dysfunction?

Ginseng could work in as little as eight weeks for individuals with mild to moderate erectile dysfunction when taking consistent daily supplementation.

Can Ginseng Help With Erectile Dysfunction?

Research continues to support that ginseng is a good natural treatment for ED. Some of my clients who use ginseng supplements or testosterone boosters containing Panax ginseng report very positive results.

Instead of taking a single active ingredient, I always advise them to consider testosterone boosters supplements that have several other beneficial ingredients that work alongside Panax ginseng to increase muscle gain, decrease body fat, and boost endurance.

Not all testosterone boosters contain it, but find one that does, and I think you will be pleased with the results.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2561113/
  2. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/medicine-and-dentistry/ginsenoside
  3. https://www.nature.com/articles/aps2013100
  4. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32817818/
  5. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23254461/
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK76277/
  7. https://www.nccih.nih.gov/health/asian-ginseng
  8. https://www.webmd.com/vitamins/ai/ingredientmono-1000/panax-ginseng
  9. https://www.aafp.org/afp/2010/0201/p305.html

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