Ginseng Health Benefits
Ginseng health benefits include properties that may slow the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells and also help in treating erectile dysfunction. Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng; also known as Korean ginseng) has a long history in several medical traditions as a powerful herb.
One of the special ginseng health benefits is attributed to the idea that it is an adaptogen. An adaptogen is a substance that increases the body’s resistance to stress and improves overall health. A recent study from the University of Alabama, Birmingham, found that a substance in ginseng called 25-hydroxyprotopanaxadiol slowed the growth and spread of prostate cancer cells. This finding suggests ginseng health benefits may extend to men who have prostate cancer. (Wang 2008)
Ginseng Health Benefits and Erectile Dysfunction
Ginseng health benefits include help with erectile dysfunction, as has been shown in a number of studies. In one, for example, 60 patients who had mild or mild to moderate erectile dysfunction received either 1,000 mg of Korean red ginseng three times daily or a placebo. Men in the ginseng group scored significantly higher on all five items of the International Index of Erectile Function. Twenty patients (66.6%) in the ginseng group reported improvement in erection. Scores on rigidity, penetration, and maintenance of the erection were all significantly higher in the ginseng group compared with placebo. (de Andrade 2007)
In a review of seven randomized controlled studies, investigators evaluated the use of Korean red ginseng in men with erectile dysfunction. They found that overall, there was suggestive evidence that ginseng was effective in improving erectile function. (Jang 2008)
A double-blind, placebo-controlled study was conducted with 86 men who had erectile dysfunction. Over 8 weeks, one group took 1,000 mg of ginseng extract twice daily while a second group took a placebo twice daily. Men who took ginseng scored significantly higher on five domains of the International Index of Erectile Function and reported significantly better erectile function. The men using placebo showed no significant improvement. (Kim 2009)
In one of the earlier studies on ginseng health benefits, a double-blind trial compared the use of Asian ginseng extract (1,800 mg daily) with placebo and the drug trazodone in 90 men who had erectile dysfunction. Thirty men were assigned to each group. After three months, the overall improvements in erectile dysfunction were 60 percent for men in the ginseng group and 30 percent for men in the placebo and trazodone groups. Men in the ginseng group experienced significantly greater improvements in penile rigidity and girth, libido, and patient satisfaction. No men achieved a complete remission of erectile dysfunction. (Choi 1995)
In a subsequent study by several of the same authors, Korean red ginseng was administered to rabbits and rats. The researchers confirmed that long-term use of Korean red ginseng enhanced erectile capacity and that “its action is mediated by endothelium-derived relaxing factor and peripheral neurophysiologic enhancement.” (Choi 1999)
Another Korean study included 45 men with erectile dysfunction. The double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover trial (8 weeks of intervention, 2 weeks off, 8 weeks of intervention) involved taking 900 mg of Korean red ginseng or placebo three times daily. Based on the International Index of Erectile Function test, men treated with ginseng scored significantly higher than the placebo group on questions regarding penetration and maintenance of erection. (Hong 2002)
How to Take Ginseng
To appreciate ginseng health benefits, be sure to purchase high-quality ginseng from a reputable source. Ginseng root is standardized on content of ginsenosides, which should be greater than 1.5 percent. A typical amount is from 4 to 7 percent ginsenosides. A suggested dose of ginseng is 200 mg twice daily. (University of Maryland) Side effects may include headache, insomnia, and gastrointestinal problems. Because ginseng may lower blood sugar, people with diabetes should use caution if taking ginseng.
Choi HK et al. Clinical efficacy of Korean red ginseng for erectile dysfunction. Int J Impotence Res 1995; 7:181–86.
Choi YD et al. In vitro and in vivo experimental effect of Korean red ginseng on erection. J Urol 1999 Oct; 162(4): 1508-11
De Andrade E et al. Study of the efficacy of Korean Red Ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. Asian J Androl 2007 Mar; 9(2): 241-44
Hong B et al. A double-blind crossover study evaluating the efficacy of Korean red ginseng in patients with erectile dysfunction: a preliminary report. J Urol 2002; 168:2070–73.
Jang DJ et al. Red ginseng for treating erectile dysfunction: a systematic review. Br J Clin Pharmacol 2008 Oct; 66(4): 444-50
Kim TH et al. Effects of tissue-cultured mountain ginseng (Panax ginseng CA Meyer) extract on male patients with erectile dysfunction. Asian J Androl 2009 May; 11(3): 356-61
NCCAM: National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine
University of Maryland Medical Center, for information on ginseng health benefits
Wang W et al. Experimental therapy of prostate cancer with novel natural product anti-cancer ginsenosides. Prostate 2008; 68(8):809-19.