Korean Red Ginseng for Erectile Dysfunction

Written by Mary Ellen Ellis | Published on March 14, 2014
Medically Reviewed by George Krucik, MD, MBA on March 14, 2014

Researchers are catching up with traditional medicine and studying this natural treatment.

Erectile Dysfunction

Many men experience symptoms of erectile dysfunction (ED), also known as impotence, particularly as they age. An occasional inability to get or keep an erection is nothing to be concerned about. However, when ED occurs frequently, there could be an underlying health issue causing the condition that requires treatment.

While it can be embarrassing to talk about sexual dysfunction with your doctor, ED is an important health issue to address. Lifestyle changes, medications, and natural or alternative treatments can all help to restore normal sexual function. 

Treatments for ED

Erectile dysfunction can be caused by psychological problems, but in most cases there is a physiological cause, such as diabetes, nerve damage, or heart disease that is causing ED. Lifestyle changes, such as losing weight, exercising, and giving up smoking and alcohol, can often help with ED.

If lifestyle changes are not enough to alleviate symptoms, oral medications are often effective. Injections of medications that dilate blood vessels are another option. If you prefer natural remedies, certain herbal supplements, like ginseng, may help. Always talk to your doctor before taking any kind of supplement.

Korean Red Ginseng

Korean red ginseng is a plant that grows in Asia. It is known by several different names including Asian ginseng, Chinese ginseng, or panax ginseng. Korean red ginseng should not be confused with Siberian ginseng or American ginseng, which are different plants.

The ginseng root is the part of the plant used as a natural remedy in supplement form. The plant must grow for at least five years before it can be used, which means that high quality ginseng can command a high price. When the root is dried but unprocessed, it is called white ginseng. Red ginseng is the root that has been steamed and then dried. 

Traditional Uses of Red Ginseng

The root of Asian ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years as an overall wellness supplement. It is believed to boost the immune system, improve heart health, treat diabetes, increase energy, decrease stress, and treat impotence.

The root has been said to resemble the human body, with shoots for the arms and legs, and it is thought to be the reason that traditional herbalists considered ginseng as a treatment for the entire body. Today, research is shedding light onto just how effective ginseng is as a natural remedy.

A Natural Remedy for ED

Red ginseng has long been used to treat impotence, but researchers are catching up with traditional medicine and studying the effectiveness of the plant. In a study published in the American Journal of Urology, 45 men who had received diagnoses of ED were given either Korean red ginseng or a placebo.

The men receiving the herb took 900 milligrams, three times a day, for eight weeks. At the end of eight weeks, the men who took Korean red ginseng experienced significant improvements in their ED symptoms compared to those who only received a placebo. The researchers concluded that red ginseng may be used as an effective alternative treatment for impotence.

Ginseng for Women

Another study published in the National Institute of Health (NIH) explored the effect of Korean red ginseng on menopausal women. Many women naturally experience a decline in sexual functioning during menopause. In the study, 32 women were given either three capsules a day of ginseng, or a placebo. Those who received the supplement had improved sexual functioning as a result and experienced no adverse side effects. The researchers concluded that red ginseng may be used by women as a supplement to improve sexual function.

Ginseng Supplements

Ginseng supplements come in several different forms. When purchasing Ginseng supplements, be sure that the type of ginseng is clearly marked. While both white and red ginseng are sold, research has been largely conducted on the red form.

You can find red ginseng in liquid extracts, powders, and capsules. You may also be able to buy the dried root, which can be extracted in boiling water to make a tea. Be sure to talk to your doctor about the right dosage for you and never take more than recommended. 

Side Effects of Ginseng

Red ginseng is considered safe for most people for short term use. Over the long term, there are some concerns about how the plant can affect your body. Side effects do not occur in everyone who take ginseng, but the most common side effect is trouble sleeping. Less common side effects include:

  • menstrual issues
  • increased heart rate
  • elevated blood pressure
  • headache
  • diarrhea
  • dizziness
  • rash

Drug Interactions

There is a moderate risk that red ginseng could interfere with certain medications. Make sure you talk to your doctor before taking red ginseng if you take the following medications:

  • blood pressure medicine
  • blood thinner
  • monoamine oxidase inhibitor (MAOI)
  • a stimulant
  • immune system suppressant
  • insulin for diabetes

You should also avoid combining ginseng and caffeine, as the supplement can enhance the effects. 

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