Herbal medicine is an ancient medicine utilised by many cultures across the world. Some people swear by it, others are sceptical of it. Chances are if you’ve been scouring the web for some kind of testosterone booster or magical erection remedy you may have come across a few herbs. But which of these have actually shown to be of benefit? Read on to find out more!
Maca root from South America is often found on supermarket shelves these days, it’s caramel like flavour if a favourite with nutritionists when making mineral rich smoothies. It is thought that maca improves semen quality and quantity and delays onset of ejaculation. Within animal studies maca has shown to improve fertility. But what about in humans? Studies are dotted around demonstrating that supplementing maca has improved sexual function in males compared to those who didn’t take a maca supplement. Other studies have shown that when supplemented for over 3 months, maca improved erections in those suffering with erectile dysfunction. However, these studies are based on small sample sizes with many of the researchers claiming more research is needed before we can make a definitive statement on maca being sexually enhancing. This may not be enough to convince the most skeptical of us, however, there exists compounds within maca such as macamides and glucosinolates. Glucosinolates have demonstrated to be anti-inflammatory and is even being discussed as potentially having anti-cancer properties!
Verdict: More research is needed so don’t expect maca to solve your sexual problems. However, maca does has other benefits that may improve your health. It wouldn’t hurt to throw a tablespoon in your morning smoothies or post work-out shakes, and if improved sexual function is a side effect then hurrah!
Referred to as the King of all herbs, ginseng is a root that is known in Chinese medicine as a treatment for sexual dysfunction and a potent aphrodisiac. A novel study earlier this year (2021) combined vitamin E with Siberian and Korean ginseng (100 IU vitamin E, 67 mg Korean ginseng, and 40 mg Siberian ginseng) to participants with erectile dysfunction from the ages of 18 – 60 years of age. After 6 weeks an improvement was seen in those who supplemented against those on a placebo. Furthering this, a study was conducted on patients using methadone treatment to overcome opioid addiction. A debilitating side effect for both sexes is sexual dysfunction. This double-blind, randomised, placebo-controlled study of 26 females and 48 males, showed that 4 weeks of ginseng supplementation improved sexual function irrespective of gender.
Verdict: Don’t expect to see overnight results, but ginseng has some pretty decent scientific backing behind it. Worth entertaining.
Ashwaghanada is a root used in Auyverdic medicine to treat erectile dysfunction. This herb has received a lot of attention in recent times as it has shown to have positive effects on anxiety. Is it as effective in treating sexual dysfunction? When men with low sperm count took ashwaghanda extract, their sperm count and semen volume increased compared to placebo. Ashwaghanda also increased DHEA (also known as the mother of all hormones) and testosterone levels in overweight males over an 8 week period. However, in this study they didn’t observe an increase in sexual well-being. Ashwaghanda has shown to be beneficial for several things including modulating cortisol (the stress hormone) which may benefit some of the psychological aspects of sexual dysfunction.
Verdict: Ultimately there is still more research needed to definitively say that ashwaghanda benefits sexual dysfunction. It is not to say that there won’t be research establishing ashwaghanda as an erection booster in the future… but there may also be more research denying this plausibility. Either way, ashwaghanada is a herb I recommend in my clinic for those living with anxiety and high stress levels. In my humble opinion, this adoptogen is worth a try.
I tend to be of the opinion, if something has demonstrated an effect on some people then it may be of benefit to you, it may not, you’ll only know when you try it. Each human body is unique and herbal medicine can be more subtle than western medicine, which people tend to prefer due to the lack of side effects, however as demonstrated in the studies above it takes a few weeks. Western medicine for these types of conditions work fast however come with unwanted side effects (think blue pill). I can speak from personal experience that some things that “need further research” have benefited me, and some haven’t. The herbs discussed in this article have all demonstrated to have positive effects on other areas of health as well as having a potential positive effect on ED… what’s the harm in trying?