Kaempferia parviflora, also known as Thai ginseng, is a medicinal plant that belongs to the ginger (Zingiberaceae) family. It grows in tropical areas in Asia, such as Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo and Thailand.
For centuries, traditional healers have been using the root of Thai ginseng to make natural medicines. Hill tribes in Thailand believe that the herb — locally known as krachaidum — can improve physical performance and enhance endurance. Over the years, many studies have discovered several properties of Thai ginseng that make it an excellent medicine for various ailments. These properties include anti-allergenic, anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antimicrobial, anti-cancer, anti-obesity and cardioprotective activities.
According to chemical analysis, Thai ginseng owes these beneficial properties to bioactive compounds called methoxyflavones. The two primary methoxyflavones in Thai ginseng are 5,7-dimethoxyflavone (chrysin dimethyl ether) and 5,7,4?-trimethoxyflavone. The former is said to have antidiabetic, anti-inflammatory and anti-sarcopenic properties, while the latter has shown anti-plasmodial activity against the malarial parasite, Plasmodium falciparum, and antiproliferative activities against human gastric cancer cells.
In a recent study, American researchers examined Thai ginseng’s ability to improve sexual function in men. One of the traditional uses for Thai ginseng is an aphrodisiac that stimulates sexual performance in both men and women. The researchers wanted to know whether the herb can also ameliorate erectile dysfunction in otherwise healthy older men. They reported their findings in an article published in the Journal of Integrative Medicine.
Thai ginseng as a natural remedy for erectile dysfunction
According to the researchers, sexual health positively correlates with overall well-being. However, current strategies meant to enhance male sexual health — particularly that of older adults — are limited by many factors, such as responsiveness, adherence and adverse effects. Researchers understand the need for safe and effective interventions that could help preserve male sexual function. Hence, they’ve started exploring the potential of herbal medicines that have been used for centuries to improve sexual health. (Related: Is oral hygiene the key to preventing erectile dysfunction?)
Thai ginseng is a popular medicinal herb in Asia that has been found to support cardiovascular health. A growing number of studies also suggest that it could be used to treat erectile dysfunction. According to a study published in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, the methoxyflavones in Thai ginseng are potent inhibitors of phosphodiesterase types 5 and 6, the enzymes whose activities are heavily implicated in erectile dysfunction. The researchers behind the study specifically identified 5,7-dimethoxyflavone as the main compound in Thai ginseng responsible for enhancing sexual performance in men.
To further investigate Thai ginseng’s effect on male sexual performance, the researchers conducted an open-label, one-arm study involving 14 generally healthy males aged 50 to 68 years with self-reported mild erectile dysfunction. The participants received 100 mg of an extract obtained from the rhizome of Thai ginseng daily for 30 days. Primary efficacy analyses included the International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF), while secondary efficacy analyses included the Global Assessment Question about erectile function.
The researchers reported that 13 of the 14 participants completed the study. Supplementation with the ethanol extract obtained from the root of Thai ginseng induced statistically significant improvements in erectile function, intercourse satisfaction and total scores on the IIEF questionnaire. The Thai ginseng extract was well-tolerated by the participants and exhibited an excellent safety profile.
Based on these findings, the researchers concluded that Thai ginseng can improve erectile function in healthy, middle-aged and older men.