Scan message boards on the internet, and you’re bound to find a garden’s worth of natural male enhancement products and aphrodisiacs that someone says will grant you sexual superpowers. Nitric oxide, antioxidants, some random Amazonian mushroom, Meyer lemons and (probably) at least one flavor of AriZona® tea all could make the list. But which list matters?
That’s the question you’re likely here to answer about ginseng — what does the scientific research actually say about this plant’s potential for making you and your body more sex-ready?
You aren’t the first guy to wonder this.
Below, we’ll explain what ginseng is, what benefits it allegedly brings into the bedroom and how strong the research is. We’ll also share some alternative ways to make your sexual health better — in case you’re not convinced, like us.
Add a boost to your sex life with our new chewable formats
Ginseng is a plant — well, actually three plants, depending on the origin. According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH), Panax ginseng — the Latin name for Asian ginseng — is native to China, Korea and parts of far-eastern Siberia.
Ginseng root is commonly used in natural remedies and herbal supplements, with a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine.
American ginseng is closely related — both forms of ginseng contain various pharmacologically active components called ginsenosides, which are often credited as offering health benefits.
There’s technically a third king of ginseng from Siberia. Siberian ginseng is a different plant entirely, and it lacks the pharmacological benefits of American and Asian ginseng.
Ginseng is an adaptogen — an alternative medicine term for medicines that improve resistance to stress and increase vitality. As such, it’s often found in dietary supplements and herbal medicines as part of a “blend.”
You’ve probably seen numerous names for ginseng on supplement labels. Here’s where it gets a little complicated: Asian ginseng is sometimes also referred to as “red ginseng” or “white ginseng,” with each offering different health benefits.
Confused? Well, it’s tricky. “Red” and “white” don’t actually refer to different ginseng plants. Instead, they refer to different preparation methods to extract valuable compounds from the ginseng roots.
For instance, Korean red ginseng is prepared using a water extraction to get the volatiles out, followed by a concentration process. Korean white ginseng, meanwhile, is dried.
So red and white ginseng are the same plant, but you can think of them as mashed potatoes versus french fries.
Both styles of preparation use six-year-old plants that are dug up, washed and steamed before drying or water-concentrating. Why would you do this? That depends on who you ask.
So, does ginseng offer any real benefits for your sex life or overall well-being? It’s hard to say one way or another due to a lack of solid data.
There isn’t much in the way of placebo-controlled, randomized, large-scale, high-quality, double-blind clinical research on ginseng benefits, either for sexual dysfunction or well-being. And most of the published studies had small sample sizes.
However, several smaller studies suggest it may offer value, including:
Improvements in heart health. A review published in 2014 in the Journal of Ginseng Research noted potential benefits of ginseng for reducing cholesterol, improving blood circulation and boosting general cardiovascular health — though some studies in the review were animal studies.
Better mental function. Improved mental function has been shown in a few small studies. However, much of the research relies on studies performed on animals.
Potential for improving diabetes. One small study of just 36 newly diagnosed diabetics (without insulin dependence) found that ginseng lowered blood sugar and glucose, produced mood improvements and helped reduce body weight.
Improved immune function. A 2021 study found that ginseng improved T cells, B cells and a person’s white blood cell count, which may have down-line benefits for immune system function.
That said, there are some warnings you should heed as well. First, we know very little about the long-term side effects of Korean red ginseng and other types of the herb.
We haven’t really discussed the known side effects of Panax ginseng, either. It could affect blood pressure, interfere with blood clotting and potentially mess with blood thinner medication.
Okay, but what about erectile dysfunction? Over the years, several studies have looked at ginseng for ED, with mixed results.
A 2020 review suggests ginseng may improve sperm quality, while other studies revealed little or no benefits. According to most high-quality research, ginseng has a very mild impact on a man’s ability to get and maintain an erection during sex.
A review published in 2021 analyzed nine studies involving 587 men with mild to moderate ED. It concluded that ginseng appeared to have a “trivial effect” on ED — and no significant benefits for sexual desire or sexual arousal were noted.
The same active ingredients as Viagra®. Starts working in 30 minutes and lasts up to 6 hours.
Same active ingredient as Cialis®. Starts working in 1 hour and lasts up to 24 hours.
Exclusively at Hims, starts working in 15 minutes and lasts up to 6 hours. Same active ingredients as Levitra®.
There’s currently no research comparing different productions or types of ginseng as erectile function medicines. So if you want your sexual function to be enhanced, boosted or leveled up, you’ll have to go with something proven in clinical studies and approved by the FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration).
Generally, ED treatment falls into a few categories: medication, therapy and lifestyle changes.
There’s a plethora of FDA-approved erectile dysfunction medication on the market today to improve blood flow to the blood vessels of your penis — just a few decades ago, options weren’t really available.
Our chewable hard mints are the latest in discreet ED meds, FYI.
While you won’t get a prescription for lifestyle changes, making positive adjustments to your daily life can help. For instance, the NIH (National Institutes of Health) explains that good sleep, healthy eating, exercise and stress management habits may all reduce your risk of ED.
Likewise, not drinking enough water, consuming lots of alcohol, doing recreational drugs and taking poor care of yourself are preventable risks for getting ED in the first place.
Psychological ED might sound made up to some of the less mental-health-focused in the room. But if you’ve ever felt sexual performance anxiety or noticed your libido was down during a bout of depression, you kind of get it.
Sexual health is important. Whether you’re dealing with ED or premature ejaculation (PE), you should look into speaking with a healthcare provider, not a supplement store clerk. Also, ginseng isn’t the crossover supplement to make it on the “official” list.
Ginseng supplements aren’t the safest or soundest pathway to better erections, and the use of ginseng isn’t considered a valid treatment of erectile dysfunction.
Here’s the low-down of what we covered:
Ginseng is a type of plant widely promoted as a supplement for erectile health and other positive effects, including benefits to your sex drive.
While ginseng is associated with some health benefits, including improvements in diabetes and certain aspects of heart health, the studies trying to prove this have been small and often involved animals instead of humans.
Most published research supporting these supposed benefits is low in quality and doesn’t show strong efficacy for ginseng use.
Ginseng is considered safe, but there’s very little research on its potential long-term side effects.
Other options just work better, according to science. Explore our sexual health platform to see what FDA-approved treatments you can access online.
Hims & Hers has strict sourcing guidelines to ensure our content is accurate and current. We rely on peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions, and medical associations. We strive to use primary sources and refrain from using tertiary references. See a mistake? Let us know at [email protected]!
Kristin Hall is a board-certified Family Nurse Practitioner with decades of experience in clinical practice and leadership.
She has an extensive background in Family Medicine as both a front-line healthcare provider and clinical leader through her work as a primary care provider, retail health clinician and as Principal Investigator with the NIH.
Certified through the American Nurses Credentialing Center, she brings her expertise in Family Medicine into your home by helping people improve their health and actively participate in their own healthcare.
Kristin is a St. Louis native and earned her master’s degree in Nursing from St. Louis University, and is also a member of the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners. You can find Kristin on LinkedIn for more information.