Male impotence, also known as erectile dysfunction, is a common condition that most frequently affects older men. Unless the problem is psychological, the inability to achieve or maintain an erection is due to insufficient blood supply to the penis, not a lack of sexual arousal. Herbs such as ginger may help. However, since impotence may signal a more serious disorder, including cardiovascular disease or diabetes, check with your doctor before pursuing self-treatment.
Kathi Keville and Peter Korn, authors of "Herbs for Health and Healing," contend that poor circulation may cause impotence in men because damaged or impaired blood vessels simply fail to fill with blood and expand. They also say that certain herbs, such as ginger, may help to increase dilation in blood vessels and improve circulation.
According to the "Physicians' Desk Reference for Herbal Medicines," the active compounds in ginger are gingerol, shogaol and zingiberene. (Reference 2) Gingerol compounds have been shown to have some effect on blood vessels. For instance, researchers at the Toyama Medical and Pharmaceutical University in Japan found that gingerols stimulated blood vessel contractions in mouse and rat tissue samples by regulating signaling molecules known as eicosanoids. (Reference 3)
However, the PDA cautions that ginger should not be used in conjunction with blood thinning medications due to an increased risk of bleeding. In addition, ginger may increase the effects of insulin or glucose-lowering medications. (Reference 2)
Aroma and Flavor
In his book, "Herbal Aphrodisiacs from Around the World," Clarence Meyer says that the same agents that lend ginger its medicinal properties are also responsible for stimulating arousal due to the warm, spicy scent and taste they impart. In fact, in Asian and Arabic cultures, the fragrance of ginger alone is regarded an aphrodisiac. Ginger is even referenced in the "Kama Sutra," the ancient Indian Hindu text dedicated to the art of giving and receiving sexual pleasure.
Ginger moxa is a therapy used in Chinese medicine to treat impotence that marries the properties of ginger with practice of moxibustion, a technique that involves burning selected herbs at various acupuncture points along the body. Usually, the herb of choice is mugwort, the leaves of which are rolled into a "moxa stick" much like a cigar. With ginger moxa, a thick slice of ginger becomes the insulation between the moxa stick and the skin. The ginger is pierced with a few small holes into which the moxa sticks are placed, and the sticks are allowed to burn down just far enough to produce perspiration and redness on the skin. The procedure is typically repeated several times in succession.
Not surprisingly, this treatment is not well known in Western medicine and its effectiveness in terms of male impotence has only been studied in China. In fact, the only paper in the medical literature that specifically addresses this treatment for impotence is found in a 1992 issue of "Acupuncture Research."