Ginseng tea has a long history as a painkiller, general stimulant and aphrodisiac in traditional Chinese medicine. Although current well-designed clinical trials confirming ginseng's effectiveness are long overdue, herbalists and practitioners of alternative medicine have used ginseng tea to increase libido for generations. The University of Michigan Health System considers ginseng tea as generally safe, but check with your health care provider before use.
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Ginseng has been prized in the Orient for its valuable therapeutic powers since 5,000 B.C., and wars were waged for control of the forests in which it grew. An Arabian doctor introduced the herb to Europe in the 9th century and it became popular in the West in the 1800s. While Asian ginseng is indigenous to northeastern China, eastern Russia and North Korea, American ginseng grew wild along the whole of the eastern seaboard until the 1970s. According to Purdue University, ginseng was one of the first herbs to be exported from the United States, but over-harvesting has put American ginseng on the endangered species list.
Ginseng ranks as one of the most popular Chinese herbs, used traditionally to curb emotions, brighten the eyes, and enlighten the mind. As an adaptogen, ginseng increases the body's ability to withstand life's stressful situations and works to increase energy, physical performance and sexual potency.
According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, animal studies indicate that ginseng contains components called ginsenosides that affect the central nervous system and gonadal tissues, working to increase sperm count and sexual activity and performance. The University of Maryland Medical Center reports that a small Italian study of 60 men found that Asian ginseng had a positive effect on penile erections and libido. Moreover, according to the book "Prescription for Herbal Healing," a Korean study showed that ginseng tea increases blood circulation and erectile function by 30 percent.
The type of ginseng used in teas to increase libido makes a difference. According to "Prescription for Herbal Healing," the most potent ginseng is an expensive Chinese import called wild mountain root. You can also try the less-costly ginseng whiskers, but the cheaper form of sugar root, as well as Siberian ginseng, may not be worth your while. Stick with wild ginseng, as the field-grown version has significantly less potency.
Excessive use of ginseng tea can cause skin rash and itching, dizziness, fever and headaches. The University of Michigan Health System warns that the herb can occasionally cause insomnia, over-stimulation and stomach upset. Some women report menstrual abnormalities and breast tenderness. Pregnant and nursing women should avoid ginseng tea.