Korean red ginseng (unskinned Panax ginseng before it is steamed or otherwise heated and subsequently dried) is one of the most widely used herbal remedies. This systematic review evaluates the current evidence for the effectiveness of red ginseng for treating erectile dysfunction.
Systematic searches were conducted on 20 electronic databases without language restrictions. Hand-searches included conference proceedings and our files. All randomized clinical studies (RCT) of red ginseng as a treatment of erectile dysfunction were considered for inclusion. Methodological quality was assessed using the Jadad score.
Seven RCTs met all the inclusion criteria. Their methodological quality was low on average. Six of the included RCTs compared the therapeutic efficacy of red ginseng with placebo. The meta-analysis of these data showed a significant effect (n = 349, risk ratio, 2.40; 95% CI of 1.65, 3.51, p < 0.00001, heterogeneity: tau2 = 0.05, χ2 = 6.42, p = 0.27, I2 = 22%). Subgroup analyses also showed beneficial effects of red ginseng in psychogenic erectile dysfunction (n = 135, risk ratio, 2.05; 95% CI of 1.33, 3.16, p = 0.001, heterogeneity: χ2 = 0.08, p = 0.96, I2 = 0%).
Collectively these RCTs provide suggestive evidence for the effectiveness of red ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. However, the total number of RCTs included in the analysis, the total sample size and the methodological quality of the primary studies were too low to draw definitive conclusions. Thus more rigorous studies are necessary.