The effect of ginseng on sexual activity has intrigued the general public and many research workers. Bao et al. (1984b) observed that there was no disturbance of the ovarian cycle in stressed female mice if ginseng was administered. Bao et al. (1984c) also reported that ginseng extracts given to male mice prevented stress-induced decrease of sexual activity. Similarly Lian and Zhang (1998) also noted that repeated daily hanging stress reduced sexual activity in male mice as assessed by licking, mounting and mating activity. The plasma testosterone level was reduced but treatment with ginsenoside Rb1 (2.5, 5 or 10 mg/kg, i/p) before each stress event countered the repeated stress-induced sexual deficiency and raised the plasma testosterone level. It was concluded that ginsenoside Rb1 was capable of maintaining the normal plasma testosterone level.
The reported occurrence of oestrone, oestradiol and oestriol in liposoluble fractions of ginseng extracts, based on TLC results, was not confirmed. Some workers likened tail erection produced in test animals to aphrodisiac agent effect. 0ther workers suggested that increased deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA), ribonucleic acid (RNA) and protein formation due to ginsenoside administration offered an explanation. The hormone-like phenomenon was also related to the superficial structural resemblance of steroid hormones and digitalis cardioactive glycosides to the ginsenosides, but closer investigation of the spatial conformations of such compounds clearly shows that the ginsenosides are quite different and would not interfere with the steroid hormone receptors and, under physiological conditions in human subjects, the ginsenosides do not interfere with the progesterone receptors. Thus, despite the many reports of the use of ginseng in the treatment of impotence and penile dysfunction, no simple explanation has, as yet, emerged concerning an action probably involving mixed metabolic processes, mixed ginsenosides and possibly some so far unidentified related compounds. Therefore the reputed sex hormone-like activity of ginseng has not, as yet, been adequately explained. It could be argued that improved general health and quality of life as a result of ginseng treatment would be accompanied by improved normal activities such as sexual relationships.
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