Health Benefits of Black Ginger and the ED - CVD Connection

New research suggests that man’s best friend may not be the tail-wagging Canis familiaris but rather Kaempferia parviflora, a plant that could help with male sexual health.  

Historical Use

Kaempferia parviflora is a plant from the Zingiberaceae (ginger) family that is native to Malaysia, Sumatra, Borneo Island, and Thailand, where its rhizome has been used in folk medicine for centuries. Traditional uses of K. parviflora include the treatment of hypertension and other disorders. The herb has increasingly become the subject of scientific studies in recent years.

A Variety of Health Applications

A research study revealed that a K. parviflora extract may protect against gastric ulcers.1 Other research has shown an antiviral effect for flavones derived from K. parviflora.2 And in a comparison of extracts and oils of 6 Zingiberaceae plants, an ethanolic extract of K. parviflora exhibited the most potent anti-allergic activity.3

Sexual Health

However, K. parviflora’s best known use is that of a sexual enhancer. In 2008, researchers in Thailand reported that 4 weeks of an orally administered alcohol extract of K. parviflora led to a significant increase in the blood flow to the testes of rats and a decrease in the time required to mount and ejaculate.4 Subsequent investigation utilizing rats rendered diabetic by the administration of a chemical compound found an increase in sperm density and recovery of sexual behavior after K. parviflora treatment.5

Vascular Health

Early research revealed that an extract of K. parviflora rhizomes relaxed contracted aortic rings and ileum tissue derived from rats, indicatinga potential to support healthy blood vessels.6 In rats that received the extract orally for 4 weeks, K. parviflora wasfound to decrease oxidative stress and increase the bioavailability of nitric oxide (a molecule used by the inner lining of the blood vessels known as the endothelium to signal the surrounding smooth muscle to relax).7 Other research has demonstrated that K. parviflora rhizome improves blood fluidity.8 K. parviflora was also shown to increase the production of nitric oxide in human endothelial cells. This, according to the researchers involved in the investigation, represents a great potential for its use to promote vascular endothelial health.9

Mechanism of Action

It has been determined that K. parviflora extract’s positive effects on nitric oxide signaling in the heart are similar to those of sildenafil citrate (Viagra).10 Sildenafil citrate acts by inhibiting phosphodiesterase 5 (PDE5), an enzyme that promotes the degradation of cGMP, which regulates penile blood flow), and 7-methoxyflavones from K. parviflora have been demonstrated to inhibit this enzyme. “This finding provides an explanation for enhancing sexual performance in the traditional use of Kaempferia parviflora,” the authors remark.11

Human Studies

And indeed, a study published in 2012 in which men whose age averaged 65 years were given one of two doses of K. parviflora rhizome extract or a placebo for two months resulted in a significant improvement in erectile function among men who received the higher dose of K. parviflora.12

These and other promising research results led to an exciting pilot study involving healthy men with mild erectile dysfunction (ED) that was sponsored by Life Extension®.13 Thirty days of supplementation with KaempMax™, a K. parviflora extract, significantly improved erectile function, intercourse satisfaction, and International Index of Erectile Function (IIEF) scores. “Men taking 100 mg/day of KaempMax™ for 30 days reported improvements in their overall sexual health,” Richard A. Stein, MD, PhD and colleagues conclude. The generally healthy 50 to 68-year old men enrolled in the study had self-reported mild ED, yet they reported statistically significant increases in their mean IIEF scores, erectile function, and intercourse satisfaction.

“Results from our study together with those previously published suggest that K. parviflora extract may benefit male sexual health and provides an option for those seeking nonprescription alternatives,” noted Andrew Swick, PhD, who is the Senior Vice President of Product Development and Scientific Affairs for Life Extension and a co-author of the newly published study.

The ED – CVD Connection

Erectile dysfunction is now known to be an early manifestation of cardiovascular disease. Endothelial dysfunction is at the center of the shared pathology between the two conditions. K. parviflora has been used to support cardiovascular and male sexual health, and research has shown that it also supports endothelial function.6,7

A recent study, reported in the American Heart Association Journal Circulation on June 11, 2018, concluded that erectile dysfunction is an independent risk factor for cardiovascular events. The study followed more than 1,700 men between the ages of 60 to 78 for a little less than 4 years. Subjects who reported ED were about twice as likely to experience a heart attack, cardiac arrest, cardiac death, and fatal or non-fatal stroke than men who did not have ED15. “Our results reveal that erectile dysfunction is, in and of itself, a potent predictor of cardiovascular risk,” stated senior investigator Michael Blaha, MD, MPH, who is an associate professor of medicine at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore16. He also pointed out the need to more aggressively manage other cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure and cholesterol, in men with erectile dysfunction.

The Bottom Line

By targeting the endothelial dysfunction underlying erectile dysfunction, K. parviflora extracts could improve cardiovascular as well as sexual health–both major health concerns in aging men. Larger clinical trials are anticipated to contribute further evidence in support of K. parviflora’s potential to significantly benefit a large portion of mankind.


  1. Rujjanawate C et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2005 Oct 31;102(1):120-2.
  2. Sookkongwaree K et al. Pharmazie. 2006 Aug;61(8):717-21.
  3. Tewtrakul S et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Feb 12;109(3):535-8.
  4. Chaturapanich G et al. Reproduction. 2008 Oct;136(4):515-22.
  5. Lert-Amornpat T et al. Andrologia. 2017 Dec;49(10).
  6. Wattanapitayakul SK et al. Fitoterapia. 2008 Apr;79(3):214-6.
  7. Malakul W et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Jan 27;133(2):371-7.
  8. Murata K et al. J Nat Med. 2013 Oct;67(4):719-24.
  9. Wattanapitayakul SK et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2007 Apr 4;110(3):559-62.
  10. Weerateerangkul P et al. J Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2012 Sep;60(3):299-309.
  11. Temkitthawon P et al. J Ethnopharmacol. 2011 Oct 11;137(3):1437-41.
  12. Wannanon P et al. Online J Biol Sci. 2012;12(4):149-155.
  13. Stein RA et al. J Integr Med. 2018 May 26.
  15. Uddin SMI et al. Circulation. 2018 Jun 11.


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