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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Effect of aqueous extract of Arctium lappa L. (burdock) roots on the sexual behavior of male rats

Cao JianFeng1, Zhang PengYing12, Xu ChengWei3, Huang TaoTao1, Bai YunGui1 and Chen KaoShan12*

Author Affiliations

1 School of Life Sciences, Shandong University, Jinan 250100, PR China

2 National Glycoengineering Research Center, School of Life Sciences, Shandong University, 27 shandananlu, Jinan 250100, PR China

3 Affiliated Hospital of Shandong University, Jinan 250012, PR China

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BMC Complementary and Alternative Medicine 2012, 12:8  doi:10.1186/1472-6882-12-8

Published: 1 February 2012

Abstract

Background

Arctium lappa L. root has traditionally been recommended as an aphrodisiac agent. It is used to treat impotence and sterility in China, and Native Americans included the root in herbal preparations for women in labor. However, its use has not been scientifically validated. The present study therefore investigated the effects of aqueous extract of Arctium lappa L. roots on sexual behavior in normal male rats.

Methods

Seventy-five albino male rats were randomly divided into five groups of 15 rats each. Rats in group 1 (control) were administered 10 mL⁄kg body weight distilled water (vehicle), group 2 received 60 mg/kg body weight sildenafil citrate (Viagra), while those in groups 3, 4, and 5 were given 300, 600, and 1,200 mg/kg body weight, respectively, of aqueous extract of Arctium lappa L. roots in the same volume. Female albino rats were made receptive by hormonal treatment. Sexual behavior parameters in male rats were monitored on days 3, 7 and 15 by pairing with receptive females (1:3). Male serum testosterone concentrations and potency were also determined.

Results

Oral administration of Arctium lappa L. roots extract at 600 and 1,200 mg/kg body weight significantly increased the frequencies of mount, intromission, and ejaculation frequency (p < 0.05). The latencies of mount and intromission were significantly reduced and ejaculation latency was prolonged. Administration of the extract also reduced the post-ejaculatory interval. The standard drug (Viagra) was more effective than the extract. The extract significantly increased the frequencies of all components of penile reflexes as well as serum testosterone levels, compared with the distilled water controls.

Conclusions

The results of this study demonstrate that aqueous extract of Arctium lappa L. roots enhances sexual behavior in male rats. The aphrodisiac effects of the plant extract may be related to the presence of flavonoids, saponins, lignans and alkaloids, acting via a multitude of central and peripheral mechanisms. These results thus support the traditional use of Arctium lappa L. root extract for treating impotence and sterility.