Butea superba is a climbing plant used in traditional Thai medicine as an aphrodisiac and for enhanced sexual performance in men.
It's found in some male enhancers and testosterone boosters.
Researchers believe that certain phytochemicals found in Butea superba mimic the effects of hormones that regulate sexual function in men. This herb is also being studied for its efficacy in treating other medical conditions, including depression, low sperm, cognitive defects and the symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease.
Butea superba shows promise in treating erectile dysfunction (ED). A 3-month randomized double-blind clinical trial carried out on 30 male volunteers with ED yielded optimistic results. The men ranged in age from 30 to 70 and were given a crude preparation of Butea superba. The results were published in the Asian Journal of Andrology and reported that 82.4 percent of the patients experienced noticeable improvement. What’s more, blood tests revealed there was no apparent toxicity from use (1).
Butea superba increases sperm count in rats. A study published in Fitoterapia, a peer-reviewed medical journal dedicated to medicinal plants, found that after eight-weeks of treatment, the sperm count in the rats increased by about 16 percent (2). Doses administered were 2, 25, 250 and 1250 mg/kg body weight. An increase in testis weight was also noted, but only in the group given 1250 mg/kg.
Blood, liver and kidney function tests performed to evaluate the effects of Butea superba, showed no difference from the group given a placebo. Doses of 250 mg/kg (which is 100 times more than the recommended dose for humans by the Thailand equivalent of the FDA) appeared to be safe in rats (3).
Research is ongoing and more studies are needed to assess the safety of its use by humans.
Alcoholic extract may help sperm motility (movement). In a paper published in BioMed Research International, a team of researchers reported their findings on the effects of doses of alcoholic extract on sperm motility in mice and rats. The results show that long-term treatment with the extract prolongs sperm motility (4) and does not affect sperm morphology (the size and shape of healthy sperm).
Sperm motility and morphology are vital to a man’s fertility. Therefore, Butea superba alcoholic extract may be a useful future fertilization booster.
Butea superba may help treat depression. A study published in the October 2014 issue of the Journal of Ethnopharmacology, reported that the herb improved depression-like symptoms in rats. The study subjected rats to unpredictable chronic mild stress.
After a period of seven days, one group was administered the dried herb, while a second group was given the anti-depressant drug, imipramine. Researchers found that both Butea superba and imipramine lessened symptoms.
They are interested in performing further studies to determine if the herb can be used as an alternative, natural treatment for those suffering from depression (5).
Extracts of the plant may improve cognitive abilities. In another study carried out by the same researchers, it was discovered that alcoholic extracts of Butea superba can potentially improve cognitive dysfunction and depression-like behavior in an animal models (6).
Butea superba may play a role in Alzheimer’s treatment. While there is no cure for Alzheimer’s, certain drugs, called Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) inhibitors, have been used to help treat the symptoms. The goal of using these drugs is to inhibit acetylcholinesterase (an enzyme) from breaking down acetylcholine — a chemical messenger that sends messages between nerve cells and is important for learning and memory.
In an attempt to find new AChE inhibitors that will prove to be just as, if not more effective, researchers studied 36 different Thai plants long touted for their rejuvenating abilities and neurological effects.
Results showed that Butea superba extract was able to inhibit acetylcholinesterase (AChE) by 50-65 percent in vitro (7).
Butea superba is enriched with flavonoids. Researchers have identified a bio-active flavonol glycoside present in the stems of Butea superba. Flavonol glycosides are known for their antioxidant activity, anticancer and antitumor activity, anti-inflammatory activity, antiviral activity, antibacterial and antifungal activity and other biological effects.
Although it is not known if the flavonoids present in Butea superba have an effect on treating these conditions, researchers hope to one day discover a connection.
Some findings from animal-based research indicate that the herb may have adverse effects on blood chemistry and testosterone levels.
High doses of Butea superba lower testosterone levels. While Butea superba can improve erectile dysfunction, high doses can adversely affect blood chemistry, hematology and blood testosterone level. In fact, the results of a study published in the peer-reviewed journal, Maturitas, revealed that rats treated with 150 and 200 mg/kg body weight of Butea powder (for 90 days) had lowered testosterone levels (8).
The same study also revealed the rats receiving high doses of Butea superba had larger spleens and increases in the enzymes, alkaline phosphatase and aspartate aminotransferase, which are indications of damaged liver cells (9).
Due to the limited studies on humans, there is not enough information to know if Butea superba is safe or what the possible long-term side effects might be.
Various forms of Butea superba are available in the market, but without adequate human studies, researchers warn that proper dosing guidelines have not been set.
In a study performed to determine the safety of Butea superba, it was noted that consumption of high doses (300mg/kg) in rats may exert genotoxic effects (10).
The Thailand equivalent of the FDA has set the safe limit at 100 mg daily, or 0.2 mg per 100 g bodyweight (100 mg for a 50 kg/110lb person) (11).
Butea superba is a plant that has long been used in Thai medicine as an aphrodisiac and for the natural treatment of erectile dysfunction. While there have only been a limited number of scientific studies done on this herb, preliminary results have caught the attention of researchers.
In addition to improving sexual performance in men, this herb is being evaluated for its role in treating other medical conditions, such as depression, Alzheimer’s symptoms, cognitive dysfunction, poor sperm motility and low sperm.
Like so many other herbal supplements, Butea superba is not without side effects. Preliminary results show that the herb may have adverse effects on blood chemistry and testosterone levels.
When taken in high doses, it may lower testosterone levels and increase levels of alkaline phosphatase and aspartate aminotransferase enzymes (indicators of liver problems).