Safed musli (chlorophytum borivilianum) is a rare herb long used in traditional Indian medicine as an aphrodisiac and adaptogen (a botanical that improves the body’s ability to adapt to stress whether physical, chemical or biological).
It’s also found in some testosterone boosters.
Sometimes referred to as “herbal Viagra” or “white gold” due to its lack of color, safed musli is also being further studied for its role in managing diabetes, inflammation, boosting immunity, preventing cancer tumors and other conditions.
The therapeutic value of Chlorophytum borivilianum is believed to be due to the rich source of phytochemicals, particularly saponins.
Safed musli is touted as a potent aphrodisiac. This herb has long been used by local healers of indigenous communities of India as a rejuvenating, natural sex tonic and for the treatment in alleviating sexual disorders (1).
In a 2016 study, extract root of safed musli was evaluated for its aphrodisiac potential as well as its effect on the male reproductive system. Dosing of the extract was given to Wistar albino rats for 54 days, with evaluations performed on the 14th and 28th day for sexual behavior.
Results were reported in the peer-reviewed medical journal, Andrologia. Researchers noted enhanced sexual vigor and libido which might be useful for treatment of male sexual dysfunction (2).
The same study also revealed an increase in sperm count and increase in sperm motility (the movement and swimming of sperm). Sperm motility is an important factor in a couple’s ability to conceive.
Research is ongoing to determine the potential of this herb to be an effective treatment for low sperm count.
Safed musli boosts testosterone levels. A 2013 study was performed on healthy adult males to evaluate the effects of water soluble root extract of safed musli on testosterone levels and semen. Males between the ages of 20 and 40 were given two divided doses of 500 mg of the extract or placebo.
Assessment was done based upon semen (volume, liquefaction time, sperm count and sperm motility) and serum testosterone levels parameters. Researchers report that there was a significant improvement in all the tested parameters (3).
Safed musli may be a stress reliever. In one study performed at the College of Pharmacy in Pune, India, researchers investigated the anti-stress activity of safed musli aqueous extract and alcoholic extract in stress-induced rodents. In the swim endurance test, mice were forced to swim in a restricted cylindrical container filled with water until they became exhausted. Swimming endurance time was used as anti-stress parameter.
It was clear to researches that the mice pretreated with extract showed significant improvement in the swimming time over non-treated mice, and thereby showed anti-stress activity. Of the two extracts, the alcoholic extract proved to be more effective at a dose of 300mg/kg (4).
Safed musli is rich in antioxidants. In a study published in the Indian Journal of Experimental Biology, the aqueous extract of safed musli was administered in rats for seven days at the dose of 250 mg/kg. At the conclusion of the study, the extract was effective in significantly lowering elevated levels of plasma glucose, triglycerides, cholesterol and serum corticosterone (5). At 125 mg/kg, it showed a mild anti-stress activity.
The extract also considerably inhibited free radicals and thiobarbituric acid reactive substances (6). Thiobarbituric acid reactive substances are formed as a byproduct of lipid peroxidation — the process in which free radicals take electrons from the lipids in cell membranes, leading to cell damage.
The results suggested that it could be used for the treatment of oxidative stress-induced disorders.
Safed musli may help with the management of diabetes. Researchers took part in a 2014 study to evaluate the effects of the root of this herb on blood glucose, glycated hemoglobin, insulin and lipid profile levels in diabetic-induced rats.
Dosages of 250 and 500 mg/kg were administered to male diabetic rats for 28 days. Results of the study revealed that the rats treated with the root extract treatment maintained near normal body weight, blood glucose, hemoglobin, lipid profile and insulin levels (7).
The extract also prevented oxidative stress-induced damage to the pancreas.
Safed musli may play a role in boosting immunity. A study performed on young rohu fish in 2015 showed safed musli’s potential to improve immune function. Immune parameters and immune-related gene expressions were measured at 3rd, 4thand 5th week after feeding.
The results revealed that dietary administration in the concentration of 0.4 percent for four weeks showed maximum resistance against the bacteria, Aeromonas hydrophila (found in freshwater and brackish water) compared to placebo (8).
While these initial studies are promising, further studies must be carried out to better understand the mechanisms of this herb in stimulating immunity.
Safed musli may have anti-tumor activity. Researchers in one study optimistically reported that safed musli root extract has anti-tumor, anti-mutagenic and chemomodulatory potential.
During the course of the experiment, mice were observed weekly and carefully examined for the presence of skin papillomas and the number of papillomas. Mice were given Chlorophytum borivilianum root extract orally for 16 weeks at doses of 100, 400, and 800 mg/kg body weight.
Results demonstrated a significant decrease in cumulative numbers of papilloma, tumor incidence, tumor burden, tumor size and tumor weight (9).
No toxic effects were observed in terms of sickness, mortality, morbidity and behavior in animals treated with different doses (100, 400 and 800 mg/kg body weight/day) (10).
The studies available on toxicity, safety and quality of Chlorophytum borivilianum in humans is inadequate (11).
While several studies report no adverse reactions in animal subjects administered the herb at various doses, there is not enough information on the effects in humans.
At this time there is not enough scientific information to determine an appropriate range of doses.
Studies assessing the efficacy of this herb on various conditions have been limited to animals.
Safed musli is a rare herb native to India used primarily as an aphrodisiac and adaptogen. It has been the subject of several animal studies and has also been shown to boost testosterone levels, help maintain normal blood sugar levels, increase immunity and act as an anti-tumor agent.
While research is limited, researchers are eager to dig deeper to learn more about the role of this herb in treating many medical conditions.