The Many Health Benefits of Butea Superba

This herb is said to boost libido and treat erectile dysfunction

Butea Superba capsules and powder

Verywell / Anastasia Tretiak 

Butea superba is a shrub native to Thailand, India, and Vietnam that is believed to have aphrodisiac properties. Used in traditional Thai medicine, the roots of Butea superba contain compounds said to improve sexual performance, treat erectile dysfunction, and even boost sperm counts.

In scientific studies, Butea superba's roots have been found to contain a variety of flavonoids, a class of compounds with antioxidant effects that provide a number of health benefits.

This herb is sold in capsule and powder form.

Health Benefits

The majority of evidence to support Butea superba's potential health benefits comes from preliminary research on animals, although a few small clinical trials and case reports have been published.

Erectile Dysfunction

Several rat-based studies show that Butea superba may aid in the treatment of erectile dysfunction (ED). These include a report published in the journal Andrologia in 2012, in which tests on diabetic rats determined that Butea superba may help improve erectile function by stimulating circulation.

While few studies have tested Butea superba's effects on human health, one clinical trial published in the Asian Journal of Andrology in 2003 suggests that the herb may help treat ED. In the study, men ages 30 to 70 with the condition were treated with Butea superba extract or a placebo for three months. At the end of the study, 82.4% of subjects in the treatment group reported significant improvement in erectile function (note: the placebo group was lost to follow-up, so their results could not be compared).

However, a 2010 study comparing Butea superba to sildenafil, the key ingredient in Viagra, showed mixed results. In the first arm of the study, the herbal preparation was found to be slightly more effective than the erectile dysfunction drug.

In the second arm of the trial, however, researchers were unable to replicate those results. It was later determined the preparation used in the first arm of the study had been blended with another herb that inhibits phosphodiesterase-5—the same mechanism of action as sildenafil and other erectile dysfunction drugs.

Increased Sex Drive

Butea superba has long been used as an aphrodisiac in traditional medicine, but this use has not been fully studied.

In a case study published in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology and Metabolism in 2012, a 35-year-old man taking locally prepared Butea superba supplements to try to reverse hair loss reported to his doctor that his sex drive had increased. Lab tests revealed abnormally high levels of dihydrotestosterone (DHT), a male sex hormone derived from the androgen testosterone.

Low androgen levels are linked to decreased sex drive and erectile dysfunction in men, the study authors note.

While Butea superba increased androgen levels in this one subject, further testing is needed before it can be recommended as a treatment for low libido in men.

Sperm Count

Butea superba has been studied in animal models as a potential fertility enhancer in men.

A 2006 study of rats found that eight weeks of Butea superba treatment increased sperm counts by 16% compared to controls. However, there is no research linking the herb to increased sperm counts in humans and it is too soon to recommend it as a treatment for this purpose.

Possible Side Effects

Although little is known about the safety of regular use of Butea superba, findings from animal-based research indicate that the herb may have adverse effects on blood chemistry and testosterone levels.

Some research suggests Butea superba raises testosterone levels, but additional studies suggest high doses of the herb may have the opposite effect.

Butea superba is believed to act similarly to other hormones, including follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), gonadotropic releasing hormone (GnRH), and testosterone. People who are undergoing hormone treatments or taking anabolic steroids should not take Butea superba.

Butea superba has been shown to increase androgen levels, which has been linked to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), increased facial and body hair, and acne in women.

Pregnant women should not take Butea superba.

Given the potential health risks of this supplement, consulting a physician prior to using Butea superba is advised. Be sure to mention any and all drugs, herbs, or supplements you are taking.

Selection, Preparation, and Storage

Capsules and powders containing Butea superba are sold online, as well as in many natural-foods stores, drugstores, and stores specializing in natural products.

Butea superba can be purchased online from Thailand retailers, but the quality and potency of the supplements may not be known. In addition, dietary supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA).

To ensure you are purchasing a quality product, look for a trusted independent, third-party seal on the label, such as U.S. Pharmacopeia, NSF International, or ConsumerLab. This does not guarantee a product's efficacy or safety, but it does ensure that the ingredients in the product are as advertised on the label.

There is no standard recommended dosage for Butea superba supplements in the United States, but FDA Thailand (an agency of the country's Ministry of Public Health) has set the upper safe limit at 100 milligrams (mg) daily, or 0.2 mg per 100 grams (g) bodyweight.

Follow the directions on the supplement label, and store Butea superba in a cool, dry location.

Common Questions

Can Butea superba help regrow hair? 
Butea superba is sometimes used as an herbal remedy to treat male pattern baldness and hair loss. The working theory is that the herb increases testosterone levels, which should, in turn, help hair grow. However, there is no scientific evidence to support this claim.

What are some alternatives for treating the sexual health concerns Butea superba is said to help?
There are several options you can consider, many of which have a more established safety profile than Butea superba. As is advised before starting any new treatment, speak with your doctor to see if the option you want to try is right for you.

  • Erectile dysfunction: Ginseng and maca (two herbs widely available in dietary supplement form) show promise in the treatment of ED. In addition, making certain lifestyle changes—such as quitting smoking, achieving and maintaining a healthy weight, and managing chronic stress—may help improve erectile dysfunction.
  • Libido (in women): Research suggests that the use of DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) may lead to a significant increase in libido and sexual satisfaction in women over the age of 70. However, it should be noted that DHEA may interfere with the production of male and female hormones, as well as alter liver function.
  • Fertility: Acupuncture may be beneficial. In a research review published in the Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine in 2011, for instance, investigators found that undergoing acupuncture may boost fertility in women and improve the outcome of in vitro fertilization (possibly by improving ovulation). There's also some evidence that the use of antioxidant supplements among males with fertility problems may help improve sperm motility and concentration and, in turn, increase a couple's chances of conceiving.

A Word From Verywell

Due to the limited research, it's too soon to recommend Butea superba as a treatment for any condition. It's also important to note that self-treating a condition and avoiding or delaying standard care may have serious consequences. If you're considering using Butea superba, consult your physician prior to starting your supplement regimen.

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