Pro-sexual effects of Turnera diffusa Wild (Turneraceae) in male rats involves the nitric oxide pathway

J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Mar 7;146(1):164-72. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2012.12.025. Epub 2013 Jan 5.


Ethnopharmacological relevance: Turnera diffusa Wild has been used in folk medicine by its aphrodisiac and tranquilizing properties. Previously we experimentally showed the aphrodisiac effect of a chemically characterized aqueous extract of Turnera diffusa in male rats. However, the mechanism of action underlying such effects has not been studied.

Study aims: As part of our systematic studies of pharmacological properties of Turnera diffusa, we aimed to analyze whether the increased sexual motivation and the augmented sexual performance of sexually sluggish (SL) male rats treated with Turnera diffusa involves the NO pathway. Additionally we analyzed whether such effects were exerted at the level of the brain or the spinal cord. Finally, anxiety levels and ambulatory activity were also evaluated.

Material and methods: Turnera diffusa (10-40 mg/kg) and sildenafil citrate (10 mg/kg) with or without a nonspecific inhibitor of NO synthase, Nω-nitro-L-arginine methyl esther (L-NAME, 12.5 mg/kg) were evaluated in SL rats, in a standard sexual behavior test and in the fictive ejaculation model in spinal cord transected and urethane-anaesthetized SL rats. Anxiety levels or ambulation were assessed in the burying behavior and open-field tests.

Results: Turnera diffusa and sildenafil (both at 10 mg/kg) facilitated expression of male sexual behavior by shortening mainly ejaculation latency. Treatments also facilitated the number of discharges in the ejaculatory motor pattern as well as the number of ejaculatory motor patterns and its associated penile erections. L-NAME prevented the pro-sexual effects of treatments on both experimental models. Besides, the extract of Turnera diffusa (10 mg/kg) produced an anxiolytic-like effect in male rats without affecting ambulation.

Conclusions: Findings from the present work support the notion that pro-sexual effect of the aqueous extract of Turnera diffusa in rats involves the participation of NO pathway, mainly at central level. The anxiolytic-like effect of Turnera diffusa is an advantage to its use for improving sexual performance.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anti-Anxiety Agents / pharmacology*
  • Ejaculation / drug effects
  • Female
  • Male
  • Motor Activity / drug effects
  • Nitric Oxide / physiology
  • Piperazines / pharmacology
  • Plant Extracts / pharmacology*
  • Plant Leaves
  • Purines / pharmacology
  • Rats
  • Rats, Wistar
  • Sexual Behavior, Animal / drug effects*
  • Sildenafil Citrate
  • Sulfones / pharmacology
  • Turnera*


  • Anti-Anxiety Agents
  • Piperazines
  • Plant Extracts
  • Purines
  • Sulfones
  • Nitric Oxide
  • Sildenafil Citrate