Ginseng has been used in traditional Asian medicine and North America for centuries. Many use it to improve thinking, concentration, memory, and physical endurance. It’s also used to help with symptoms of depression, anxiety, and as a treatment for infertility, fever, and indigestion. It’s also known to boost your immune system, fight infections, and help men who suffer from erectile dysfunction.
There are 11 slightly different species of ginseng, all belonging to the genus Panax of the family Araliaceae. The botanical name Panax means “all heal” in Greek. The name “ginseng” is used to refer to both American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng). The true ginseng plant belongs only to the Panax genus, so other species, such as Siberian ginseng and crown prince ginseng, have distinctively different functions.
There are two main types of ginseng: American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng). Both varieties contain Ginsenosides. This is the compound that gives Ginseng’s health boosting and medicinal qualities. The two varieties’ benefits are similar, but not exactly the same.
Fresh ginseng is harvested before 4 years, while white (American) ginseng is harvested between 4–6 years and red (Asian) ginseng is harvested after 6 or more years.
White (American) and Red (Asian) ginseng vary in their concentration of active compounds and how these can effect your body. It's believed that American ginseng works as more of a relaxing agent, whereas the Asian variety has more of an invigorating and energizing effect.
Ginseng contains two significant compounds: ginsenosides and gintonin. These compounds complement one another to provide its wide range of health benefits.
Native Americans once used the ginseng root as a stimulant and headache remedy, as well as a treatment for infertility, fever, and indigestion, the same reasons for why we use ginseng today. Approximately 6 million Americans take advantage of the proven health benefits of ginseng regularly.
The unique and beneficial compounds of the Panax species are called ginsenosides, and they’re currently under clinical research to investigate their potential for medical use. Both Asian and American ginseng contain ginsenosides, but they include different types in different amounts.
Research has varied, and some experts aren’t yet convinced that there’s enough data to label the medical capabilities of ginseng, but for centuries people have believed in its beneficial compounds and results.
Ginseng is often sold as an herbal supplement. There are no regulated manufacturing standards in place for many herbal compounds and some marketed supplements have been found to be contaminated with toxic metals or other drugs. Herbal/health supplements should be purchased from a reliable source to minimize the risk of contamination.
1. Improves Brain Function
Ginseng can help improve your brain functions such as memory, behavior, and helps elevate your mood.
Panax Ginseng works on the brain to offer memory enhancing effects by increasing survival and proliferation of brain cells. As an antioxidant, it prevents free radical damage to vulnerable brain cells.
This immensely contributes to prevention of memory loss and protects against age-related mental decline. Ginseng is also a promising neuroprotective agent that protects brain health from diseases that rob it of its learning and information-retention ability.
Ginseng stimulates your brain cells, improves concentration, and cognitive activities. Evidence shows that taking Panax ginseng root daily for 12 weeks can improve mental performance in people with Alzheimer’s disease.
Some test-tube and animal studies show that components in ginseng, like ginsenosides and compound K, could protect the brain against damage caused by free radicals.
One study followed 30 healthy people who consumed 200 mg of Panax ginseng daily for four weeks. At the end of the study, they showed improvement in mental health, social functioning and mood.
However, these benefits stopped being significant after 8 weeks,this suggests that ginseng effects will stagnate with extended use.
Another study examined how single doses of either 200 or 400 mg of Panax ginseng affected mental performance, mental fatigue and blood sugar levels in 30 healthy adults before and after a 10-minute mental test.
The 200-mg dose, as opposed to the 400-mg dose, was more effective at improving mental performance and fatigue during the test.
This final study done at the Department of Neurology at the Clinical Research Institute in South Korea, investigated the effectiveness of ginseng on the cognitive performance of patients with Alzheimer’s disease.
After ginseng treatment, the participants showed improvements, and this upscale trend continued for three months. After discontinuing ginseng treatment, the improvements declined to the levels of the control group.
2. Improves Mood while Reducing Stress and Anxiety
Anxiety, though not life-crippling, can negatively affect one’s competitive edge. The urge to meet the demands placed by individual goals, competitors and the environment itself often cause stress and anxiety. Not all of the anxiety is bad- in acceptable levels it psyches one up both mentally and physically. However, if too much, it harnesses one’s power over situations and directly affects the ability to cope with the competitive environment. What results is self-doubt and a drop in performance.
Panax Ginseng shows a superior level of regulation of stress as compared to other adaptogens. In a study carried out by Northumbria University in Newcastle, UK, the researchers tested the claim that Panax Ginseng delivers a calming effect.
The researchers found out that study participants taking 400mg showed improved calmness. The participants reported better overall well-being, higher energy levels, sleep, sex life, and personal satisfaction. The calming effect is attributed to the ability and effectiveness of its ginsenosides to control the feel-good hormone, serotonin and to boost your energy levels.
Panax Ginseng as an adaptogen also supports the adrenal function by making the body more resilient to mental, physical, and environmental stressers. When compared to caffeine, Panax Ginseng acts as a thermostat that nourishes adrenal glands, unlike caffeine which stresses them.. This way, Panax Ginseng helps to regulate the hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis, in order to respond to stressful situations.
A controlled study done at the Brain Performance and Nutrition Research Centre in the United Kingdom involved 30 volunteers who were given three rounds of treatments of ginseng and placebo.
The study was done to gather data about ginseng’s ability to improve mood and mental function. The results found that 200 milligrams of ginseng for eight days slowed the fall in mood, but also slowed the participants’ response to mental arithmetic. The 400 milligram dose improved calmness and improved mental arithmetic for the duration of the eight-day treatment.
Another study done at the Division of Pharmacology at the Central Drug Research Institute tested the effects of Panax ginseng on rats with chronic stress and found that it “has significant anti-stress properties and can be used for the treatment of stress-induced disorders.” The 100 milligram dose of Panax ginseng reduced the ulcer index, adrenal gland weight and plasma glucose levels, making it a powerful medicinal option for chronic stress, a great natural remedy for ulcers, and heals adrenal fatigue.
3. Contains Potent Antioxidants That May Reduce Inflammation
Ginseng has beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
Some test-tube studies have shown that ginseng extracts and ginsenoside compounds could inhibit inflammation and increase antioxidant capacity in cells.
For example, a test-tube study found that Korean red ginseng extract reduced inflammation and improved antioxidant activity in skin cells from people who suffer from eczema.
These results are promising for the average person as well.
One study investigated the effects of having 18 young male athletes take 2 grams of Korean red ginseng extract three times per day for seven days.
The men then had levels of certain inflammatory markers tested after performing an exercise test. These levels were significantly lower than in the placebo group, lasting for up to 72 hours after testing.
Lastly, a larger study followed 71 postmenopausal women who took 3 grams of red ginseng or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. Antioxidant activity and oxidative stress markers were then measured.
These researchers concluded that red ginseng can help reduce oxidative stress by increasing antioxidant enzyme activities.
Another animal study measured ginseng’s anti-inflammatory benefits. Korean red ginseng was tested for its anti-allergenic properties on 40 mice with allergic rhinitis, a common upper airway inflammatory disease typically seen in children and adults.
At the end of the trial, the Korean red ginseng reduced the nasal allergic inflammatory reaction in the mice, showcasing ginseng’s place among the best anti-inflammatory foods.
4. Helps with Weight Loss and Appetite Suppression
Another unexpect benefit from ginseng consumption is its ability to work as a natural appetite suppressant. It also boosts your metabolism which helps the body burn fat at a faster rate.
Ginseng supplements are available in the form of capsules, energy drinks, powder, wines, etc. Making it easy for you to make a choice with how you want to consume ginseng. Alternatively, you can also try adding sliced roots of ginseng to your soups, and ginseng powder can be sprinkled over your main meals like your salads and pastas.
However, ginseng shouldn't be depended on to take care of your weight loss goals (unless you're below 10% body fat).
Without a proper diet, relying on ginseng alone won’t help you in losing weight, especially not when you're early in the process.
There was a recent study done at the Tang Center for Herbal Medicine Research that measured the anti-diabetic and anti-obesity effects of Panax ginseng berry in adult mice.
The mice were injected with 150 milligrams of ginseng berry extract per kilogram of body weight for 12 days. By the fifth day, the mice taking the ginseng extract had significantly lower fasting blood glucose levels. After day 12, the glucose tolerance in the mice increased and overall blood glucose levels decreased by just over 53%.
The treated mice also showed signs of weight loss, starting at 51 grams and ending the treatment at 45 grams.
A similar study done in 2009 found that Panax ginseng plays a vital role in the anti-obesity effect in mice, which suggests that when wanting to improve your management of obesity and related metabolic syndromes, its best when supplemented with ginseng.
5. Imporves Lung Function and Efficiency
Recieving Ginseng treatment have shown to significantly decrease lung bacteria in our respitory system, and studies involving rats have shown that ginseng can stop the growth of a common lung infection called Pseudomonas Aeruginosa. In one 1997 study, rats were given ginseng injections, and after two weeks, the treated group showed significantly improved bacterial clearance in the lungs.
6. Boosts Your Immune System
Another large selling point from ginseng's benefit is its ability to boost your immune system, helping the body fight off various infections and diseases.
The roots, stems, and leaves of ginseng have been used for maintaining immune homeostasis and enhancing resistance to illness or infection.
Several clinical studies have shown that American panax ginseng improves the performance of cells that play a role in immunization. Ginseng regulates each type of immune cell which includes macrophages, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, T and B cells.
Supplementing with ginseng helps produce antimicrobial compounds that works as a defense mechanism against bacterial and viral infections.
Many pieces of research involving mice showed that ginseng decreased the number of harmful bacteria found in the spleen, kidney, and blood of the mice.
There are also numerous reports which mentions ginseng also having inhibitory effects on the growth of many viruses, such as the influenza viruse, HIV, and rotavirus.
Side Effects and Detriments
According to many research papers, ginseng appears to be safe and is most likely not likely to produce any serious adverse side effects.
However, people using diabetes medications should monitor their blood sugar levels closely when using ginseng to ensure these levels don't drop too low.
On top of that, ginseng may reduce the effectiveness of certain anticoagulant drugs because of its ability to thin your blood. For these reasons, it's best to talk to your health care provider before supplementing with ginseng.
Note that due to the lack of safety studies, ginseng is not recommended for children or women who are pregnant or currently breastfeeding.
Long term exposure to ginseng will decrease its effectiveness over time. So it's best to take ginseng in cycles, such as 1 dose every 2-3 days rather than daily.
You should definitely consider stopping your use of ginseng and call your healthcare provider at once if you're experiencing any of the following common side effects:
Severe skin reactions, fever, sore throat, swelling in your face or tongue, burning in your eyes, skin pain, followed by a red or purple skin rash that spreads and may cause peeling.
Some other moderately rare side effects when supplementing with ginseng include:
Rating and Recommendation
To summarize ginseng in a nutshell, it has lots of benefits while having lots of negative side effects, like a double-edged sword.
If you're thinking about taking ginseng supplements, what we'd recommend doing is the following. Get a physical ginseng plant and add it to your foods (in small doses).
By either shaving and mixing ginseng to mix with your meals, steeping ginseng in hot water to infuse it into a tea. See how your body reacts to small doses, and increase your ginseng intake over a few days.
If you haven't experienced any of the side effects, you can safely consider getting ginseng supplements.
However, if you've experienced any of the previous symptoms, you must stop consuming ginseng plants and supplements immediately and talk about it with your doctor.
For those who can safely get the benefits of ginseng, are going to reap a mariad of health benefits, you should supplement with ginseng every 2rd day at best, but no more than 3 times per week.
3. Drugs Exp Clin Res. (1996 Jan 06) Efficacy and safety of the standardised Ginseng extract G115 for potentiating vaccination against the influenza syndrome and protection against the common cold [corrected].
|Amount Per Serving|
|Calories 80||Calories from Fat 9|
|% Daily Value*|
|Total Fat 1 g||2 %|
|Saturated Fat 0 g||0 %|
|Polyuns. fat 0 g|
|Monouns. fat 0 g|
|Trans Fat 0 g|
|Cholesterol 0 mg||0 %|
|Sodium 13 mg||1 %|
|Total Carbohydrate 18 g||6 %|
|Dietary Fiber 2 g||8 %|
|Sugars 1.5 g|
|Protein 2 g|
|Vitamin A 0 %||Vitamin C 8.5 %|
|Vitamin E 0 %||Vitamin K 0 %|
|Calcium 1 %||Iron 3.5 %|
Calories per gram:
Fat: 9 | Carbohydrate: 4 | Protein: 4