7 Powerful Health Benefits of Ginseng

Ginseng is a root with an ancient history of use as medicine. Today, scientific research is confirming the herb’s potential to improve health and help protect against diseases. Ginseng is often used today as an exercise performance enhancer, an aphrodisiac, and an immune system booster. It’s commonly dried and powdered, then taken as capsules. However, you can also find ginseng tea and ginseng tinctures. The taste of ginseng is bitter and cleansing.

Types of Ginseng

The two varieties of ginseng include:

  • Asian ginseng, also called Korean ginseng (scientific name Panax ginseng)
  • American ginseng, or Panax quinquefolius

Asian and American ginseng contain similar compounds, but given they grow in different climates, they aren’t exactly the same. While both are adaptogens and have similar health-protective benefits, Asian ginseng is more stimulating, and American ginseng is more calming.

7 Ginseng Benefits and Uses

Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) and other ancient systems of medicine for good reasons. Here are the effects of ginseng that have been reported in today’s scientific literature:

1. Boosts Brain Function

One of the most promising studies done on ginseng’s benefits is a 12-week study involving Alzheimer’s patients. By the end of the study, the ginseng group tested higher in cognitive performance relative to the control group.[1] Young people may also benefit from the cognitive enhancement ginseng provides. In a trial involving children with ADHD, ginseng combined with omega-3 supplements was shown to improve memory recall and attention span.[2] In another study, ginseng given to healthy adults was shown to improve cognitive performance in mental arithmetic tasks and relieve mental fatigue.[3]

2. Lowers High Blood Sugar

Bioactive molecules in ginseng, known as ginsenosides, are responsible for anti-diabetic effects in people with prediabetes and in people with type 2 diabetes.[4] As many as 12 human trials have been done on diabetes patients, and ginseng has been found to improve glucose uptake and regulate insulin production to produce anti-diabetic effects.[5]

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3. Increases Libido

Asian ginseng in particular is known for boosting libido and reversing symptoms of erectile dysfunction. It’s known as an aphrodisiac in Korean and Chinese systems of medicine. Scientific studies on both animals and humans confirm it enhances sexual behavior. In fact, ginseng is shown to increase sperm count and quality in men.[6] In a study on menopausal women, Asian ginseng was shown to improve sexual arousal.[7]

4. May Improve Energy Levels

As an adaptogen, ginseng can help you adapt to stress, increase your energy levels, and even improve exercise performance.[8] According to one review of 10 studies, ginseng reversed chronic fatigue symptoms in just 15 days.[9]

5. Helps Protect Against Cancer

In addition to providing antioxidant support and lowering inflammation, ginseng also has direct anti-cancer actions.[10] In one meta-analysis of scientific studies that looked at the impact of ginseng on your risk for cancer, researchers concluded regularly taking ginseng can lower your cancer risk by 16%.[11]

6. Lowers Cholesterol

High cholesterol elevates your risk for heart disease, as the buildup of unhealthy cholesterol in your bloodstream causes arterial plaque. The anti-cholesterol plant chemicals found in ginseng can help protect against heart disease by lowering high cholesterol levels. Studies show that ginseng supplementation lowers levels of harmful cholesterol known as LDL cholesterol while raising levels of HDL cholesterol, which is the healthy fat that helps keep LDL cholesterol levels down.[12]

7. Reduces Inflammation

Chronic inflammation is another factor that contributes to the development of heart disease, as well as other chronic diseases. Ginseng has been found to have powerful inflammation-lowering effects. In one animal study, ginseng’s inflammation-lowering capacity was attributed to its ability to reverse brain damage.[13] By keeping inflammation at bay, regular ginseng supplementation could potentially help prevent neurodegenerative diseases, heart disease, and even depression — which has also been linked with chronic inflammation.

Ginseng Doses and Side Effects

As with any herbal supplement, you should adhere to the recommended daily dosage on the product label. Some products may be concentrated in ginseng’s active chemicals, whereas other products may be powdered in ginseng’s whole form.

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For whole powdered ginseng root, you can take up to 2 grams daily. Start with half a gram once or twice a day when you first start using ginseng, as it could potentially cause side effects. Potential side effects include mood changes, blood pressure changes, loss of appetite, insomnia, elevated heart rate, heart palpitations, menstrual irregularities, and more. Any herb can potentially cause an allergic reaction, so be sure to stop taking ginseng if you have any adverse effects.

Supplementing with Ginseng

There are many reasons ginseng has been highly revered as a staple in traditional systems of medicine. Ginseng can act as a natural remedy for low sex drive, it can help curb high blood sugar, boost mental performance and enhance energy. New research points to ginseng even protecting against cancer. To reap the benefits of ginseng, you can take a capsule supplement, drink ginseng tea or take a ginseng tincture.

It’s important to remember that even natural compounds can have unwanted side effects. To ensure your safety, it’s always a good idea to speak with a healthcare professional before taking herbal products or other supplements, particularly if you have medical conditions, are already taking medications or supplements, or are pregnant.

References:

  1. Panax ginseng enhances cognitive performance in Alzheimer disease” by Soon-Tae Lee, Kon Chu, Ji-Young Sim, Jae-Hyeok Heo and Manho Kim, July 2008, Alzheimer Disease & Associated Disorders.
    DOI: 10.1097/WAD.0b013e31816c92e6
  2. “Effect of Omega-3 and Korean Red Ginseng on Children with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder: An Open-Label Pilot Study” by Jeewon Lee, Areum Lee, Ji-Hoon Kim, Yun Mi Shin, Seong-Ju Kim, Woo Dong Cho and Soyoung Irene Lee, 29 February 2020, Clinical Psychopharmacology and Neuroscience.
    DOI: 10.9758/cpn.2020.18.1.75
  3. “Effects of Panax ginseng, consumed with and without glucose, on blood glucose levels and cognitive performance during sustained ‘mentally demanding’ tasks” by Jonathon L. Reay, David O. Kennedy and Andrew B. Scholey, 9 January 2006, Journal of Psychopharmacology.
    DOI: 10.1177/0269881106061516
  4. “Review of Ginseng Anti-Diabetic Studies” by Wei Chen, Prabhu Balan and David G. Popovich, 9 December 2019, Molecules.
    DOI: 10.3390/molecules24244501
  5. “Ginseng and diabetes: the evidences from in vitro, animal and human studies” by Hai-Dan Yuan 1, Jung Tae Kim, Sung Hoon Kim and Sung Hyun Chung, January 2012, Journal of Ginseng Research.
    DOI: 10.5142/jgr.2012.36.1.27
  6. “Ginseng and male reproductive function” by Kar Wah Leung and Alice ST Wong, 1 July 2013, Spermatogenesis.
    DOI: 10.4161/spmg.26391
  7. “Effects of Korean red ginseng on sexual arousal in menopausal women: placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover clinical study” by Kyung-Jin Oh, Myeong-Jeong Chae, Hyun-Suk Lee, Hee-Do Hong and Kwangsung Park, 5 February 2010, The Journal of Sexual Medicine.
    DOI: 10.1111/j.1743-6109.2009.01700.x
  8. “Adaptogenic effects of Panax ginseng on modulation of cardiovascular functions” by Muhammad Irfan, Yi-Seong Kwak, Chang-Kyun Han, Sun Hee Hyun and Man Hee Rhee, 28 March 2020, Journal of Ginseng Research.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jgr.2020.03.001
  9. “Ginseng as a Treatment for Fatigue: A Systematic Review” by Noël M. Arring, Denise Millstine, Lisa A. Marks and Lillian M. Nail, 1 July 2018, The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine.
    DOI: 10.1089/acm.2017.0361
  10. “Recent advances in ginseng as cancer therapeutics: a functional and mechanistic overview” by Alice S. T. Wong, Chi-Ming Che and Kar-Wah Leung, 27 October 2014, Natural Product Reports.
    DOI: 10.1039/C4NP00080C
  11. “Ginseng consumption and risk of cancer: A meta-analysis” by Xin Jin, Dao-biao Che, Zhen-hai Zhang, Hong-mei Yan, Zeng-yong Jia and Xiao-bin Jia, 2 September 2015, Journal of Ginseng Research.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jgr.2015.08.007
  12. “Adaptogenic effects of Panax ginseng on modulation of cardiovascular functions” by Muhammad Irfan, Yi-Seong Kwak, Chang-Kyun Han, Sun Hee Hyun and Man Hee Rhee, 28 June 2020, Journal of Ginseng Research.
    DOI: 10.1016/j.jgr.2020.03.001
  13. “Therapeutic effect of Korean red ginseng on inflammatory cytokines in rats with focal cerebral ischemia/reperfusion injury” by Jong Seok Lee, Han Sung Choi, Sung Wook Kang, Joo-Ho Chung, Hun Kuk Park, Ju Yeon Ban, Oh Young Kwon, Hoon Pyo Hong and Young Gwan Ko, 2011, The American Journal of Chinese Medicine.
    DOI: 10.1142/S0192415X1100866X

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The purpose of this article is to provide information and should not be considered as medical advice. It should not be used in place of professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, it is important to speak with a qualified healthcare provider. The information provided in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

References

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About the Author: Tung Chi