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Ginseng

Sunday, April 18, 2021 • 8 minute read

What is Ginseng?

Ginseng refers to eleven different varieties of a short, slow-growing plant with thick, forked-shaped roots, a relatively long stalk, and bright green leaves. The two main types of ginseng used in supplements are Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).

Ginseng has been used in traditional medicine for centuries. It has been attributed to a huge range of benefits, which are now starting to be backed up by science through studies involving individuals supplementing their diet with the root.

What are the benefits?

Ginseng is believed to have powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties [1], [2]. There is also research linking the supplementation of Ginseng to a strengthened immune system and also to the reduction of the risk of developing different types of cancers [3], [4].

Several studies have demonstrated that Ginseng could help improve brain function, aiding memory as well as overall behavior and the moods you experience over the day [5], [6]. The root has also been seen to help fight feelings of tiredness and fatigue and boost your body's energy during day-to-day tasks [7], [8].

Ginseng also seems to be beneficial in helping both diabetic and non-diabetic people control their blood glucose levels [9], [10]. Ginseng has also been demonstrated to be a possible alternative treatment for those suffering from erectile dysfunction, improving sexual function in men [11] , [12].

How does Ginseng work?

Ginseng's antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effect is derived from its compounds working to reduce swelling and increase the antioxidant capacity of cells in the body, with researchers finding that ginseng may have adaptogenic properties through increasing antioxidant enzyme activities [1], [2].

The possible positive effects ginseng has on reducing the risk of cancer comes from its prevention of abnormal cell production in tumour and cancerous growths [4]. It may also be due to the enhancement of the effect of some chemotherapy drugs have on patients that are already diagnosed with the disease, as well as reducing the side effect of many treatments by helping the immune system fight off symptoms of the disease [3] .

Researchers found that ginseng assisted the uptake of blood sugar by cells, which may enhance the performance and reduce mental fatigue observed with people who take the supplement [5], [8]. Various animal studies have linked some components in ginseng with lower oxidative stress and higher energy production in cells, which could help fight fatigue and improve your mood throughout the day [6].

Both American and Asian ginseng have also been seen to improve pancreatic cell function, boosting the cells that produce insulin in the body as well as improve the absorption of blood sugar [9], [10]. Compounds found in Ginseng root may also aid blood vessels and tissues in the penis through production of nitric oxide, a compound that improves muscle relaxation and increases blood circulation in the penis, helping to restore normal sexual function for men suffering from erectile dysfunction [13].

How do you take Ginseng as a supplement?

Ginseng root can be taken in various different ways. It can be eaten raw or made into a tea, and is often added to different soups and recipes in Asian culture as a spice.

In supplement form, the root extract can be taken in powder, tablet, capsule and oil forms. We recommend that you follow the label instructions of the supplier in order to feel the full benefits of the extract as intended.

Are there any side effects?

The Food and Drug Administration has stated Ginseng to be “generally recognized as safe” (GRAS), but there can be mild side effects from taking the extract including headaches, dizziness and sometimes stomach upset and restlessness.

Please do not mix ginseng with antidepressants from the monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs) family. Taking these antidepressants at the same time as ginseng may cause manic episodes and tremors.

Ginseng can also affect the course of blood pressure, diabetes, and heart medications, causing unwanted reactions.

If you have any of the above, or if you have certain allergies plants, or are currently taking prescription medication, we highly recommend that you speak to your doctor or medical professional before supplementing your diet with ginseng.

References

[1] B. G. Park, H. J. Jung, Y. W. Cho, H. W. Lim, and C. J. Lim, “Potentiation of antioxidative and anti-inflammatory properties of cultured wild ginseng root extract through probiotic fermentation,” Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, vol. 65, no. 3, pp. 457–464, Mar. 2013, doi: 10.1111/jphp.12004.

[2] D. C. W. Lee and A. S. Y. Lau, “Effects of Panax ginseng on tumor necrosis factor-α-mediated inflammation: A mini-review,” Molecules, vol. 16, no. 4. Molecules, pp. 2802–2816, Apr. 2011, doi: 10.3390/molecules16042802.

[3] A. S. T. Wong, C. M. Che, and K. W. Leung, “Recent advances in ginseng as cancer therapeutics: A functional and mechanistic overview,” Natural Product Reports, vol. 32, no. 2. Royal Society of Chemistry, pp. 256–272, Feb. 01, 2015, doi: 10.1039/c4np00080c.

[4] X. Jin, D. B. Che, Z. H. Zhang, H. M. Yan, Z. Y. Jia, and X. bin Jia, “Ginseng consumption and risk of cancer: A meta-analysis,” Journal of Ginseng Research, vol. 40, no. 3, pp. 269–277, Jul. 2016, doi: 10.1016/j.jgr.2015.08.007.

[5] J. L. Reay, D. O. Kennedy, and A. B. Scholey, “Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity,” Journal of Psychopharmacology, vol. 19, no. 4, pp. 357–365, Jul. 2005, doi: 10.1177/0269881105053286.

[6] K. Radad, G. Gille, L. Liu, and W. D. Rausch, “Use of ginseng in medicine with emphasis on neurodegenerative disorders,” Journal of Pharmacological Sciences, vol. 100, no. 3. pp. 175–186, 2006, doi: 10.1254/jphs.CRJ05010X.

[7] J. Choi, T. H. Kim, T. Y. Choi, and M. S. Lee, “Ginseng for Health Care: A Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials in Korean Literature,” PLoS ONE, vol. 8, no. 4, Apr. 2013, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0059978.

[8] J. Wang et al., “Anti-fatigue activity of the water-soluble polysaccharides isolated from Panax ginseng C. A. Meyer,” Journal of Ethnopharmacology, vol. 130, no. 2, pp. 421–423, Jul. 2010, doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2010.05.027.

[9] E. Shishtar et al., “The effect of ginseng (The Genus Panax) on glycemic control: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials,” PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 9, Sep. 2014, doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0107391.

[10] J. Z. Luo and L. Luo, “Ginseng on Hyperglycemia: Effects and Mechanisms,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 6, no. 4, pp. 423–427, 2009, doi: 10.1093/ecam/nem178.

[11] H. Li, W. Y. He, F. Lin, and X. Gou, “Panax notoginseng saponins improve erectile function through attenuation of oxidative stress, restoration of akt activity and protection of endothelial and smooth muscle cells in diabetic rats with erectile dysfunction,” Urologia Internationalis, vol. 93, no. 1, pp. 92–99, 2014, doi: 10.1159/000354878.

[12] B. Hong, Y. H. Ji, J. H. Hong, K. I. Y. Nam, and T. Y. Ahn, “A double-blind crossover study evaluating the efficacy of korean red ginseng in patients with erectile dysfunction: A preliminary report,” Journal of Urology, vol. 168, no. 5, pp. 2070–2073, Nov. 2002, doi: 10.1016/S0022-5347(05)64298-X.

[13] E. de Andrade et al., “Study of the efficacy of Korean Red Ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction,” Asian Journal of Andrology, vol. 9, no. 2, pp. 241–244, Mar. 2007, doi: 10.1111/j.1745-7262.2007.00210.x.