Health Benefits of Ginseng
Ginseng is the fleshy root of plants that belong to the genus Panax. It is classified into fresh (harvested before 4 years), white (harvested between 4 and 6 years) or red (harvested after more than 6 years). The major active compounds are ginsenosides and gintonin which work together to provide health benefits.
There are many types of ginseng. The most popular are South China ginseng (Panax notoginseng), Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).
Ginseng is one of the many herbs in traditional Chinese herbal medicine. Here are some of the benefits.
Ginseng has antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties that have been tested and confirmed in laboratory studies and in humans. In clinical studies, red ginseng reduced inflammation caused by eczema, it reduced inflammation markers in athletes and it increased antioxidant activity in postmenopausal women.
Ginseng improves mental functions, and feelings of calmness and mood in healthy people and those with Alzheimer’s disease. In one study, 30 healthy people improved mental health, social functioning and mood after taking 200mg of Korean ginseng for 4 weeks. It also benefited people with Alzheimer’s disease greatly in another study.
In Chinese herbal medicine Ginseng is used to improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction by increasing blood flow in penile muscles and decreasing oxidative stress in tissues. In one study, men who took Korean red ginseng improved symptoms of erectile dysfunction by 60% while a medication that is used to treat ED gave 30% improvement.
Ginseng has been found to strengthen the immune system in people with cancer and to enhance the effects of certain vaccinations. In one study, 39 stomach cancer sufferers recovering from surgery took 5,400mg of ginseng daily for 24 months. Their immune functions improved significantly and they had lower recurrence of symptoms.
Ginseng has been found to reduce inflammation, provide antioxidant protection and prevent abnormal cell development, which all help to decrease the risk of some types of cancer. Several studies have concluded that ginseng reduces risks of cancer in people who take it regularly by 16%.
Ginseng fights fatigue and enhances physical activity by increasing energy production in cells and reducing oxidative damage. In one study, 90 people with chronic fatigue took either 1-2 grams of Korean ginseng or placebo for 4 weeks. Those who took the herb had reduced fatigue and less oxidative stress than the placebo group
Ginseng controls blood glucose levels in people with or without diabetes. It improves pancreatic function, increases insulin production and enhances uptake of blood sugar in the cells.
Ginseng can be taken in many ways but the daily intake should be between 1-2g of raw ginseng or 200-400mg of extract. Start with a lower dose and increase gradually.
There are no known side effects. Diabetics taking diabetes medication should consult their physician before taking ginseng because it lowers blood sugar. People taking anticoagulant medication should also consult their physicians because ginseng reduces its effectiveness. No one knows whether ginseng is safe for children and women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Since its effectiveness decreases with extended use, it is wise to take it on and off.