8 reasons why the Chinese call ginseng The King of Herbs
Studies have suggested that ginseng reduces physical, chemical and biological stress, while increasing overall vitality and immune function, including physical and mental capacity.
Author: Rositsa Tashkova, Master of Molecular Biology and Microbiology
Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a traditional herbal medicine used in Asian countries for more than 2,000 years. It is considered the most valuable of all medicinal plants, especially in Korea, China and Japan. The name "Panax" means "all-healing" and probably stems from the belief that the various properties of ginseng can cure all aspects of the disease in the human body.
To this day, not only in Asian countries, ginseng is used to restore and increase vital energy. The most common types of ginseng are Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), Chinese ginseng (Panax notoginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).
The healing properties of ginseng
Many laboratory and clinical studies have examined the pharmaceutical effects, efficacy and active components of ginseng. It contains two important compounds: ginsenosides and gintonin. Many of the health benefits of the herb are due to their action in combination.
Studies have suggested that ginseng reduces physical, chemical and biological stress, while increasing overall vitality and immune function - including physical and mental capacity.
Ginseng is useful for blood sugar control, central nervous system function, prevention of acute lung diseases and cerebrovascular function.
In this article, we will consider the main positive health effects that ginseng exhibits and for which there is data in the scientific literature.
Ginseng may lower blood sugar
Various studies have shown that ginseng has the property of lowering blood sugar in both healthy people and diabetes patients. [ref.1] The red Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) appears to have a greater effect.
Ginseng is called fresh, white or red, depending on how old the plant was when its root was taken. The fresh one is up to 4 years old, the white one - between 4 and 6 years old, and the red one is taken from a plant over 6 years old.
Ginseng may improve mental health
Ginseng intake (even one-off) has been found to improve mental functions such as memory, attention and even affect mood. [ref.2]
According to one of the studies, these effects decrease after taking the herb for more than 8 weeks. It seems the dose of 200 to 400 mg of ginseng daily is optimal. [ref.3]
Ginseng may help Alzheimer's patients
Several studies have shown that ginseng intake may improve the mental and behavioral abilities of Alzheimer's patients. It is believed that the herb may have a protective effect on the brain and memory. [ref.4]
Cardiovascular system benefits from ginseng intake
The active substances in ginseng - ginsenosides, manifest their wide range of actions and on the cardiovascular system [ref.5], by:
- inhibition of the production of reactive oxygen species (antioxidant action),
- stimulating the production of NO,
- improving blood circulation,
- increasing the vasomotor tone,
- lipid profile regulation.
Chinese ginseng (P. notoginseng) suppress atherosclerosis by regulating lipids and due to its anti-inflammatory effects.
Ginseng also has anti-clotting (anticoagulant) properties and inhibits platelet aggregation. Attention, attention! It has been found that American ginseng (P. quinquefolium) reduces the anticoagulant effect of the drug warfarin, while Korean ginseng (P. ginseng) does not interact with warfarin.
Read more: Herbs for a healthy heart. Part 1
May reduce severity of respiratory infections
A number of studies have demonstrated the ability of ginseng to reduce the likelihood of infections in the lung and respiratory tract. Studies have looked at the effects of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and found that it might be particularly helpful against severe course of the infection. [ref.6]
Ginseng - rich in antioxidants and has an anti-inflammatory effect
It is believed that red ginseng can help reduce oxidative stress by increasing the activity of antioxidant enzymes in the body. Both Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American (Panax quinquefolius) show antioxidant activity [ref.7, ref.8].
Ginseng fights chronic fatigue
Many studies have shown that ginseng intake can help chronic fatigue sufferers by providing a rush of energy and vitality.
It is believed that this is due to a decrease in the oxidative stress damage and an increase in energy production in cells. [ref.9]
Anti-cancer properties of ginseng
According to one study, ginseng intake can reduce the risk of developing cancer by 16%. According to another - it reduces the risk of certain cancers, such as cancer of the lips, mouth, esophagus, stomach, colon, liver and lung [ref.10].
Ginseng also has the abillity to alleviate the severe side effects of chemotherapy and radiotherapy - it helps against gastrointestinal toxicity, reduces the symptoms of nausea, vomiting, shortness of breath and fatigue, supports the blood-forming process and has a protective effect on the heart. Of course, its intake in case of oncological disease must necessarily be discussed with your oncologist.
Side effects of ginseng intake
Ginseng intake is rated as safe. Due to lack of sufficient information, it is not recommended for children, pregnant and lactating women.
Side effects are rare, but we still need to mention them. They are different for different types of ginseng. Korean ginseng can cause gastrointestinal problems ranging from stomach discomfort and nausea to vomiting and diarrhea, red ginseng - may upset your stomach, and American can cause insomnia, headaches, chest discomfort and diarrhea. [ref.1]
Ginseng may interact with or alter the effect of certain medicines, such as warfarin for blood thinning. It is not advisable to take caffeine as it may cause insomnia. Consult a doctor if you are taking:
- blood pressure medicine,
- anticoaguants (blood-thinners),
- monoamine oxidase inhibitor,
- medicines that suppress the immune system,
- insulin (for diabetics).
Another interesting fact is that the positive effects of taking this herb may decrease over time. Therefore, it is recommended to take it for 2-3 weeks, followed by 1 week of rest.
The benefits of ginseng are innumerable, and there is no way to cover them in just one article. Research on this valuable herb continues, and its well-established effectiveness has made it available worldwide.
- Systematic Review of Randomized Controlled Trials Evaluating the Efficacy and Safety of Ginseng, 2011, JAMS Journal of Acupuncture and Meridian Studies
- Modulation of cognition and mood following administration of single doses of Ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and a ginkgo/ginseng combination to healthy young adults, 2002, Physiology & Behavior
- Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity, 2005, Journal of Psychopharmacology
- Panax ginseng enhances cognitive performance in Alzheimer disease, 2008, Alzheimer Disease and Associated Disorders
- A review on the medicinal potentials of ginseng and ginsenosides on cardiovascular diseases, 2014, Journal of Ginseng Research
- A placebo-controlled trial of a proprietary extract of North American ginseng (CVT-E002) to prevent acute respiratory illness in institutionalized older adults, 2004, Journal of the American Geriatrics Society
- Antioxidant effects of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer in healthy subjects: A randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 2011, Food and Chemical Toxicology
- Antioxidant properties of a North American ginseng extract, 2000, Molecular and Cellular Biochemistry
- Anti-Fatigue Effects of Small Molecule Oligopeptides Isolated from Panax ginseng C. A. Meyer in Mice, 2017, Nutrients
- Preventive effect of ginseng intake against various human cancers: a case-control study on 1987 pairs, 1995, Cancer Epidemiology Biomarkers and Prevention
👩 🔬 Rositsa Tashkova-Kacharova has a Bachelor degree in Molecular Biology and a Master's degree in Microbiology and Microbiological Control. She completed her Master's thesis at the University of Nantes, France. At that time she painted a Christmas tree of bacteria and inspired the announcement of the first competition for drawing with microorganisms Agar Art. For 3 years she was the editor of the journal Bulgarian Science and continues to write about science and medicine.