Updated: Apr 11, 2019
Ginseng is an ancient herb used by mankind to treat various diseases and for its magnificent health benefits since ancient times but has recently gained worldwide popularity. Panax Ginseng, the scientific name of Korean ginseng is derived from the Greek language meaning “cure-all”. In Chinese, it is called rénshēn (simplified: 人参; traditional: 人蔘), literally meaning “the essence of the earth in the shape of a man" because of its close resemblance with the human body. This resemblance appears to be the reason that traditional herbalists considered ginseng as a full body treatment. Benefits of ginseng are in-numerous and will be discussed soon.
Early history of Ginseng
Ginseng was discovered in the mountains of Northern China (Manchuria) over five thousand years ago when it was first used as an oriental herb.
Since then Ginseng has been in high demand in China and Korean making it one of the most expensive herbs. At one time, Emperors were willing to pay its weight in gold for this divine herb. The use of Ginseng was reserved for royalty only and if non-royalty was caught, punishment could be as severe as death.
The first mention of ginseng was found in the book - Shang han-lun (translated as “A treatise on diseases caused by cold”, written by the Chinese physician Chang Chung-ching who lived during the Latter Han Dynasty (196-230 C.E.). In his book, Chang explained 113 prescriptions of which 21 used ginseng.
The earliest documented usage of ginseng refers back to a two thousand-year-old Chinese book of the Chien Han Era (33-48 B.C.E.).
Proven Benefits of Ginseng
Ginseng is known to improve endurance and possess anti-inflammatory properties. 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.
Another study involving 71 postmenopausal women who took 3 grams of red ginseng or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. On measuring their antioxidant activity and oxidative stress, it was concluded that red ginseng increases antioxidant enzyme activity resulting in reduced oxidative stress.
Fortify the immune system
Ginseng plays the role of an “adaptogen” and has known to strengthen the immune system especially in recovery from a disease.
Trials have shown that people recovering from surgery for stomach cancer significantly improved immune function and suppressed the recurrence of symptoms on consuming 5400 mg of ginseng daily for 2 years.
Ginseng may also enhance the effect of vaccinations against diseases like influenza.
While ginseng have shown improved immunity in people recovering from disease, further studies are required to conclude the immunity boosting capability on healthy people.
Boost energy and delays fatigue
Korean ginseng helps increase stamina, energy and strength which improves the overall physical performance. And the best part is the energy ginseng gives is organic and smooth whereas the energy from other stimulants such as caffeine can overstimulate and lead to dips in energy levels once the effect wears off. Ginseng being an Adaptogen has dual actions, meaning that it provides energy while calming you at the same time.
Another study shows the anti-fatigue effects of Panax Ginseng on people with chronic fatigue.
Improve mental health and reduce stress
Ginseng acts as an antioxidant and protects vulnerable brain cells leading to improved brain activity. The herb has shown to elicit cognitive improvement in healthy young individuals (Research source). Another study showed improvement on a wide variety of mental tests, including mathematics. Research also shows improved mental performance for patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. The root possesses properties to tackle by reducing the stress hormone- cortisol and boosting capillary pressure in the brain.
Improve Sexual performance
Ginseng is a well-known aphrodisiac used to improve sexual function and libido in both men and women. Korean is considered an effective alternative treatment for Erectile dysfunction. In fact, a study showed 60% improvement in ED symptoms for the men who consumed Red Korean Ginseng compared to 30% improvement in placebo treated groups.
In general, scientists believe the link between ginseng and sex drive is due to ginseng's effect of strengthening overall health and balancing the hormonal system.
Regulate blood sugar
Ginseng controls blood glucose levels and has shown to improve pancreatic cell function by improving the uptake of blood sugar in tissues. It reduces free radical in the cells of those with diabetes by providing antioxidant protection.
Ginseng has shown positive indications in treating Diabetes, however further clinical studies are required to investigate the proper dosage and confirm it as a reliable treatment. Always consult your doctor before using ginseng or any other herb for such purposes.
Not all Ginseng are equal
There are 8 herbs in the ginseng family and all ginseng are not equal in terms of their effectiveness and healing properties. The three most commonly used ginseng species are: Korean Ginseng, American Ginseng and Siberian Ginseng.
Korean Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) is the most-well known type of ginseng and the primary focus of this article. It is considered to be heat producing and more “yang” stimulating than American or Siberian ginseng because of the variety and total quantity of saponins it produces. Korean ginseng is the most potent and expensive type of ginseng. This plant is mostly cultivated in the Korean peninsula, but in other regions of East Asia as well, such as Manchuria or Primorsky Krai. This ginseng is better suited for colder conditions and is associated with increased motivation and energy.
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius ) is widely grown in Ontario, Canada and M Marathon county in Wisconsin, US. It too contains the active ingredient - Ginsenosides but in a
variety. While the Korean ginseng is used for fulfilling Qi deficiency, it is suitable for “Yin” deficiency constitution hence used to cool down the body during fever. It has a moderate effect and is associated with calmness and is better suited for hotter conditions. The American variant is also known to improve cognitive ability and help with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder.
Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is not a “true ginseng” as it does not contain the active ingredients Ginsenosides. Instead, it constituents eleutherosides, that provides the adaptogenic effects of this herb. Siberian ginseng is less potent than the Asian variants and not nearly as much studied.
Difference between White and Red Ginseng
Panax Ginseng is available in 2 variants: White and Red. White ginseng becomes red Ginseng on repeated drying and steaming. This process was done in ancient times as a measure of preserving ginseng, however recent studies have shown that this actually changes the active physiological components, Ginsenosides in Panax Ginseng which makes it more beneficial in certain regards.
It is unclear which Ginsenosides are responsible for which health effects, however in general red ginseng is considered to be more energizing while ginseng is considered to have a more calming effect.
The best ginseng is grown for 6 years
The age of ginseng is responsible for the size of its roots and potency. The older the ginseng, richer are the constituents. A 6 years old ginseng is believed to be optimum as it has plenty of time to reach full maturity and potency by then. Most Korean Ginseng available in the market are 4 years or younger. Looking to buy 6 years old premium quality ginseng? Please visit: Buy Red Korean Ginseng
Whole roots are the best source
Like other products, ginseng is available in the market in different forms however opting for the whole roots ensures that you get the best quality as it is easy to identify. Capsules and extracts on the other hand, are almost impossible to scrutinize. Additionally, the benefits from whole herbs are broader than any other form.
Side effects and precautions of Ginseng
The benefits of ginseng are in-numerous as discussed previously. Although strong side effects from ginseng are rare, in some cases can cause insomnia, irritability and anxiety due to overstimulation. Long-term use may cause menstrual abnormalities and breast tenderness in some women.
Ginseng is considered quite safe however, there are few measures that should be taken care of -
Avoid Concurrent use with caffeine and other stimulants is not advised, as overstimulation may occur in susceptible persons.
Avoid taking at night. Ginseng is highly stimulating and can at times occasion sleeplessness.
Not recommended for people with high blood pressure.
Avoid using Korean ginseng if you're pregnant or breastfeeding.