Ginseng: Health Benefits, Risks, Uses, Dosage, Facts, and Nutrition

Ginseng is any one of 13 slow-growing plant species (with some scientists recognizing up to 18 species) of the Genus Panax that have been used in ancient Chinese medicine for centuries. They provide many health benefits such as increasing energy levels, ensuring better cognitive function, and lowering blood sugar. However, ginseng can lead to side effects such as vomiting, insomnia, and diarrhea if consumed in extreme excess.

Ginseng is widely used in the United States as a supplement, taken by mouth to relieve stress, improve concentration, or enhance the immune system. It can also be used as a dietary additive for increased physical stamina and libido. 

Known for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, ginseng contains two major compounds that produce its effects on the human body: ginsenosides and gintonin. The ginseng root, in particular, contains 2 to 3 percent ginsenosides, or steroid-like saponins. Of these, the most important ones are Rc, Rd, Re, Rb1, Rb2, Rg1, and Rb0. Gintonin, on the other hand, is a glycolipoprotein complex. It contains lysophosphatidic acids (LPAs), lysophosphatidylinositols (LPIs), and linoleic acid (LA). When isolated from the root, it generates a 0.2 percent yield, a study by Mi Kyung Pyo et al. found.

Asian ginseng (with the scientific name Panax Ginseng and also known as Korean Ginseng, Mountain Ginseng, and True Ginseng) is the most commonly used medicinal ginseng of the genus Panax. One of its main active components is ginsenosides, from which it derives its unique properties. Over 90 percent of the total ginsenosides in Asian ginseng are the ginsenosides Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Rd, Re, and Rg1. 

American ginseng, with the scientific name Panax Quinquefolius, is also used in herbal medicine. It contains many of the same bioactive components as Asian ginseng but has a unique ginsenoside, Pseudoginsenoside F11, which was found to have the potential of being developed as a treatment for Type 2 diabetes.

What are the Benefits of Ginseng and its Recommended Dosage?

The benefits of ginseng are numerous. One study found that Korean Red Ginseng, or heat-processed Korean Ginseng, in particular, stimulated the release of insulin from isolated rat pancreatic islets. This insulin release was observed at different glucose concentration levels – at a 3.3 mM level, at an 8.4mM concentration level, and at a 16.7 mM concentration level. The study results suggest that ginseng can be used for diabetic treatment. 

Ginseng has also been shown in research studies to have many other benefits at varying dosages. Below is a list of ginseng’s specific benefits:    

1. Energy Increase

Ginseng has been shown to increase energy levels. A study by Lei Bao and his team found that ginseng oligopeptides (GOP) isolated from ginseng and administered in mice inhibited the oxidative stress in the animals and enhanced the mitochondrial function in their skeletal muscles. These findings suggest that ginseng reduces fatigue.

The positive effects of ginseng on cognitive levels are well-documented as well. A study by H.G. Kim on 90 human subjects with idiopathic chronic fatigue concluded the positive benefits of Panax ginseng due to its antioxidant properties. These antioxidant properties, also present in Korean red ginseng, allow the herb to help improve the brain’s frontal lobe function. 

The results of research on what constitutes the ideal dosage of Ginseng supplements to increase energy levels vary. To alleviate cancer-related fatigue, one study recommends an intake of 2000 mg of American ginseng in two doses daily for eight weeks to reduce fatigue. Some studies also suggest taking one 100-400 mg dose of American ginseng one to six hours before an exam to improve mental performance.  

2. Libido Increase

Ginseng is considered an aphrodisiac. It is believed to contain properties that can treat sexual dysfunction and enhance sexual behavior. In healthy males and patients with infertility, it has been found to improve sperm quality and count. 

Ginseng promotes the production of nitric oxide as well. The compound helps improve penis relaxation by allowing blood circulation. Ginseng can do this because of its ginsenosides content. Taking ginseng after consuming any form of caffeine amplifies the positive effects of ginseng on libido.

Studies have also found that both Asian ginseng and American ginseng can increase libido. One study used 25 to 100 mg/kg of Asian ginseng or a 2.5, 5, and 10 mg/kg dose of ginsenoside Rg1 in American ginseng roots in mice. When exposed to females, there was an enhanced copulatory behavior – mounting, penis-licking, and intromission. Additional studies have found that taking three one-gram capsules of Panax ginseng daily for two weeks can increase libido in menopausal women. 

3. Better Cognitive Functionality

Ginseng can reduce oxidative stress, improving thinking processes and cognition, leading to an enhancement of the brain’s functions. Many of the active ingredients of ginseng produce anti-neuroinflammatory agents that can help in cognitive impairment. They regulate cholinergic, glutaminergic, and other molecular pathways essential for brain activity.

Comparatively, Ginkgo biloba supplements have similar effects as ginseng when consumed. Take 240 mg of Ginkgo by mouth daily for up to six months to improve memory and enhance cognitive functionality.

4. Better Brain Function

Ginseng has been shown to help with memory, behavior, and mood as well. There have been recent studies by Hyeon-Joon Kim and his team that show the two main active ingredients of ginseng produce anti-Alzheimer’s effects. Some studies done on test tubes and animals show that ginseng could protect against brain damage caused by free radicals. Continued consumption over more than five years may be beneficial to the brain later in life.

Ginkgo biloba has the same effect; it improves blood flow to the brain and acts as an antioxidant to protect the brain from any damage. Ginkgo biloba can also lead to better memory and increased cognitive speed. Some studies have shown its usage in treating tinnitus or ringing in the ears. A dose of 120 mg to 240 mg daily suffices to improve neurovascular functions.

5. Anti-Inflammatory

Ginseng is considered an effective herbal remedy to combat inflammation. A research study on the effects of consuming Korean Red ginseng found that it can suppress renal inflammation by inducing cellular autophagy. The result is a slowing down of the progress of renal disease.

Ginkgo extract can lower inflammatory markers in both human and animal cells. The suggested dose is an intake of 120–240 mg in multiple doses throughout the day.

6. Better Immune System

Ginseng has been shown to improve immunity and decrease the recurrence of illnesses in people who consume it. Studies on patients recovering from surgeries and other illnesses revealed significant improvements in immune functions, specifically increased resistance to infections. Additionally, it may have the ability to help prevent flu virus infections. East Asians in ancient times had long consumed ginseng in small doses to boost immunity, incurring no serious adverse effects.

Ginseng possesses antioxidants that contribute to enhanced immune system response. It is safe to take 120-240 mg daily, in divided doses.

 

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7. Lower Blood Sugar

Ginseng can also help control blood glucose levels. Studies have indicated that ginseng can improve pancreatic cell function, increase insulin production, and promote blood sugar absorption in tissues. It also benefits people with diabetes by providing antioxidant protection, thereby reducing the free radicals in cells. A study by Mi Ra Oh et al found blood sugar levels were decreased and insulin levels were increased in subjects who took 2.7 grams of fermented red ginseng daily, three times per day, for four weeks. 

Ginkgo biloba leaf extract may have therapeutic effects against Type 2 diabetes. It is frequently offered in the form of an oral tablet, an extract, a capsule, or tea. When consumed in small doses, it is not dangerous. However, it can interact with other medications and cause side effects.

What are the Side Effects of Ginseng?

Ginseng is regarded as safe for most people when used orally for a short period, but not all negative effects are known at this time. 

Common side effects of ginseng may include:

  • diarrhea
  • insomnia
  • headache
  • rapid heart rate
  • increased or decreased blood pressure
  • breast tenderness and vaginal bleeding

Uncommon side effects of ginseng may include:

  • Severe rash
  • Liver damage
  • Severe allergic reactions

If any of these side effects appear, speak with a doctor right away for more information. Exercise caution before taking any ginseng supplement when you are/have the following conditions:

  • Pregnant
  • Breast-feeding
  • Children
  • Autoimmune disease (Multiple sclerosis, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Bleeding conditions
  • Cardiovascular conditions
  • Hormone-sensitive conditions (Breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, endometriosis, or uterine fibroids)
  • Insomnia
  • Suppressed immune system
  • Schizophrenia

Experts recommend not to use ginseng for more than three months due to an increased risk of side effects.

How Does Ginseng Work Within the Human Body?

Ginseng saponins increase adrenocorticotropic hormone production (ACTH). It regulates the immune response and hormonal changes caused by stress, encouraging homeostasis, a state in which all body systems are in equilibrium and can function properly. 

Ginseng is an antioxidant; it cleanses the body of free radicals. These free radicals damage a person’s DNA, thereby causing illnesses that include diabetes and heart disease.

What are the Risks of Ginseng Usage?

Possible common side effects of consuming ginseng may include nervousness and insomnia. When taken in high doses, one may experience headaches, dizziness, and an upset stomach. These are, however, not causes for immediate concern. Menstrual changes may be observed for women consuming the herb as well. Consult your physician before taking ginseng if you are taking any medication since it may interact negatively with it.

Lindsy Liu, PharmD, listed several severe side effects that occur infrequently following ginseng consumption, including inflammation of the brain’s arteries (cerebral arteritis), severe skin reactions (Stevens-Johnson syndrome), liver inflammation (cholestatic hepatitis), and anaphylactic allergic reactions.

What are the Uses of Ginseng?

Ginseng root is utilized to enhance psychological function, athletic performance, immune function and alleviate symptoms of diabetes-related disorders. It is also used in many foods and beverages as well as dietary supplements and traditional medicine.

1. Food or Beverage

Ginseng is occasionally used as an ingredient in meals and energy drinks. It is used in a variety of banchan (side dishes) and guk (soups) in Korean cuisine. The root is most frequently available dried, whole, or sliced. Ginseng leaf, while not commonly used, can be utilized as a ginseng root alternative in some recipes.

It may also be used to enhance tea and alcoholic beverages. Korean ginseng-infused tea and liquor are typically consumed for their medicinal properties and are referred to as insam cha and insam-ju, respectively.

2. Dietary Supplement

Ginseng is one of the most effective dietary supplements for additional nutrition and active immune regulation. The aspects of ginseng have been shown to increase resistance to bacterial and viral infections, cancer, and autoimmune illnesses.

In the United States, ginseng, like other supplements, is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. Manufacturers have the responsibility of ensuring their products meet FDA and law requirements before these are sold in the market. If these don’t meet minimum requirements, the FDA may send warning letters or remove products from the market.

Chinese regulators officially classified the ginseng root as a dietary herb in 2012. As a result, manufacturers can now use it in healthy foods without seeking clearance from regulating authorities, provided there are no health claims made against the ginseng root. The Chinese, among other nationalities, consume Ginseng-infused teas and energy drinks. 

3. Traditional Medicine

In traditional medicine, ginseng is commonly consumed as a tea or eaten directly to treat a range of ailments. It is particularly beneficial in treating sleeplessness, impotence, anorexia, hypodynamia, diabetes mellitus, palpitation, bleeding, and shortness of breath. 

Ginseng has long been used in conventional medicine as well. However, there are still limited studies on its precise biological benefits. Clinical studies in patients with mild diabetes, however, indicate that ginseng may help in enhancing memory, reducing exhaustion, curing menopausal symptoms, and insulin responsiveness. 

Ginseng has a range of components, including ginsenosides, peptides, polysaccharides, and poly acetylenic alcohols. From a modern science perspective, these have beneficial effects on the central nervous system and can help ensure immunomodulation. They also have anticancer activity, according to Heeok Hong et al. The study found the ginsenosides in the herb, in particular, restrict cancer cell proliferation and promote apoptosis, a type of cell death the body resorts to cleanse itself of abnormal cells. Too little apoptosis occurs in cancer cells.  

4. Supplement Production

Ginseng supplements are a huge market worldwide. According to Global Market Insights, in 2018, the global ginseng extract market was worth $19.5 million. That figure, the report said, was expected to increase at a compound annual growth rate of over 7.5 percent between 2019 and 2026. The North American ginseng extracts industry, in particular, is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 8.2 percent from 2020 to 2026. 

Like any industry however, ginseng supplement production is not without issue. Some studies discovered inconsistent manufacturing practices for supplements, where they found contamination due to toxic metals or unrelated filler compounds in ginseng products. Additionally, excessive ginseng use has been linked to negative side effects and unfavorable interactions with some prescription medications.

5. FDA Warning Letters

The Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission sent distributors of Ginseng Power 5000, including Amazon, warning letters for selling a product they said contained an ingredient that wasn’t completely safe for consumption. The FDA said, based on its laboratory analysis, Ginseng Power 5000 contained tadalafil, an ingredient in Cialis, a prescription drug for erectile dysfunction. Although the FDA had approved Cialis for use, it said this should be on the condition the person consuming the drug was under the supervision of a licensed health professional. According to the FDA, tadalafil may interact with other drugs such as nitroglycerin and cause blood pressure levels to drop to dangerous levels. 

The letters sent specifically state, “products are not generally recognized as safe and effective for the referenced uses” and that the manufacture and sale of these products themselves violate federal law.

How to Determine the Proper Dosage for Ginseng

A meta-analysis on the clinical trials performed on ginseng from 2002 to 2017 found that the dosages administered in each trial vary, from 0.01 g per day to 15 g. Other numerous clinical investigations have shown doses of raw root ranging from 0.5 to 3 g/day and extracts ranging from 100 to 800 mg are acceptable and effective for a wide variety of uses.

There are no defined standard doses of ginseng to treat any condition specifically. The quality and active substances in supplements might also vary significantly between manufacturers. This makes it difficult to establish a standard dose. It is essential to always buy from a trustworthy company as ginseng is an expensive root, and the ginseng purchased from lesser-known companies may lead to adverse effects on the body when consumed.

What are the Facts about Ginseng?

Ginseng is a small, slow-growing plant with fleshy roots that comes in at least 13 different forms. It is sometimes referred to as an “adaptogen,” a chemical that helps the body cope with mental and physical stress. Its benefits include increased energy levels, lowered blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduced stress, relaxation, and diabetes treatment. 

What is the Nutritional Profile of Ginseng?

The nutritional value of ginseng is very high, with much of its value derived from the roots. Ginseng contains vitamins and minerals which are known to boost energy levels and the immune system. A 100-gram pack of dried ginseng powder contains 13 mg of Sodium, 415 mg of Potassium/Vitamin K, 80 Calories, 18 g of Carbohydrates, 2 g of protein, 8.5 g of Vitamin C, 1 g of Calcium, and 3.5 g of Iron.

The immune system-boosting properties of ginseng can be attributed in part to its high Vitamin C content. The mineral content of ginseng allows for the growth and proper functioning of the body on a daily basis. The body requires minerals found in ginseng for a variety of biological activities, ranging from the formation of strong bones to the transmission of nerve impulses. Some of these minerals are also responsible for the production of hormones and the maintenance of a normal heartbeat.

After oral consumption, intestinal bacteria break down ginseng for use in the body. The ginsenoside metabolites are then transferred from the stomach and circulated around the body.

What is Ginseng Processing?

Ginseng processing is the series of actions involved in the transformation of the herb from an agricultural product into a commercial one. It involves biological, physical, biochemical, and mechanical processes.  

Ginseng seeds usually germinate in the second spring after the fall berry harvest. They must first be stored for a long period in a wet environment (with alternating warm and cool temperatures) before they germinate. Below are the steps to follow for the processing of Ginseng once it is ready to be harvested:

  1. Selecting fresh ginseng: Fresh ginseng is carefully selected for harvesting, typically after four to five years. By then, the ginseng should have had at least four stem scars for every year of growth, indicating maturity. The dirt from the herb is shaken off once chosen.
  2. Washing: The ginseng is cleaned with water to eliminate any remaining foreign materials such as soil.
  3. Steaming: Fresh ginseng is steamed for 13 hours at 90° to 98° Celsius to ensure appropriate gelatinization of the ginseng starch content.
  4. Drying: Mechanical drying, or the use of air from commercial ginseng dryers, at 45 to 55 degrees Celsius is used to begin removing moisture. This is then followed by time spent sun-drying. The goal at this stage is to achieve a moisture content of 15 to 18 percent. This is a critical process in the making of dried red ginseng.
  5. Packaging: In Modified Atmosphere Packaging (MAP), Ginseng is packed using a selected film, creating an atmosphere with optimal concentrations of carbon dioxide and oxygen in which the product thrives. Red ginseng that has been sealed can be kept for up to ten years in a refrigerator.

Dietary supplements are becoming increasingly popular in Korea, owed to an increase in their disposable household income since 2017 when the government started focusing on “income-led growth” centered on the empowerment of lower- and middle-income classes rather than on the development of “chaebols,” or Korea’s large conglomerates. This increase in the demand for dietary supplements can also be attributed to consumers’ increasing concern for their health as well. These factors have caused a significant surge in the demand for red ginseng from consumers.

According to Lee et al, the amount of ginseng processed into red ginseng was 67.1 percent of the total harvest of fresh ginseng in 2009. Korea had a total annual fresh ginseng production of 27,480 tons. That meant a total of 18,439 tons of fresh ginseng was processed into red ginseng. However, red ginseng production facilities were still unable to keep up with the demand for the product. In 2021, there was another upsurge in the demand for red ginseng amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to Kim Jae Soo, CEO of Korea Ginseng Corp., the company that accounts for 70 percent of the Korean red ginseng market for that year. Red ginseng production facilities, however, have reported no data on whether they have been able to keep up with this demand.

In the United States, ginseng has also gained popularity as a health supplement. The country, at present, accounts for 5.47 percent of the ginseng world market. According to Report Linker’s Global Ginseng Industry Report in 2020, the U.S. ginseng market had an estimated worth of $333.2 million and was expected to grow, amid growing health concerns. 

What are the Types of Ginseng?

There are three primary types of ginseng that humans ingest. All ginseng types have a similar chemical composition, with ginsenosides as their active ingredient. American ginseng and Panax ginseng are the most commercially used, with their proven health benefits that include a lowering of cholesterol and blood sugar levels, boosting of immunity, and relief of stress, among others. The rhizomes of Panax japonicus, on the other hand, are used as a substitute for ginseng roots in Japan and China.

Of the three, Panax Quinquefolius is typically the most expensive since it is endangered due to overharvesting.

  • Panax Ginseng 

Panax ginseng, also known as Korean ginseng, Chinese ginseng, or Asian ginseng, grows mostly in East Asian regions where there are mountains. This type of ginseng has long been known as an essential ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine.

  • Panax Quinquefolius 

Native to North America (specifically southeastern Canada, and Central America) Panax Quinquefolius, also called American ginseng or wild ginseng, is a traditional folk remedy. This plant’s roots and leaves are employed in traditional Native American medicine.

  • Panax Japonicus

Japanese ginseng is another variety of ginseng that is native to China and Japan. It has been utilized as a healing vitamin for over 2,000 years.

What is Cultivated Ginseng?

Cultivated ginseng is less expensive than wild ginseng, which is in short supply due to high demand. Cultivated ginseng has fat smooth roots, unlike wild ginseng, which have smaller, lighter colored roots. However, humans have used artificial habitats to plant cultivated ginseng on mountains and in fields, thus allowing it to develop more like wild ginseng. Although cultivated ginseng requires more work to grow, it does produce more roots after the harvest. Many believe with advancement in cultivation, the medicinal properties of the plant can be enhanced, too.

You can find cultivated ginseng in many different markets. In the US, for instance, it is sold by big retailers such as Walmart and Amazon. In Korea and the United States, mountain-cultivated ginseng, in particular, makes up a large percent of the demand.

What is Wild Ginseng?

Wild ginseng thrives best in its natural habitat. Areas in the United States such as the Ozarks (a mountainous region spanning Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, and Arkansas) and the Appalachian mountains in eastern and northeastern America, are home to the plant according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

 

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However, wild ginseng is, in general, uncommon and frequently out of reach of humans, which prompted its cultivation. The price of “sansam,” or wild ginseng, is far higher than the price of “insam,” or Panax ginseng grown on farms, primarily due to its scarcity. Ginseng, whether insam or sansam, is more or less the same in terms of its potency.

The wild species of the ginseng plant is currently almost extinct in China and is classified as highly endangered worldwide. The demand for the commodity has increased in recent years, leading to frequent harvests and a shorter growth and reproduction period. 

That demand is fuelled by the belief that the herb is effective as an adaptogen that helps promote equilibrium in the body, and therefore, good health. As with other herbs, however, wild ginseng can cause side effects if consumed in excess. Some of these side effects include insomnia, diarrhea, vomiting, and headache. Wild ginseng can be used fresh (green ginseng) or processed into white or red ginseng.

1. Fresh Ginseng

Fresh ginseng, also known as “green ginseng,” is a raw product that has not been dried. It is included in the preparation of soups, drinks, and desserts.

2. White Ginseng

White ginseng is ginseng that has been peeled and dried. It is unheated dried ginseng. It is first peeled and dried so it can reach a moisture content of less than 12%. White ginseng that has been sun-dried may contain fewer medicinal components. Enzymes found in the root may degrade these substances during the drying process. Drying the root in the sun gives it a yellowish-white hue. 

3. Red Ginseng

Red ginseng develops a reddish tint when cooked and dried. It has a slower degradation rate than white ginseng. It is dried or sun-dried peeled ginseng cooked to boiling temperatures of 100 °C (212 °F). It is usually marinated in a herbal brew, making the root brittle.

What is the Etymology of Ginseng?

gin·seng

/ˈjinseNG/

mid 17th century: from Chinese rénshēn, from rén ‘man’ + shēn, a kind of herb (because of the forked root’s resemblance to a person).

What is the Place of Ginseng in Society and Culture?

Ginseng is supplied in at least 35 nations worldwide, with volume and amount distributed varying by its popularity in each country. It has been used in the treatment of diseases throughout Asia, specifically Korea and China. Ginseng is utilized for agricultural products, food, nutritional supplements, health supplements, and pharmaceuticals according to the characteristics of each nation’s customers.

Asian countries such as South Korea and China have a tradition and culture of ginseng usage that spans thousands of years. South Korea has a thriving market of 100% ginseng root products and other derivatives. There are four types of ginseng root products in South Korea: fresh ginseng, processed white ginseng (dried ginseng), Taekuksam, or fresh ginseng blanched in water then dried, and red ginseng which comes from steaming and drying fresh ginseng.

According to Baeg and Ho-So in the Journal Of Ginseng Research, ginseng will continue to have commercial potential as the health food market continues to expand. Apart from its historic usage, they said this was because its benefits have been proven by modern science. The researchers predicted ginseng could even be the “world’s largest health food market.” 

What are the Food Recipes that Contain Ginseng?

All the parts of ginseng, its roots, leaf, and fruit can be utilized in different recipes. They can be used to make stimulant tea known for its energy-boosting capabilities.

Ginseng is known for its bitter taste but many beverages incorporate it while masking the bitterness but maintaining health benefits. This herb is used in Asian cuisine, as follows:

  1. Korean Ginseng Chicken Soup (Sangyetang)
  2. Ginseng Goji Chicken Soup
  3. Taiwanese Beef Noodle Soup
  4. Watercress Soup with Chicken & Ginseng
  5. Chinese Coconut Pork Soup
  6. Chinese Ginseng Herbal Chicken Soup
  7. Healing Turmeric Smoothie
  8. Tropical Ginseng Smoothie
  9. Green Tea Honey Ginseng

What are the Ginseng Parts?

Ginseng plants’ leaves are complex, with three to five leaflets that may be toothed, whole, or lobed, depending on the species. Ginseng plants also produce a cluster of red berries and robust taproots.

  1. Fruit: Ginseng berries are safe to eat even when consumed raw. They are most commonly processed into a Ginseng berry juice concentrate, which is then added to tea and sweetened with honey. The fruit contains the highest content of phenol which is responsible for antioxidant activity.
  2. Leaf: The leaves are commonly used in many Asian soup recipes. They are often steamed with chicken or combined with ginger, dates, and pork. Ginseng leaves are also utilized to make tea by soaking them in boiling water. When eaten fresh, the flavor is somewhat odd and unpleasant, similar to bitter radishes. The leaf exhibits higher content of ginsenosides when compared to the root.
  3. Main root: The main root is responsible for most of the health benefits associated with ginseng. It may be boiled and steamed to make tea or sliced up to add to soup.

Many of the components of ginseng, its Rg3 , Rh1 , Rh2 , Rb1 , Rd, Rg2 , and Rb3 ginsenosides and maltol, among others, provide health benefits to the body when consumed. However, they may be used in different ways to punctuate ginseng’s many benefits.

What is Ginseng Root?

The ginseng’s tapered roots are around 2 to 12 inches long and of a pale brown color. It has a forked shape resembling human legs. It is typically sold dried in traditional medicine for its properties as an aphrodisiac, stimulant, anti-diabetic, and treatment for male sexual dysfunction.

Is Ginseng Root More Effective than Ginseng?

The ginseng root contains fewer ginsenosides than the leaf, which means that it is not more effective when compared to what all the other parts of ginseng can do. According to a comparative study on the ginsenoside contents of the different parts of Korean ginseng, the leaf had up to 12 times more ginsenoside content than the main root. Despite this difference in composition, the market cost of ginseng root is much higher than the leaf, because the root is believed to provide more benefits when consumed. 

The berries of the herb, on the other hand, are found to contain more antioxidants. Overall, each ginseng part provides distinct health benefits when consumed.

What is the History of Ginseng?

The Chinese have said ginseng originated in Shangdang, China, back in the first century B.C., during the Han period. The discovery of the herb, according to that Chinese origin theory, was accidental, though there are not any details available in English text.

However, some researchers have noted that Shangdang had long been a historical hub in China and was vital to the development of Chinese pharmaceutics. They then concluded that the claim that China just suddenly discovered the herb might not be as credible. Apart from this, researchers pointed out that the theory does not answer questions on the specific origin of ginseng. 

Based on the requirements for ginseng growth (soil, climate, among others), it is generally accepted by those who study the history of ginseng, that ginseng was first used by Manchuria and Korea before it was brought to China. The herb at that time was not utilized as a cure for diseases, but rather as a tonic for people who had just undergone surgery or who were suffering from serious illnesses.

What are Other Plants That are Called Ginseng From Time to Time?

True ginseng plants are exclusively found in the genus Panax. Other plants are occasionally called ginseng, but they belong to a different genus or even family. Siberian ginseng is a member of the same family as genuine ginseng but is not a member of the same genus. Siberian ginseng contains eleutherosides, not ginsenosides, and therefore does not promote the same benefits. Siberian ginseng can easily be distinguished by its woody root rather than Panax ginseng’s notable fleshy root.

Here’s a list of those plants:

  • Eurycoma longifolia (Malaysian ginseng, tongkat ali)
  • Schisandra chinensis (five-flavored berry)
  • Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)
  • Angelica sinensis (female ginseng, dong quai)
  • Oplopanax horridus (Alaskan ginseng)
  • Lepidium meyenii (Peruvian ginseng, maca)
  • Pfaffia paniculata (Brazilian ginseng, suma)
  • Pseudostellaria heterophylla (Prince ginseng)
  • Gynostemma pentaphyllum (five-leaf ginseng, jiaogulan)
  • Codonopsis pilosula (poor man’s ginseng)
  • Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng, ashwagandha)

Here are some plants that look like ginseng but are not ginseng:

  • Virginia Creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)
  • Buckeye (Aesculus glabra)
  • Wild Strawberry (Fragaria vesca)

Ultimately, it pays to know the characteristics of each of these plants so they can be properly distinguished from ginseng.

What are the Most Common Questions for Ginseng Usage?

There are a lot of discussions surrounding ginseng usage because of the numerous health benefits it offers and the potential it has to improve other functions of the body. Here are some of the most common questions:

What Medications Should not be Taken with Ginseng?

Combining Panax ginseng with stimulant medications like diethylpropion (Tenuate), epinephrine, phentermine (Ionamin), and pseudoephedrine (Sudafed) may result in serious side effects such as increased heart rate and blood pressure. 

What is the Best Time of the Day to Take Ginseng?

Ginseng should be taken within two hours of a meal or immediately afterward. This will help in the body’s absorption of the supplement and can help maximize the benefits of the herb. Ginseng can be taken twice daily for three or four months to enhance the immune system and protect against the flu.

Does Ginseng Raise Blood Pressure?

Ginseng has the potential to increase or decrease blood pressure. Ginseng is best avoided by those with hypertension or hypotension.

Is Ginseng Bad for Your Liver?

Ginseng had long been perceived to have no adverse effects on the liver when consumed alone. However, a study published in the Karger Journal in 2018 found that ingestion of high doses of ginseng for a long period (three months or more) may cause drug-induced liver injury (DILI). For this, the researchers cited the case of a Chinese woman who had been taking ginseng tea for three months, and who was later found to have an inflammation of the liver and disarray of liver cell plates. Further research on whether ginseng can directly cause DILI, however, is still needed.   

Ultimately, health professionals should be consulted prior to the consumption of ginseng, especially if the person who wishes to consume the herb has underlying conditions. 

Is Ginseng Good for Memory?

Ginseng may help improve memory. A study by Jinsun Oh and Jong Sang Kim found Compound K, a metabolite generated from Rb1, Rb2, and Rbc ginsenosides, protects the brain and decreases inflammatory activity in the animal models. Imogen Smith et al. said the ginsenosides Rg3 , Rh1 , Rh2 , Rb1 , Rd, Rg2 , and Rb3, along with the aglycones protopanaxadiol and protopanaxatriol have also yielded positive effects on cognition, although more tests on healthy humans are needed before conclusive statements can be made.

A study by Jennifer Ellis and Prabashni Reddy initially found 30 healthy human subjects administered 200 mg of Panax ginseng every day for four weeks showed improved mental health and social cognition. However, these effects were no longer significant after eight weeks of use, which could mean the effects of the herb are reduced with prolonged use. A study by Jonathan Reay et al. also found healthy young adults administered 200 mg of Panax ginseng daily significantly improved subtraction task performance throughout a 10-minute battery test and yielded a reduction in blood glucose levels. The researchers concluded this effect of Panax ginseng on cognition during sustained mental activity could be due to the herb’s blood glucose level regulation properties.

Is Ginseng Good for Kidneys?

Yes, ginseng is good for the kidneys. Panax ginseng has been found to regulate blood pressure and reduce blood sugar levels, which can be helpful in the treatment of diabetic people with kidney damage or diabetic nephropathy. A study by Ki Sung Kang et al. found, based on animal models, that these effects were enhanced when Panax ginseng was heat-processed. The researchers concluded that ginsenoside 20(S)Rg-3 and maltol from the herb, which significantly increased during the heat processing, inhibited oxidative stress as well as inflammation activity induced by increased glucose levels. The researchers concluded this could mean both ginsenoside 20(S)Rg-3 and maltol could be used in the treatment of diabetic nephropathy.

 

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Is Ginseng Good for Tinnitus?

Yes, ginseng research has shown it may be good for tinnitus. A study by Tae Su Kim et al. found tinnitus symptoms that include a ringing in the ears, buzzing, hissing, chirping, whistling, or other sounds were significantly reduced upon consumption of 3000 mg/day of Korean Red Ginseng for four weeks. The researchers concluded this could be due to the herb’s antioxidant properties. Oxidative stress is one of the known causes of tinnitus.

Are Ginseng Supplements Approved by the Authorities?

In the United States, ginseng is promoted as a dietary supplement. It is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, according to the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994. Under this law, distributors and manufacturers of dietary supplements are prohibited from mislabeling their products or selling products with adulterated content. They have the responsibility of ensuring that their products meet FDA and law requirements before they are sold in the market. The FDA may take action, send warning letters or remove products themselves from the market if these requirements are found to not have been met.

Is Ginseng an Anticoagulant?

Yes, ginseng can act as an anticoagulant. A study by C T Li et al. found Panax ginseng, in particular, its ginsenosides Rg1 and Rg2, significantly extended blood clotting time when 0.05 mg/ml of water extracts from the herb’s roots were mixed with human plasma. Ginsenoside Rg2, however, exhibited stronger anticoagulation effects than Rg1.

The same study found Panax quinquefolius also exhibited anticoagulation effects but these were weaker as compared to the effects of Panax ginseng.

Can you Take Ginseng at Night?

A study by Hyung Jeong Hang et al. found that red ginseng extract, in particular, improved the quality of sleep of healthy volunteers aged 15 to 37. The results were reported after volunteers consumed 1500 mg of Korean red ginseng extract three times a day for seven days. The researchers said that total wake time was significantly reduced and sleep efficacy, or the total sleep time divided by the time spent in bed, was increased.

Can you Take Ginseng After a Meal?

Ginseng has been proven to reduce blood sugar levels. For the best effects, then, the supplement should be taken orally two hours before or after a meal, according to Stacy Wiegman, PharmD. Before consuming ginseng, however, it’s best to consult a medical practitioner.

Can you Take Ginseng Every Day?

Yes, you can. To maximize the benefits of ginseng, the recommended dosage is 1 to 2 g of red ginseng root or 200 to 400 mg of extract daily. A child, however, should not take any herbal/health supplement without consultation with a medical professional first. There may be adverse side effects when taken in greater doses.

Can Your Pet Consume Ginseng?

According to Treat Well, which specializes in veterinary services, ginseng is typically prescribed to cats and dogs. The herb can help reduce stress, manage congestive heart failure and diabetes mellitus, and address cognitive dysfunction.  

However, pet owners are still advised to consult with a veterinarian first to ensure the proper dosage especially for animals with underlying conditions.   

What are the Differences Between Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba?

While both ginseng and Ginkgo biloba are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds, there are critical differences between ginseng and ginkgo biloba.

Ginseng is derived from the roots of Panax genus plants. The roots can help manage blood sugar, alleviate stress and strains, increase energy levels, and enhance male sexual hormone production. Ginseng is usually available dried as traditional medicine and possesses aphrodisiac, stimulant, and anti-diabetic qualities. To maximize the benefits of ginseng, the recommended dosage is 1 to 2 g of red ginseng root or 200 to 400 mg of ginseng extract daily. Ginseng rarely has side effects, even when consumed excessively. However, it is always best to consult a health care practitioner for dosing guidelines before consumption. The herb contains ginsenosides, gintonin, and pannexins responsible for its energy-boosting, anti-inflammation, and anti-oxidation effects.

On the other hand, Ginkgo biloba is derived from the leaves of the Maidenhair tree. Ginkgo contains flavonoids and terpenoids, which aid in cognitive function. Ginkgo biloba can also be used to treat cerebrovascular disease insufficiency, dementia, altitude sickness, lightheadedness, and erectile dysfunction. 

Ginseng and Ginkgo extracts are frequently utilized in a variety of medications. These plants have played critical roles in both homeopathy and allopathy. Homeopathy is an alternative medicine that is based on the belief that the body has all the mechanisms in place to cure diseases. Natural elements and plants, such as ginseng and Ginkgo, can stimulate the body’s healing process if consumed using the like-treats-like philosophy. Allopathy, on the other hand, is the use of remedies that produce effects that are the direct opposite of the effects produced by the disease being treated. For instance, in allopathic medicine, laxatives may be used to treat constipation.    

Through the years, both Panax ginseng and Ginkgo biloba have been used to enhance cognitive performance and alertness. Additionally, it has been demonstrated that both plant extracts can assist in the treatment of cancer and heart disease. Ginkgo can be used as an alternative for certain uses of ginseng. 

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