8 Ginseng Benefits: Less Stress & Better Brain Function

S

ince time immemorial, ginseng root is being used for therapeutic purposes. It is often hailed as a valuable herb capable of tackling a wide range of illnesses.

Earlier, ginseng was mostly used in the Eastern countries as a tonic. However, nowadays, it is used worldwide as a dietary supplement. The root of ginseng contains ginsenosides that are packed with health-benefiting properties. It is believed that ginseng is capable of boosting immunity, promoting calmness, reducing stress and fighting off respiratory disorders. [1]

In Chinese traditional medicine, ginseng is hailed as the ultimate tonic as its consumption could boost general well-being. In different parts of the world, researchers have examined and assessed this herb to establish its efficacy and safety. It is a multibranched root that can be cooked with food or used to prepare herbal tea. [2]


What Is Ginseng?

Ginseng is the root of the plants belonging to the Panax genus. For centuries, it has been used as a tonic for chronic illnesses. This herb is sold commercially in more than 35 countries around the world, and China is its largest consumer. However, ginseng is produced in just four countries – South Korea, China, Canada and the United States of America. In most places, it is sold as a dietary supplement. However, ginseng can also be added to energy drinks or herbal teas. [3]


Common Uses Of Ginseng

For thousands of years, ginseng has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for tackling a wide array of ailments and improving one’s general health. It is a valuable herb that has been used as a tonic. The Chinese believe that ginseng is capable of helping people cope with various ailments and its usage can prolong one’s life. [4] Being an adaptogen, ginseng is often used for fighting off stress and fatigue. Apart from that, it is used as a stimulant for boosting physical and mental performance. [5]


What Are The Different Types Of Ginseng?

There are different types of ginseng. The most common ones are – Panax ginseng, American ginseng, Siberian ginseng, Japanese ginseng, and Brazilian ginseng. [6] The most commonly used ones are Panax ginseng, also known as Asian ginseng, Korean ginseng or Oriental ginseng, and American ginseng. It is believed that Panax ginseng is great for improving circulation while American ginseng is effective for health problems like fever and respiratory tract disorders. Both these types are known to boost the immune system. They can also be used for coping with type 2 diabetes and tackling sexual dysfunctions. [7]


Benefits Of Ginseng

In the last few years, ample studies have examined the therapeutic properties of ginseng. These studies have shown that there are numerous ways in which ginseng can benefit the health of a person.

1. Improves Brain Function

It has been found that Panax ginseng can effectively enhance cognitive performance in individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. An open-label study was able to establish the efficacy of ginseng in improving the brain function of Alzheimer’s patients. [8]

The compounds present in ginseng are known to have a significant impact on the brain and nervous system. The nerve-growing effect of ginseng enables it to improve cognitive function of the brain and keep problems like memory loss at bay. [9]

Ginseng is also known to improve the brain’s reaction time and abstract thinking. A study conducted by Danish researchers found that ginseng was able to improve memory skills, ability to learn and concentrate and improve reaction times and abstract thinking in people who were given 400 mg of ginseng on a daily basis for nine weeks. [10]

2. Reduces StressAnd Promotes Calmness

A study was conducted to test the anti-stress ability of Panax ginseng in rats. This test found that Panax ginseng is a great source of anti-stress properties. Therefore, it can be used for coping with stress-induced disorders. [11]
This herb’s real strength lies in its ability to reduce stress. Ginsenoside found in ginseng helps to reduce stress by stimulating the blood flow to the brain, boosting concentration and increasing mental performance. A study was conducted at the University of Goteberg, Sweden, to find out if ginseng is capable of causing mood enhancement. The study involved 480 adults who were divided into two groups. Each group was given either ginseng or placebo. As per the reports, the group that took ginseng experienced significant mood enhancement. They felt relaxed, alert, energetic and had better moods than the individuals in the other group. [12]

A study involving 30 volunteers was conducted to assess the ability of Panax ginseng as a mood-enhancing agent. The results of this study revealed that consumption of 200 mg of ginseng slowed mood decline in the participants. However, it also slowed their brain’s ability to respond to mental arithmetic tasks. On the other hand, a dose of 400 mg was able to promote calmness and also improved mental arithmetic tasks in the 30 participants. [13]
By reducing stress and promoting calmness, it can also help improve the quality of life and keep stress-induced health conditions at bay.

3. Fights Lung Diseases

American and Siberian ginseng are known to be great for the lungs. These herbs can effectively clear bronchial passages and also reduce inflammation. [14] A study conducted in 1997 using animal model found that ginseng was able to clear pulmonary bacteria, decrease the severity of lung diseases and also reduced lung abscesses. On the basis of these findings, researchers suggested that ginseng can be used as a natural medicine for coping with certain types of lung infection.[15]

4. Helps With Diabetes

Presence of ginsenosides in ginseng enables it to produce more insulin in the pancreas. A few studies and clinical trials have established that usage of ginseng in individuals suffering from diabetes (type 2) can effectively lower fasting blood sugar and reduce hemoglobin A1C. A study was conducted on 9 people suffering from type 2 diabetes. All of them were given 3 grams of American ginseng followed by a high-glucose drink. This study found that the consumption of American ginseng led to a significant reduction in the blood sugar of the participants. A similar study found that even when consumed after drinking high glucose drink, American ginseng was able to control the rise in the level of blood sugar. [16]

American ginseng is believed to effectively lower blood glucose levels when consumed with or without glucose. Studies have confirmed that American ginseng possesses glucoregulatory properties that enable it to work effectively on diabetics and regulate blood sugar level. [17]

5. Helps Fight Cancer

Clinical studies have found that Panax ginseng possesses anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and apoptotic mechanisms that influence gene expression. These properties enable it to mitigate development of cancer cells. According to research, ginseng can effectively hinder tumor growth. [18]

Korean and Chinese researchers have conducted trials on animals to check the anti-cancer properties of ginseng. It was found that the animals that were treated with ginseng for cancer had 20% longer lifespan than the ones treated with radiation. [19]

6. Boosts Immune System

Ginseng is well-known for its ability to boost the body’s immune system. It could effectively enhance the immune system’s resistance to illness and safeguard the body from microbial attacks. This remarkable herb acts as an immune modulator and numerous experiments have found that it can significantly improve the functions of different types of immune cells like microphages, dendritic cells, and natural killer cells.

Ginseng extracts contain antimicrobial compounds. These health-benefiting compounds could help to ward off bacterial and viral infections. In addition, these compounds can defend the body from microbial attacks. Ginseng possesses the ability to hinder the growth of various viruses including the influenza virus. Due to all these properties, ginseng is often hailed as an herbal immune stimulant. [20]

7. Enhances Athletic Performance

Consumption of ginseng is known to help different body organs like the heart and lungs perform in an efficient manner, which in turn, can cause a significant increase in one’s stamina. Due to its stamina-enhancing ability, for decades, ginseng has been used by athletes in different countries like Russia, Korea, and China. During training, athletes use this herb to improve their performance. Research has also shown that consumption of ginseng can effectively improve one’s stamina and enhance performance. [21]

8. Protects The Liver

A clinical study was conducted to find out the effectiveness of ginseng in protecting the liver. The study involved 24 older adults who were suffering from alcohol-induced cirrhosis. The result revealed that consumption of ginseng improved the function of the liver in all the participants. Thus, it was established that usage of ginseng can safeguard the liver from the damage caused by alcohol consumption and drug use. [22]


Recommended Dosage Of Ginseng

Ginseng is available in various forms – raw root, extracts, capsules, tablets. For maintaining general health, you can take a capsule of ginseng on a daily basis either post breakfast or lunch. [23] Ginseng capsules can be found in herbal stores.

The recommended daily dosage of Panax ginseng for improving mental function is 200-400 mg. For tackling flu 200 mg of ginseng extract taken daily could be effective. If someone is suffering from fatigue caused by multiple-sclerosis, then he or she can take 250 mg of ginseng extract twice daily for 3 months for effective results. Meanwhile, the recommended dosage of ginseng for a person suffering from Alzheimer’s disease is 4.5-9 grams daily for twelve weeks. [24]

For people suffering from type 2 diabetes, the recommended dosage of American ginseng is 3 grams up to 2 hours prior to eating a meal. [25] It is advisable to check with a health care professional or nutritionist to find out the recommended dosage of ginseng that is best-suited for your health.


Possible Side Effects And Interactions

In general, ginseng is considered to be safe for use and adverse reactions are rare. However, in a few cases, this herb can cause side effects such as insomnia, breast soreness, asthma attacks, increased blood pressure, cardiac arrhythmias and allergic reactions. Individuals who are already suffering from problems like hay fever, insomnia or fibrocystic breasts should take extra caution while taking ginseng. They should consult their doctors prior to taking this herb. Aside from that, people who take blood-thinning medications should steer clear of ginseng as it is known to possess anti-clotting properties. Ginseng is usually used in herbal remedies for the elderly. That is why it is best to keep this herb away from children. Also, it is suggested that pregnant women should avoid ginseng for safety reasons. [26]

Ginseng is known to interact with alcohol and caffeine. Additionally, this herb can also interact with insulin and certain types of medications. In particular, anti-depressants, anticoagulants, stimulant drugs, medicines that are broken down by the liver and anti-diabetes drugs are commonly known to interact with ginseng. [27] If you are taking any of the aforementioned medications, then it is crucial to consult your doctor prior to taking ginseng.


Precautions

As mentioned earlier, ginseng should not be used by children and is not recommended for women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Aside from that, to avoid risks related to ginseng, it is suggested to not use it for more than 3 months. [28]


Conclusion

Ginseng is known to possess a broad range of therapeutic properties that can work wonders on the mental and physical state of a person. As discussed earlier, it can improve your general well-being, help you get relief from stress and related disorders and promote calmness, boost your immune system’s ability to fight off infections, enhance your athletic performance, combat lung diseases and protect the liver.

All these health benefits of ginseng make it an amazing herb. So, go ahead and make this popular herbal medicine a part of your life to reap the benefits. You can either use ginseng roots to make herbal tea or buy ginseng supplements from the stores. However, it is highly recommended to maintain caution while taking ginseng to avoid possible side effects and ward off drug interactions.