The Benefits of Chinese Ginseng
Chinese Ginseng (Panax ginseng) has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries as a tonic to improve energy, immunity, brain function, circulation, and overall health. Interestingly, the botanical genus name Panax, means "all-healing" in Greek, and shares the same origin as "panacea." This hints to the herb’s diverse ability to improve the health of a variety of body systems.
This slow-growing perennial plant is often classified in three ways, depending on how long it is grown: fresh, white or red. Fresh ginseng is harvested before it is 4 years old, while white ginseng is harvested between 4–6 years of age, and red ginseng is harvested after 6 or more years. Ginseng Chinese ginseng plant contains two significant compounds: ginsenosides and gintonin, both of which complement one another to provide its incredible health benefits.
May Enhance Cognitive Functioning
One of the ginseng’s most treasured Chinese ginseng benefits qualities is its ability to improve brain functions like memory, behavior and mood. This has long been recognized in traditional Chinese medicine, and in more recent years, has been verified by extensive scientific research.
Several test-tube and animal studies show that components in ginseng, like ginsenosides and compound K, could protect the brain against damage caused by free radicals. One study followed 30 healthy people who consumed 200 mg of Panax ginseng daily for four weeks. At the end of the study, they showed improvement in mental health, social functioning and mood.
Another study examined how single doses of either 200 or 400 mg of Panax ginseng affected mental performance, mental fatigue and blood sugar levels in 30 healthy adults before and after a 10-minute mental test. The 200-mg dose, as opposed to the 400-mg dose, was more effective at improving mental performance and fatigue during the test. A third study found that taking 400 mg of Panax ginseng daily for eight days improved calmness and math skills.
May Boost Energy and Combat Fatigue
Ginseng has also been used traditionally to improve energy and fight fatigue. Various animal studies have linked some components in ginseng, like polysaccharides and oligopeptides, with lower oxidative stress and higher energy production in cells, which could help fight fatigue.
One four-week study explored the effects of giving 1 or 2 grams of Panax ginseng or a placebo to 90 people with chronic fatigue. Those given Panax ginseng experienced less physical and mental fatigue, as well as reductions in oxidative stress, than those taking the placebo.
Another study gave 364 cancer survivors experiencing fatigue 2,000 mg of American ginseng or a placebo. After eight weeks, those in the ginseng group had significantly lower fatigue levels than those in the placebo group.
May Strengthen the Immune System
Ginseng has also been used traditionally to strengthen the immune system, and several studies seem to verify this use of the herb. One study followed 39 people who were recovering from surgery for stomach cancer, treating them with 5,400 mg of ginseng daily for two years. Interestingly, these people had significant improvements in immune functions and a lower recurrence of symptoms.
Another study examined the effect of red ginseng extract on immune system markers in people with advanced stomach cancer undergoing post-surgery chemotherapy. After three months, those taking red ginseng extract had better immune system markers than those in the control or placebo group.
Furthermore, a study suggested that people who take ginseng could have up to a 35% higher chance of living disease-free for five years after curative surgery and up to a 38% higher survival rate compared to those not taking it.
Has Potent Antioxidant and Anti-Inflammatory Properties
Another factor contributing to ginseng’s health benefits is the beneficial antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Some test-tube studies have shown that ginseng extracts and ginsenoside compounds could inhibit inflammation and increase antioxidant capacity in cells.
For example, one test-tube study found that Korean red ginseng extract reduced inflammation and improved antioxidant activity is in skin cells from people with eczema. The results are promising in humans, as well. Another 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.
A larger study followed 71 postmenopausal women who took 3 grams of red ginseng or a placebo daily for 12 weeks. Antioxidant activity and oxidative stress markers were then measured. Researchers concluded that red ginseng may help reduce oxidative stress by increasing antioxidant enzyme activities.
Chinese, or Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a safe and effective herbal supplement that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. It is often praised for its ability to improve energy and brain function, strengthen the immune system, and for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. If you want an herbal ally to help address low-energy, brain fog, fatigue, immunity, or simply to improve your overall health, ginseng is certainly worth a try.