There are two main types of ginseng: American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) and Asian Ginseng or Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng). The American ginseng is supposed to contains cooling properties (‘ying’ energy), while the Asian ginseng has warming properties (‘yang’ energy). Therefore, people with “cooling” body should only take Asian ginseng which has “warming” effect, and vice versa. Otherwise, contradictions exist, particularly for people with high blood pressure and weakness. Despite their variations, all ginseng plant contains ginsenosides, which are an active ingredient of the herb.
There is another variety called Siberian ginseng, but it is not a true ginseng – it is another plant (Eleutherococcus senticosus) with almost similar medicinal properties. Because Siberian ginseng contains chemicals called eleutherosides, instead of ginsenosides.
The ginseng, either Asian or American ginseng, has a long history of use as a remedy to treat a variety of health problems, ranging from common cold to cancer. The healing power of ginseng is attributed to the fact that it is an adaptogen, a substance that increases the body’s resistance to stress and improves overall health – both physical and mental.
The adaptogenic effects of ginseng make the herb especially useful for conditions, such as chronic fatigue, lack of energy, lack of vitality, loss of concentration, loss of stamina, poor memory, as well as during recovery from illness. Now, let us take a look at the some top health benefits of ginseng.
- Reduces Mental Stress
The ginsenosides found in ginseng can increase alertness and mental clarity, while relieving mood swings. It is also an excellent anti-depressant and anti-anxiety herb. Simply take one capsule of Ginseng or a cup of Ginseng tea three times a week if you are feeling down or doing strenuous work.
- Treats Type 2 Diabetes
Several studies have shown that ginseng may lowers blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. For example, in a study published in 2000, researchers gave capsules of American ginseng to people with diabetes who were also receiving conventional treatment in the form of diet or prescription drugs. The study showed that subjects who received a 3 gram dose of ginseng had a blood sugar level that was 59.1% less than subjects who had received the placebo.
However, because the long-term effects of ginseng are still unknown. Also, it’s not known how ginseng interacts with prescription diabetes medication. So people with diabetes should not take ginseng or combine it with their prescription drugs unless supervised by a health care professional.
- Stimulates Immune System
The adaptogenic properties in ginseng helps stimulates the immune system by increasing the number of white blood cells and antibodies in the blood. These help you fight colds and other infections. In a study, 227 participants received either ginseng or placebo for 12 weeks, with a flu vaccine given after 4 weeks. The number of colds and flu were two-thirds lower in the group that took ginseng.
- Prevent Cancer
Ginseng contains ginsenosides, which are believed to have anti-cancer properties. Ginsenosides inhibits the cell cycle progression, thereby slowing the growth of cancer cells. In one observational study, researchers followed 4,634 people for 5 years and found that those who took ginseng had lower risk of lung, liver, ovarian, pancreatic, and stomach cancer. If you have been diagnosed with cancer, it is important to consult your doctor before you start consuming ginseng regularly.
- Lowers Cholesterol
In some studies, Ginseng was found to lower LDL (bad cholesterol) levels. Researchers believe that the present of ginsenosides in Ginseng are responsible for this ability, but the actual process is not clear.
- Relieves Fatigue
Ginseng is known as an adaptogen which can combat fatigue and strengthen the nervous system. In one British study done in nurses who do shift-work, ginseng reduced fatigue and improved their moods. The nurses also did better on coordination and speed tests.
Drink one cup of ginseng tea daily to help fight off possible fatigue. Capsules and tincture formulations may be used as well. Experts suggest going one week without ginseng for every five weeks that you are taking it. This break helps to prevent some of the reported side effects (such as insomnia, low blood pressure and restlessness) from long-term use of ginseng.
- Boosts Stamina
Apart from relieving fatigue, the adaptogen also improves both energy and stamina levels. Therefore, ginseng is a popular stimulant tonic herb for athletes.
- Stimulates male sexual function
Ginseng has long been used for impotency due to its adaptogenic effect. It enhances vitality and helps bring the body back towards normal. Some clinical studies have shown that ginseng may facilitate penile erection, and increase sperm production as well as the sperm quality. However, be sure to consult with your doctor before taking ginseng along with prescription drugs as it may interfere with some medications.
- Promotes Digestive Health
Asian or korean ginseng is a great remedy to treat stomach disorders such diarrhea, poor appetite, nausea, vomiting and indigestion.
- Improves cardiovascular health
Another health benefit of regular consumption of Asian ginseng is its ability to improve cardiovascular health by inhibiting platelet aggregation and maintaining cholesterol levels. However, some clinical studies suggested that ginseng may worsen the condition of hypertension. So, people with hypertension should consult with a physician before start taking any ginseng.
For best results, take ginseng in cycles. For example, take one capsule of Ginseng at least five days a week for 2-3 weeks, then stop for 3 weeks, then start back again.