Ginseng Fact Sheet
The ginseng root has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. The standard forms are Panax, or Korean, ginseng, American, and a less common variety is Siberian or Eleuthero. Ginseng contains ginsenosides, which impart the beneficial effects to those taking it as a treatment or preventive, but they have different actions. Panax ginseng is relaxing or cooling and the American ginseng is stimulating or warming, and thus each is used to treat different types of ailments.
Ginseng’s appearance is similar to ginger, the outer, papery skin is beige and the root resembles the human body with shoots that appear like arms and legs, and traditional medicine extends the metaphor, claiming that it behaves as a panacea for correcting health imbalances in the entire body. A substance with this type of healing profile is called an adaptogen, which means it realigns imbalances and helps the body more effectively cope with physical and mental stress (1).
Disease prevention and health impact of ginseng:
- Mental health treatment
- Immune system support
Ginseng and Aging
Major depression is uncommon for older, healthy adults, but for those requiring home health care and hospitalization due to medical problems, the outlook for mental health is less positive. Depression occurs in as much as 13% of the aged population who are ill. Research suggests that the active ginsenosides in ginseng mitigate depression symptoms when consumed regularly (1).
The role of normal insulin functionality is particularly significant after mid-life to normalize energy utilization, enhance cognitive function, prevent metabolic syndrome, lower acute and chronic high blood glucose, which impacts the prevalence of diabetes, obesity, mental health and a host of other health issues. Ginseng has significantly decreased insulin resistance and may exert an antihyperglycemic effect by promoting insulin secretion, stimulate glucose uptake, and enhance insulin sensitivity (5).
Studies have also linked American ginseng to inhibiting hyperglycemia and improving the quality of life for those living with diabetes, but its utilization may be limited until further research identifies the component(s) of ginseng, which may be responsible for the beneficial effects (3).
The immune system’s effectiveness can decrease steadily as we age, which is evidenced by the strong ties between influenza and shingles infections and older populations. Asian ginseng’s active saponins have an immunomodulatory effect, which can markedly improve the body’s defense by stimulating an underactive and suppressing an overactive immune system, and regulate systemic and mucosal immunity (4).
Oxidation is an additional age-related disease precursor, which environmental pollutants and the over-burdening of the body’s natural stores of antioxidants exacerbate. Healthy cells are damaged when oxygen circulates in the body, and the resulting free radicals are normally neutralized by the body’s antioxidant defense system. In modern times, however, the sheer high-level load of toxins in the environment resulting from stress increases the number of free radical induced mutations in healthy DNA, which if left untreated replicate and develop disease. To compensate for the extra oxidative damage, supplementing with dietary or nutraceutical antioxidants is necessary to help prevent disease.
Asian ginseng antioxidants help rid the body of free radicals, and may decrease “bad” LDL and raise “good” HDL cholesterol.
How Much Ginseng Should I Take?
White or red ginseng is available in water, water-and-alcohol extract, powders, capsules or fresh.
It is effective when supplementing with ginseng to abstain for a few weeks between cycles, and the therapeutic dosage range is 200 – 900 mg daily. Typically, an absence of side effects and relief of symptoms after consistent use indicates the correct level, but following the advice of a skilled practitioner may be necessary to be certain.
Side effects from taking Ginseng are rare, but may include: gastrointestinal disorders, high blood pressure, nosebleed, insomnia, headache, anxiety, euphoria, vaginal bleeding and disorders, or breast pain.
Ginseng acid may contraindicate with the function of particular prescription medications, affecting absorption, effectiveness or potency of:
- Blood-thinners (anticoagulants) such as aspirin or warfarin
- ACE inhibitors (blood pressure medications)
- MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors)
- Calcium channel blockers
- Diabetes medications including insulin
- Stimulants such as caffeine, amphetamine and dextroamphetamine
- Yamada, Noriko, et al. Psychopharmacology. “Identification of antidepressant-like ingredients in ginseng root (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) using a menopausal depressive-like state in female mice: participation of 5-HT2A receptors.” August 2011. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007%2Fs00213-011-2252-1?LI=true
- University of Maryland Medical Center. “Asian Ginseng.” January 27, 2011. http://www.umm.edu/altmed/articles/asian-ginseng-000249.htm
- Luo, J.Z., et al. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “Ginseng on Hyperglycemia: Effects and Mechanisms.” December 2009. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18955300
- Licciardi, Paul V., et al. International Immunopharmacology. “Plant-derived Medicines: A Novel Class of Immunological Adjuvants.” March 2011.
- Xie, Weidong, et al. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. “Traditional Chinese Medicines in Treatment of Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus.” 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3092648/
Last Reviewed 11/Mar/2014