The name Ginseng itself refers to as many as 11 different plants with slow-growing roots. Ginseng is a very famous herb, and one of the most commonly used herbal remedies. It takes part in traditional medicine as it was used to help with many health conditions.
Natural has been used a long time ago and are a product of constant usage and observation of their therapeutic effects. The medicinal research on synthetic medication grows very fast, while a large number of herbs are not researched yet in the Western world.
Research efforts include rigorous and controlled large studies. Results are then statistically observed upon which conclusions are brought.
In this article, we will refer to the American Ginseng or Panax quinquefolius and the Asian plant known as Panax ginseng. The Siberian ginseng by the name of Eleutherococcus senticosus has nothing to do with the above-listed plants since its active ingredients are different.
Possible Health Benefits
- Helps fight off Cold and flu
Evidence backed up by scientific research shows that Asian ginseng boosts the immune system and has an effect against Cold and Flu. It works by increasing the immune cells in the blood system and greatly increases the immune response to a Flu vaccine. In a conducted study, about 230 people got either Ginseng or a placebo. Then they took a flu vaccine, after a period of time the rate of those who took Ginseng and caught flu was roughly 65% lower.
- Anti-inflammatory effects
Scientists from the University of Hong Kong treated immune cells in the human body with different extracts of ginseng. Amazingly, 7 out of 9 of the identified ginsenosides could mimic the expression of an inflammatory gene named CXCL-10.
- Blood Sugar Regulation
In a trial, people with type 2 diabetes were given ginseng and a highly viscous fiber – pectin. Their blood sugar levels had significantly been reduced.
- Erectile Dysfunction Treatment
The herb can be used as an alternative medicine to improve sexual health in men. People who suffer from erectile dysfunction can benefit from consuming ginseng extract. During a 120 men study, some of them were given a placebo, the others took ginseng berry extract of 350 mg. The difference was highly notable in the improved erectile function and premature ejaculation.
- Improvement of Cardiac Functions
Isolated ginsenosides are the ones actually accounted for the benefits of ginseng. Saponins from P.notoginseng acted as protective agents for the heart during an induced cardiotoxicity.
Ginseng Research on Treating Sexual Dysfunction
Ginseng effects in treating sexual dysfunction are not so bright. Although the evidence base might be too shallow, only seven studies were conducted and the methodological quality of the studies was low.
In order to establish strong evidence on this matter, larger studies and methodology of higher quality is required.
Ginseng Effects on Menopause
There were recent placebo-controlled clinical trials on ginseng’s effects on menopause health. In a total of 10 research studies, there was evidence that ginseng improves sexual arousal and sexual function. There was not enough supportive evidence found on the effects of menopause.
Central nervous system diseases on which Ginseng’s therapeutic effects are being researched on include Alzheimer’s disease, cerebral ischemia, depression, Parkinson’s disease, and a lengthy list of others.
Ginseng and Stress
Excessive brain activity and modern life requirements expose us to high levels of stress. High levels of stress can further lead to the development of anxiety, depression, and even panic attacks in some cases. Day-to-day or work stress can be treated with adaptogens. The herb has a very superior regulation of stress compared to other adaptogens.
Ginseng has been shown to improve the ability to cope with or suppress many stressors in the human body. The anti-stress mechanism that ginseng acts through is probably controlling the adrenal glands. Ginseng delays and reduces the severity of a phase named the alarm phase during the body’s response to stress.
People who take any kind of ginseng have reported an improvement in their well-being and calmness.
During a conducted study on nurses who took night and day shifts were given placebo and ginseng extracts. Then they were put through mental and physical tests, blood chemistry evaluation, and total blood cell count.
The conclusion of the results was that the nurses who took ginseng were more alert and yet calmer. Their performance of the nurses who took ginseng was noticeably better of the nurses who took a placebo.
Additionally, animal studies have also shown that ginseng relieves a good amount of the anxiety effects. Ginseng might not have the same effects as some synthetic drugs as diazepam or lorazepam, but when it comes to side effects and drug interactions, this plant has very few compared to the drugs mentioned before.
A study at the Central Drug Research Institute tested Panax ginseng on animals. Ginseng was given to rats with chronic stress, the research showed that ginseng had a significant impact on treating stress disorders. Only a 100mg dose of the plant’s extract reduced the adrenal gland in size and lowered the glucose levels in the plasma.
- Explanation of stress hormones and hormones in general
Hormones can be visualized as messengers which regulate vital biological functions including appetite, blood pressure, emotion, body temperature, sleep, hydration and many more. They are released into the bloodstream by organs in the body, then they bind specific cells in other organs to trigger a specific biological process.
Cortisol is a hormone which is secreted by the body to counteract stress and help maintain homeostasis. This hormone is produced and regulated by the HPA axis or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, which is regulated by the sympathetic nervous system (SNS).
- The Impact of Ginseng on The HPA and Stress
When people face a stressful situation, Ginseng can improve the response to stress by having an impact on the HPA axis functions. This herb can also provide treatment for people who have HPA axis disorders such as Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD), hypertension, depression, and asthma.
Ginseng Impact on Depression and Anxiety
Depression is a serious mental illness which in most cases does not represent physical symptoms. Physical problems can arise as the depression advances and becomes more severe. Patients suffering from this disease can inflict self-harm,
Possible Side Effects
Like any other substance, taking Ginseng might also result in side effects. The already known side effects are listed below.
- Sleeping problems
- Skin reactions
- Digestive problems
- Decreased heart rate
- Blurred vision
- Drastic changes in blood pressure or blood sugar levels
Possible Interactions with Other Medicine
- Amitriptyline (Elavil)
- Clozapine (Clozaril)
- Desipramine (Norpramin)
- Flecainide (Tambocor)
- Fluoxetine (Prozac)
- Donepezil (Aricept)
- Tramadol (Ultram)
- Olanzapine (Zyprexa)
- Ondansetron (Zofran)
- Metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol XL)
You should be also very careful if you take any Diabetes medication not to mix it with ginseng. They both work to lower the blood sugar levels and this might result in a very low blood sugar. Some of the medications used to treat Diabetes which should not be mixed with ginseng include:
Caffeine and ginseng should not be mixed since they both work together and interact with the nervous system. They speed up the process of the nervous system, this might lead to an increased heart rate to unhealthy levels. Afterward, you might feel jitters and exhaustion.MAOIs (depression medication) also interacts with ginseng, together they might overly-stimulate your body and cause it to collapse or crash.
- Panax ginseng ( Korean or Chinese origin)
Pure ginseng root – 1.5g, 1 to 3 times per day
Fluid extract – ½ tablespoon, 1 to 3 times per day
- Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Dry root – 2-4g, 1 to 3 times per day
Fluid extract – 1 tablespoon, 1 to 3 times per day
Powder extract – 150mg, 1 to 3 times per day
Is Growing Ginseng Legal?
An interesting fact is that American ginseng can be grown and harvested in 19 states of the United States. In all the remaining states it is illegal to grow American ginseng. The protection laws vary from state to state, most of the ginseng roots can be legally exported if they were harvested during a State harvest season. The law in all of these states requires that the ginseng plants are older than 4, 5, and 10 years respectively. The age of a ginseng plant can be determined by the leaflet count, for example, if a plant has 3 leaflets it is at least 5 years old.
Although there aren’t a lot of rigorous studies and clinical trials on Ginseng, it is still used by millions of people. Before using any other supplement including Ginseng and its many extracts, you should very carefully read about the effects and the ingredients the supplement contains.
Ginseng is probably one of the most used herbal medicine. The research mostly revolves around the central nervous system (CNS), diseases in this area are the most investigated compared to the others in respect to ginseng’s medical benefits. Some studies show positive results about ginseng’s effects on the stress mechanism of the body, while others show up not so great.