The source of Ginseng is the dried root of Panax ginseng from the Araliaceae family (Kaur, Kaur & Mahajan, 2013). The word panax means “all healing,” where Panax ginseng has been used for more than 2000 years with the wide-held and long-withstanding belief in its ability to cure the human body of many ailments (Lee & Kim, 2014; Kim, 2012). Though primarily used in Asian cultures for thousands of years, the use of ginseng as a herbal medication has popularized worldwide (Rasmussen, Glisson & Minor, 2012). The most popular forms of ginseng are Korean ginseng, Siberian ginseng, and American ginseng wherein of the various ginsenosides; Rb1, Rg1, Rg3, Re, and Rd have been the most researched (Lee & Kim, 2014).
Benefits and Effects
- Benefits the immune system’s regulating effects of Th17 and Treg cells that are active during immunosuppression from CsA (Cyclosporin) (Heo et al., 2016)
- Reduces hyperglycemia’s impact and may benefit those with diabetes through the enhancement of mitochondrial cell function and apoptosis regulation (Luo & Luo, 2009)
- May benefit those with COPD (Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder), as seen with increased forced expiratory volume (An et al., 2011)
- Ginseng has been shown to improve the cognitive function in those with Alzheimer’s disease. Compounds known as ginsenoside Rb1 and Rg1 are present in ginseng where they suppress neurotoxicity, potentiate cholinergic pathways (through acetyltransferase and –esterase regulation), and modulate synaptic plasticity; thereby enhancing learning and memory. Increases in cognition were sustained at a 2-year follow-up (Heo et al., 2011)
- Ginseng has been shown to have vasorelaxant and vasodilation properties that increase blood flow and reduce arterial stiffness and platelet aggregation, which may help those with sexual dysfunction and/or circulatory disorders through atherosclerosis prevention (Lee & Kim, 2014; Kim, 2012; Rasmussen, Glisson & Minor, 2012)
- Through the production of vascular endothelial cell-derived NO, ginseng can lower blood pressure (Lee & Kim, 2014; Kim, 2012; Rasmussen, Glisson & Minor, 2012)
- Ginseng has been found to have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anticancer effects (Lee & Kim, 2014; Kim et al., 2011)
- Panax ginseng has been shown to prevent obesity in mice through anti-hyperlipidemic effects, amongst other cellular mechanisms (Kim, 2012; Rasmussen, Glisson & Minor, 2012)
- A meta-analysis by Geng et al. 2010, looked at 9 studies that focused on ginseng and cognitive function. Of the 9, 5 were included that had obtainable information that revealed improvements in cognition, behaviour, and/or quality of life, with no adverse effects found for any participants. (Geng et al., 2010)
- Verifiable evidence has shown that ginseng has hepatoprotective properties and may be a potential phytomedicinal option for those with liver diseases such as cirrhosis, fatty liver, and chronic hepatitis (Huu Tung et al., 2012)
- Ginseng polysaccharides have been shown to exhibit anti-fatigue benefits (Wang et al., 2010)
- Possible, though likely uncommon, side-effects include: “reactions such as headache, insomnia, anxiety and breast soreness or tenderness. It is also possible that skin rashes may develop as well as asthma attacks, increased blood pressure, diarrhoea, euphoria, nervousness, skin eruptions, heart palpitations, or postmenopausal uterine bleeding” (Kaur, Kaur & Mahajan, 2013). These side-effects are most often exacerbated through concomitant use of substances, such as caffeine.
Vitamin C can interfere with Ginseng’s absorption.
According to the AAFP (American Academy of Family Physicians, 2003), the standardized extract dosage is 200mg per day or in dried root form at 0.5 to 2.0 grams.
An, X., Zhang, A. L., Yang, A. W., Lin, L., Wu, D., Guo, X., … & Xue, C. C. (2011). Oral ginseng formulae for stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review. Respiratory medicine, 105(2), 165-176.
Geng, J., Dong, J., Ni, H., Lee, M. S., Wu, T., Jiang, K., … & Malouf, R. (2010). Ginseng for cognition. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, (12).
Heo, J. H., Lee, S. T., Oh, M. J., Park, H. J., Shim, J. Y., Chu, K., & Kim, M. (2011). Improvement of cognitive deficit in Alzheimer’s disease patients by long term treatment with Korean red ginseng. Journal of ginseng research, 35(4), 457.
Heo, S. B., Lim, S. W., Jhun, J. Y., La Cho, M., Chung, B. H., & Yang, C. W. (2016). Immunological benefits by ginseng through reciprocal regulation of Th17 and Treg cells during cyclosporine-induced immunosuppression. Journal of ginseng research, 40(1), 18-27.
Huu Tung, N., Uto, T., Morinaga, O., Kim, Y. H., & Shoyama, Y. (2012). Pharmacological effects of ginseng on liver functions and diseases: a minireview. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 2012.
Kaur, J., Kaur, S., & Mahajan, A. (2013). Herbal medicines: possible risks and benefits. Am J Phytomed Clin Ther, 2, 226-239.
Kim, J. H. (2012). Cardiovascular diseases and Panax ginseng: a review on molecular mechanisms and medical applications. Journal of ginseng research, 36(1), 16.
Kim, H. G., Yoo, S. R., Park, H. J., Lee, N. H., Shin, J. W., Sathyanath, R., … & Son, C. G. (2011). Antioxidant effects of Panax ginseng CA Meyer in healthy subjects: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Food and Chemical Toxicology, 49(9), 2229-2235.
Lee, C. H., & Kim, J. H. (2014). A review on the medicinal potentials of ginseng and ginsenosides on cardiovascular diseases. Journal of ginseng research, 38(3), 161-166.
Luo, J. Z., & Luo, L. (2009). Ginseng on hyperglycemia: effects and mechanisms. Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, 6(4), 423-427.
Rasmussen, C. B., Glisson, J. K., & Minor, D. S. (2012). Dietary supplements and hypertension: potential benefits and precautions. The Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 14(7), 467-471.
Wang, J., Li, S., Fan, Y., Chen, Y., Liu, D., Cheng, H., … & Zhou, Y. (2010). Anti-fatigue activity of the water-soluble polysaccharides isolated from Panax ginseng CA Meyer. Journal of ethnopharmacology, 130(2), 421-423.