The most impressive health benefits of ginseng include its ability to stimulate the mind, increase energy, soothe inflammation, prevent cancer, reduce stress, and prevent aging. It also helps increase sexual potency, weight loss, manage diabetes, ease menstrual discomfort, boost hair health, and protect the skin.
What is Ginseng?
Ginseng is actually a broad term that incorporates nearly a dozen different species of plants belonging to the Panax genus. This highly valued plant, which has large fleshy roots is typically found in North America and certain cooler areas of Asia. The light-colored, fleshy root is the most medicinally valuable element of the plant and can be purchased in dried, whole, or sliced form. The green, oval leaves of ginseng are used on a far more limited basis, but they do have some uses.
Ginseng contains a compound called ginsenosides, which is responsible for its main medicinal benefits. Other compounds include polyacetylenes such as panaxynol and panaxydol, polyphenolic compounds, arginine and its derivatives, as well as acidic polysaccharides.
Health Benefits of Ginseng
Let’s take a more in-depth look at the health benefits of ginseng:
Improves Cognitive Ability
Ginseng stimulates cognitive abilities and neural activity that can be difficult to achieve in older ages. Also, the antioxidants prevent the accumulation of plaque and free radicals in the brain, effectively preventing the onset of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive disorders.
Reduces Alcohol Toxicity
Ginseng reduces alcohol toxicity in the brain by increasing the enzymes that help in alcohol breakdown. Thus, it has positive effects against acute alcohol intoxication.
Asian ginseng affects the body’s nervous system in various ways, including boosting mood and energy levels. Additionally, the adaptogens found within ginseng have been shown to alter the hormonal levels of the body, which can treat chronic stress.
Ginsenosides in Korean red ginseng has potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, which help reduce oxidative stress and increase enzymatic activity. It can reduce the inflammation of nerves and improve the motor function recovery after a spinal cord injury.
Treats Erectile Dysfunction
Ginsenoside in Brazilian ginseng releases nitric oxide from endothelial cells, treating erectile dysfunction by causing vasodilation and relaxation of the erectile tissue. Furthermore, the herb also enhances testosterone hormone secretion in men.
Applying a cream, which has ginseng as one of its ingredients, to the penis one hour before intercourse and then washing it off right before the intercourse helps prevent premature ejaculation.
Treats Menstrual Discomfort
As a soothing and anti-inflammatory substance, ginseng is often prescribed for women suffering from extreme menstrual discomfort and cramps. It can also help reduce mood swings, hot flashes, anxiety, depressive symptoms, night sweats, vaginal dryness, decreased sex drive, insomnia, weight gain, hair thinning, irritability, and other menopausal changes in the middle-aged women.
Improves Sexual Performance
Boosts Immune System
Ginseng’s anti-allergic, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties work as a defense mechanism against various microbial and bacterial infection. In fact, the herb enhances the effect of vaccinations against diseases like influenza, hepatitis C virus, respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), and rotavirus.
Siberian ginseng has fatigue-fighting and vitality-boosting properties. It helps decrease pain, which is one of the primary symptoms of fibromyalgia. Furthermore, it reduces inflammation and stabilizes the effect of inflammatory cytokines after chemotherapy in children. Also, it helps heal adrenal fatigue.
The powerful combination of chemicals in ginseng helps in the suppression of appetite, boost metabolism and burns fat. When dried or powdered ginseng is consumed, it can quickly suppress the “hunger hormones” from triggering any cravings, thereby helping people in weight loss.
Improves Lung Function
Ginseng reduces chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), a lung disorder, which cause inflammation of the upper airway. This results in congestion, nasal itching, and sneezing. It also has the ability to clear bacterial infections from the lungs.
Ginseng shows anticancer properties due to a collective effect of antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, apoptotic, and angiogenic properties. According to research, the most promising oncological area for ginseng is in colorectal cancer; research has shown a direct decrease in colorectal cancer spread and symptoms with the regular inclusion of ginseng in one’s diet. Early research on other types of cancer like breast, skin, lung, liver, and prostate cancer show anti-tumor properties.
Lowers Blood Sugar Levels
The glucoregulatory properties of ginseng help reduce blood sugar levels in type-2 diabetes patients. Also, the ginsenosides in the herb affect the insulin production and improve insulin resistance in the body.
The other benefits of ginseng are:
Prevents Premature Aging
All over the world, ginseng is valued for its ability to reduce the signs of aging. Its antioxidant properties prevent the negative effects of free radicals throughout the body, which prevent cellular damage.
Improves Hair Health
One of the natural carbohydrates found in ginseng has been directly connected with the prevention of alopecia and male pattern baldness. Applying ginseng salves or consuming the spice directly can improve the health of hair follicle beds, prevent dandruff, and reduce hair loss significantly.
Ginseng detoxifies and boosts the immunity of the skin. By stimulating blood flow throughout the body, particularly to the skin cells, ginseng makes the skin looking young and hydrated.
Boosts Heart Health
Preliminary study shows Chinese red ginseng lowers serum cholesterol level.
Ginseng is a very powerful spice and can cause negative reactions in the body like:
- Dry mouth, headache, dizziness, blurred vision
- Stomach upset, diarrhea
- Allergic reactions, skin reactions
- Rapid heartbeat, high blood pressure
- Nervousness, insomnia, and in serious cases, delirium (restlessness and illusion)
- Edema (water retention)
- Interaction with medications (diabetic drugs, antidepressants, morphine, stimulants, etc.)
- Excessive intake of ginseng may cause Ginseng Abuse Syndrome which may cause breast tenderness, genital bleeding, hepatotoxicity, hypertension, convulsions, seizures, and reproductive toxicity.
Note: It is not recommended for pregnant and lactating women.
Avoid use of ginseng root for more than three months. Remember, everything in moderation! Always consult a medical professional before adding it to your regular diet or supplement regimen.
Types of Ginseng
The true types of ginseng are the Asian and American variety which have the active ginsenosides present in them. However, there are other adaptogenic herbs which are close relatives of ginseng and have similar properties and benefits.
- Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng): This classical ginseng is also known as the Koren red ginseng or South China ginseng.
- American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius): This is mild compared to Asian ginseng but is still very therapeutic.
- Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticocus): It contains a high amount of eleutherosides which exhibit similar properties as ginsenosides.
- Indian Ginseng (Withania somnifera): It is also known as ashwagandha. This finds its application in Ayurveda.
- Brazilian Ginseng (Pfaffia paniculata): It is also known as suma root.