Ginseng is an herb that has been used for centuries in Chinese medicine. It's energizing and stress-reducing, making it perfect for modern life. Other health benefits of ginseng include support for your immune system and brain.
If you're familiar with adaptogenic herbs, ginseng is classified as one of these. This means it has a tonic effect on your whole body, helping you to recover from and cope with stress. Asian ginseng can also act as a stimulant, giving you an immediate boost of energy.
Here's more about the types of ginseng and how they can boost your health.
What Is Ginseng?
There are two main types of ginseng used in herbal medicine: Asian (also called Korean) ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (P. quinquefolius). In each case, the roots of the plant are the part used medicinally.
Asian ginseng is probably the most used type and very important in traditional Chinese medicine. It grows natively in mountainous regions of Korea, China, and parts of Russia.
Depending on when it's harvested and how it's processed, Asian ginseng can be labeled different ways.
Fresh ginseng refers to roots that are harvested when they are less than four years old. White ginseng comes from 4-6 year old plants, and the roots are peeled before being dried. Red ginseng is harvested at the six year mark, and the roots are steamed before being dried.
American ginseng is native to northern parts of North America from Wisconsin and Pennsylvania north to Ontario, Canada. The roots of the plant have a rich history of use in the American herbal tradition.
Unfortunately, logging, development, and overharvesting nearly destroyed the populations of American ginseng growing in the wild. Today, it is most often cultivated and sold to try to preserve what's left of native habitats.
Both types of ginseng contain powerful compounds known as ginsenosides and gintonin. This gives them similar benefits, although there are slight differences between using Asian and American ginseng. (1)
Note: You'll hear several other herbs referred to as ginseng, but they aren't true Panax species. For example, eleuthero root is often called Siberian ginseng and ashwagandha is sometimes called Indian ginseng. They have completely different properties.
Top Health Benefits of Ginseng
Boosts Energy and Fights Fatigue
One of the most well-known health benefits of ginseng is its ability to boost energy levels. It also acts as a restorative tonic to help with both physical and mental fatigue.
For this reason, ginseng is often a popular supplement for athletes and those who like to be active. It's a natural way stay energized and possibly boost physical performance without negative effects like a caffeine or sugar crash. (2)
Studies have also shown that ginseng can be used long-term to help with chronic fatigue and recover stamina after going through a serious illness. One study even showed that a ginseng supplement was helpful for fatigue levels in cancer survivors. (3)(4)
If you've been struggling with the drain of adrenal fatigue or chronic stress, try these Adrenal Assist capsules made with ginseng and other herbs.
Contains Antioxidants with Anti-Inflammatory Power
Consuming a good amount of antioxidants is highly beneficial for your overall health. They help your body recover from damage due to free radicals and oxidative stress and provide protection again further damage.
The anti-inflammatory nature of the antioxidants in ginseng has even more health benefits because chronic inflammation is thought to be one of the root causes of many serious chronic diseases. Lowering inflammation in your body could help protect you from things like heart disease, cancer, and more. (7)
Benefits Brain Function and Mood
Research is showing that ginseng has properties that may improve memory, mood, and other important mental functions. This could be due to the antioxidants found in the herb as well as other powerful plant compounds. (8)
So far, several studies have had promising results. They document that supplementing with Asian ginseng can improve mental health, mental fatigue, and mental performance. (9)
Another hopeful avenue associated with ginseng is that it could help with the treatment of Alzheimer's disease. More research is still needed but several trials, including one in South Korea, have found that ginseng can improve the cognitive performance of patients with Alzheimer's. (10)
Reduces Stress Levels
As adaptogens, both Asian and American ginseng can help you with chronic stress. They work to increase your resistance to stress and to bring body and mind back into balance. This gives them a powerful anti-stress effect, especially when used long-term. (11)
While both can be helpful for managing stress, American ginseng is considered more of a relaxing herb, while Asian ginseng is considered more stimulating. Understanding this difference will help you choose which type of ginseng will be more beneficial for your circumstances.
Strengthens Your Immune System
Boosting your immune system is another one of the top health benefits of ginseng. It doesn't work in exactly the same ways as other herbs for immune health. Ginseng seems to support and regulate health immune function rather than providing a big "boost" right when taken. (12)
Besides strengthening your immune system, ginseng can also inhibit many different pathogenic viruses, bacteria, and other microbes. This antimicrobial activity may help your body ward off certain infections. (12)
May Boost Male and Female Libido
One of the most traditional uses for ginseng is to boost libido and support healthy sexual function. Many adaptogens are helpful for restoring libido because they help to bring your body, including your hormones, back into balance.
Some research also indicates that red ginseng may help treat erectile dysfunction in men. (13)
May Lower Blood Sugar Levels
Another potential benefit of ginseng is an ability to help control blood glucose levels. A few studies have shown that both American and Asian ginseng can lower blood sugar. Other research indicates that ginsenosides may be able to reduce insulin resistance, a condition in which the body does not respond correctly to insulin. (14)(15)
Fermented red ginseng has shown even better effects on blood sugar levels than unfermented ginseng. The fermentation process appears to make the ginsenosides more bioavailable to your body. (16)
To support healthy blood glucose and glycemic balance, you can try these Metabolic Manager capsules that contain American ginseng.
Using Ginseng for Health Benefits
Ginseng can be used in many ways. It's available as a powder, an extract, and in capsule form. You can also make a more traditional ginseng tea by simmering the dried root in a small pot of water for 10-15 minutes. Feel free to add other herbs and spices like cinnamon, ginger, or cloves.
The main thing to be aware of when using ginseng is to buy from a company you trust. Many ginseng supplements have been found to contain little or no ginseng. You may also want to look for a certain guaranteed percentage of ginsenosides when buying a supplement.
Also, be especially careful who you buy American ginseng from. Find out their source of ginseng to make sure they aren't unethically harvesting wild ginseng.
Ginseng has a long history of being an incredibly safe herb to use. Side effects are very rare but can include insomnia, a jittery feeling, and digestive upset. This normally only happens with very high doses.
There is some evidence that ginseng may interact with blood thinners and a few other medications. Some practitioners recommend not taking ginseng for more than 3 months at a time.
Benefiting from an Ancient Herb
Most of us could use more energy, less stress, and a better mood. This is exactly where adaptogenic herbs like ginseng come in. You'll also discover other health benefits of taking ginseng, like a stronger immune system and better brain function.
This ancient herb is still going strong today because of its powerful benefits. Try it for yourself and see!