Ginseng

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How we take care of our bodies is directly related to quality of life. The better we care for ourselves the higher the quality of life we will experience. Exercise is a well-known component of a healthy body, but diet is just as important in how we look and feel. Natural herbs and supplements are becoming increasingly popular as a way to complement an already healthy diet and help us feel our best physically, emotionally and mentally. Ginseng is one such natural herb that offers a myriad of medicinal and therapeutic benefits.

What is Ginseng?

Ginseng has been used for thousands of years to treat certain conditions and illnesses. The use of ginseng originated in ancient Chinese medicine. It hasn't been until the past 300 years1 that this ancient medicinal herb has been harvested for use as an herbal supplement and alternative to traditional medicines.

This very popular herb is a perennial from the Araliaceae family2, of the genus Panax. This is why often times you will see ginseng referred to by its formal name Panax ginseng. Even though the leaf and stem of the ginseng plant contain medicinal properties, it is the root that has the highest concentration3 and is, therefore, the most common part of the plant used.

Ginsenosides are the main active ingredient in ginseng. Ginsenosides are natural steroid glycosides and triterpene saponins. Research shows that there are about 40 different ginsenosides in ginseng. Its medicinal properties make it popular as a dietary supplement as well as complementary to certain medications.4

The Benefits of Ginseng

Ginseng has stood the test of time due to its wide array of uses across a spectrum of diseases. For instance, diabetes is a disease that affects many and can interfere with day-to-day life. Studies5 show that Ginseng has the ability to help individuals who suffer from diabetes by increasing insulin production and decreasing blood glucose.

Ginseng also has the ability to improve6 overall cardiovascular function. It does so by reducing platelet adhesion, helping to control hypertension and cholesterol levels.  

This versatile herb is beneficial7 for those who suffer from COPD. Studies show that consumption of ginseng improves overall pulmonary function and reduces the symptoms of COPD.

The hepatic system also benefits from the consumption of ginseng as it promotes liver function8. This can be very beneficial for individuals who have reduced liver function.

Ginseng seems to possess anti-cancer properties that may play a role in both preventing the development of cancer and slowing the growth of cancer in individuals who have been diagnosed with certain forms of cancer. According to a study9, ginseng specifically shows protective benefits in patients with breast cancer. This same study showed that ginseng has estrogen-like effects on the estrogen receptors and therefore slowing the growth of tumors.

A study conducted at Northumbria University10 shows that the consumption of even a single dose of Ginseng can improve cognitive function. The study showed that individuals who consume ginseng had improved memory function.

Additional research suggests that ginseng is helpful8 in improving sexual function as well as having an anti-aging effect. It can even enhance the function of the immune system.

Ginseng is not just taken for medicinal purposes, but also for therapeutic reasons. Ginseng can reduce the level of stress in individuals as well as increase the level of energy.11 This is not only beneficial for your emotional and mental state, but helps ward off the aforementioned physical diseases and illnesses.

How to Use Ginseng

Ginseng comes in three forms12. Consumers can find fresh ginseng or extract that has been dried or dried and steamed. Dried ginseng is typically white, and the extract which has been both dried and steamed is red in color.

Ginseng extract in both supplements and foods have been proven to be safe13 without adverse side effects. The two most common instances of individuals experiencing unwanted side-effects are when the ginseng extract is poor quality or when individuals consume excessive amounts.

It's important to speak with your medical doctor when it comes to adding ginseng to your diet. Only your medical professional can advise you on ginseng's effect on daily medications.

Foods That Contain Ginseng

Ginseng is not found naturally in foods but is rather added to food and beverages. In Asian countries such as China, Korea and Japan ginseng is routinely incorporated into food dishes.14 In the United States, ginseng is most commonly found in beverages such as herbal teas, smoothies and even some energy drinks. However, ginseng is taking root and becoming more and more popular as an added ingredient in certain dishes in the western hemisphere.

The Power of Supplements

Day-to-day life can become very hectic. Sometimes it is difficult to enough to eat healthy meals, let alone consume natural herbs and spices that can take our health to the next level. Dietary supplements make it easy to consume the little extras that can make all the difference in the world in how we feel. Ancient herbs and spices have stood the test of time for a reason. Ginseng is one of the oldest most popular natural supplements in the world that has much to offer in the way of medicinal and therapeutic benefits.

Citations and Sources

1.
Davis M, Behm B. Ginseng: A Qualitative Review of Benefits for Palliative Clinicians. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. January 2019:1049909118822704. [PubMed]
2.
Lü J, Yao Q, Chen C. Ginseng compounds: an update on their molecular mechanisms and medical applications. Curr Vasc Pharmacol. 2009;7(3):293-302. [PubMed]
3.
Wang H, Peng D, Xie J. Ginseng leaf-stem: bioactive constituents and pharmacological functions. Chin Med. 2009;4:20. [PubMed]
4.
Kim Y, Woo J, Han C, Chang I. Safety Analysis of <i>Panax Ginseng</i> in Randomized Clinical Trials: A Systematic Review. Medicines (Basel). 2015;2(2):106-126. [PubMed]
5.
Luo J, Luo L. Ginseng on hyperglycemia: effects and mechanisms. Evid Based Complement Alternat Med. 2009;6(4):423-427. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18955300.
6.
Zhou W, Chai H, Lin P, Lumsden A, Yao Q, Chen C. Molecular mechanisms and clinical applications of ginseng root for cardiovascular disease. Med Sci Monit. 2004;10(8):RA187-92. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15278009.
7.
An X, Zhang A, Yang A, et al. Oral ginseng formulae for stable chronic obstructive pulmonary disease: a systematic review. Respir Med. 2011;105(2):165-176. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21146973.
8.
Choi K. Botanical characteristics, pharmacological effects and medicinal components of Korean Panax ginseng C A Meyer. Acta Pharmacol Sin. 2008;29(9):1109-1118. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18718180.
9.
Duda R, Taback B, Kessel B, et al. pS2 expression induced by American ginseng in MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Ann Surg Oncol. 1996;3(6):515-520. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/8915481.
10.
Kennedy D, Scholey A. Ginseng: potential for the enhancement of cognitive performance and mood. Pharmacol Biochem Behav. 2003;75(3):687-700. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12895687.
11.
Oliynyk S, Oh S. Actoprotective effect of ginseng: improving mental and physical performance. J Ginseng Res. 2013;37(2):144-166. [PubMed]
12.
Davis M, Behm B. Ginseng: A Qualitative Review of Benefits for Palliative Clinicians. Am J Hosp Palliat Care. January 2019:1049909118822704. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/30686023.
13.
Wang H, Peng D, Xie J. Ginseng leaf-stem: bioactive constituents and pharmacological functions. Chin Med. 2009;4:20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2770043.
14.
Jung J, Lee N, Paik H. Bioconversion, health benefits, and application of ginseng and red ginseng in dairy products. Food Sci Biotechnol. 2017;26(5):1155-1168. [PubMed]
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