Deriving its name “Jen Shen,” translated as little man, Panax ginseng often resembles a tiny stick figure. Being an integral component of Traditional Chinese Medicine, it is considered one of the oldest remedies with a history.
The therapeutic value of this root plant was revered by Chinese royalty. It also enjoyed spiritual status by warding off evil and was even somewhat of a love potion to attract the object of one’s desire.
But myth and folklore aside, Panax ginseng is full of healing potential, a lot of which is now backed by science.
Here is what this ancient plant can do for you.
- What is Panax Ginseng?
- How Does Panax Ginseng Work In The Brain?
- What Are The Health Benefits of Panax Ginseng?
- How To Take Panax Ginseng?
- Does Panax Ginseng Side Effects?
What is Panax Ginseng?
Panax ginseng is one of the several types of ginseng root used in herbal medicine. This is the primary type of ginseng researched in studies and used in supplements for treating different conditions.
Among Panax varieties, the two most common ones include American ginseng (Panax Quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax Notoginseng), also known as Korean ginseng. It also goes by the names of Chinese ginseng and Red ginseng.
Another variety is Siberian ginseng, but it isn’t classified as a Panax.
But regardless of the type of ginseng under discussion, every kind has active components known as ginsenosides, which give it much of its antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticarcinogenic properties.
Based on this ginsenoside content, Panax ginseng may present health benefits for improved brain function, improve erectile dysfunction, boost immune function, and help increase energy levels while fighting fatigue and tiredness, among many others.
Of the two kinds, Asian ginseng is typically associated with having a stimulating effect, while American ginseng or Panax Quinquefolius works more for relaxation.
How Does Panax Ginseng Work In The Brain?
In a nootropic capacity, Panax ginseng is perhaps best known as an adaptogen. This means that along with presenting mental health benefits related to cognition and memory, it is also very adept at resisting stress of all kinds, whether physical, chemical, or biological.
Ginseng may deliver versatile health benefits from cognition, circulation to hypertension, and immunity as an adaptogen.
The ginsenosides are a collection of diverse components, namely glycosides and saponins, that yield well over 30 unique ginsenoside combinations. This is why Panax ginseng has so many functional mechanisms in the brain, covering neuroprotection, antioxidation, immune stimulation, and so on.
Alongside these, ginsenosides also stimulate the release of the neurotransmitters acetylcholine, dopamine, 5-HTP, and norepinephrine in the brain.
They also enhance the enzymatic antioxidant activity and interact with the HPA axis to reduce stress. And finally, they improve vasodilation for a boost in circulation.
What Are The Health Benefits of Panax Ginseng?
Many of the health benefits of ginseng as purported by Traditional Chinese Medicine have also been corroborated by modern medicine and research.
The active compounds in its roots work by mechanisms yielding benefits for diabetes, cancer, heart disease, and even erectile dysfunction, among others.
Improves Memory and Cognition Functions
Some of the main nootropic benefits of ginseng relate to memory and cognition enhancement.
Ginseng may act as a cognitive enhancer where a clinical study showed mental sharpness, concentration, thinking, and mental clarity to improve within hours of ingestion (1).
Some animal studies further suggest that ginseng may help prevent the brain from damage done by free radicals.
Ginseng is also known for its effectiveness in the improvement of cognitive functions.
A study on these herbs found that when people intake 400 mg of ginseng every day for up to 8 days, the results showed that it helped them become calmer, improved their math skills, and helped improve their mood (2).
It also shows potential for treating neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s, where animal studies have demonstrated the efficacy of the root plant to present more substantial effects than prescription pharmaceutical drugs in certain neurocognitive disorders.
One human study investigated the effect of ginseng on the cognitive performance of individuals with Alzheimer’s disease. After receiving ginseng treatment, participants showed improvements which continued for three months and declined after the treatment stopped (3).
Reduces Anxiety and Depression
In addition to the nootropic effects of ginseng, red ginseng may also be a promising agent for mood-related conditions such as anxiety and depression.
In particular, Korean ginseng may help lift mood and improve overall mental well-being.
Research indicates that ginseng may improve emotional calmness and some aspects of working memory performance in healthy young adults (4).
Ginseng may also assist in stabilizing the nervous system response and improving cognition for individuals exposed to high levels of stress. Likewise, it may present anti-depressant mechanisms to alleviate depression and anxiety.
Increases Physical and Mental Energy Levels
Traditional medicine has used ginseng to ward off fatigue, boost emotional wellness, and improve energy levels in both physical and mental capacities.
This herb has shown positive effects against fatigue stemming from chronic fatigue syndrome, sleep problems, or oxidative stress.
One study involving 630 people presented findings that showed that ginseng supplements help fight fatigue (5).
Another study showed that ginseng helps boost mental performance and physical stability without any signs of increased oxygen consumption (6).
Research also shows that because adaptogens like ginseng can enhance cellular energy without over or under stimulation, they can improve endurance and stamina without mounting a stress response.
Potent Antioxidant That Reduces Inflammation
Ginseng contains antioxidant properties and anti-inflammatory properties. Red ginseng, in particular, has been the subject of much research regarding inflammation.
Some research shows that ginseng can increase the antioxidant activity in cells and helps inhibit inflammation in cells (7).
Another test-tube study concluded that people with eczema had improved antioxidants in their skin cells. In addition, Korean red ginseng also showed anti-inflammatory properties in their cells (8).
Boosts The Immune System
Korean red ginseng has been known to boost the immune system. Korean ginseng extract has been studied to produce antimicrobial compounds that may defend against the risk of viral and bacterial infections.
One study involved participants consuming Panax ginseng extract for eight weeks resulted in the death of infectious agents in the body, boosting their immune system.
When a group of elderly participants with a weakened immune system used red ginseng extract, it improved the immune mechanisms of their lymphocyte or immunity-boosting cells (9).
It has also been seen to increase the effect of vaccinations on people. Another study concluded that people taking Korean red ginseng daily in their diet had 35% more chances of being free from any health problems after surgery and 38% more chances of surviving it.
Helps The Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction
A systematic review looked at the efficacy of Panax ginseng for treating erectile dysfunction (ED), with results suggesting this root herb as a potential treatment for this disorder.
Korean ginseng helps reduce oxidative stress and helps increase the amount of nitric oxide in the penis. This helps restore the normal function of the penis and show improvements in relaxing the muscles, respectively.
A study on 86 men showed that these medications benefit men by curing their erectile dysfunction or sexual dysfunction after taking 1,000 mg doses for 8 weeks.
Another study looked at the effects of Korean ginseng berry extract on 119 men with mild to moderate ED and indicates that it may be used as a substitute medicine to improve sexual activity in men with this condition.
Has Potential Benefits Against Cancer
Korean red ginseng has also proved to be effective in cancer prevention. A study showed that people taking ginseng can have 16% low chances of ever developing cancer.
The ginsenoside components in Korean red ginseng prevent abnormal cell growth and their production.
Korean red ginseng is also known to help people going through chemotherapy treatment. It reduces the side effects of chemotherapy and increases the impact of medicines on the body.
Another study suggested that Korean red ginseng helps prevent certain types of cancer. While more research is needed on this subject, there is still a lot of evidence that proves the effect of Korean ginseng on health and preventing cancer.
Lowers Blood Sugar
Ginseng helps control blood sugar and helps keep a check on blood glucose levels in both people with diabetes and those without.
Since managing blood glucose is among the primary purposes of diabetes management and treatment, this root plant is worthy of many diabetes studies.
In a placebo-controlled trial, 2.7 g of fermented Korean red ginseng extract, research showed that people showed improved low blood sugar levels and increased insulin levels after a meal.
In another study with type 2 diabetes patients, participants consuming ginseng with a highly viscous fiber showed a notable decline in blood sugar levels.
Some other evidence indicates that ginseng may even be beneficial beyond medication for people with diabetes for blood sugar regulation, with the two approaches being complementary in the treatment of diabetes.
How To Take Panax Ginseng?
While Panax ginseng may be used as a standalone nootropic, it can also be paired up with other bioactive compounds for maximum potency. However, the duration of supplementing is a concern.
Korean ginseng is mostly not recommended to be taken for more than 6 months. It is best consumed right before food to increase the absorption of the herb. Also, avoid taking it right before bedtime as it can present the side effect of insomnia.
Some experts also recommend taking a two-week break from ginseng use after every two to three weeks.
Ginseng is available in different forms, including an extracted herb or a dry, ground root.
Panax ginseng may also be ingested as a tea, powder, or in capsule form. There is also a tincture form available for a more concentrated version.
However, most of the research has been done using powder or supplement form.
Supplements are a good option if you’re looking for more accurate dosage, although very high doses of up to 6000 mg for several weeks have been observed as well-tolerated by most people.
Since there is no recommended dosage for taking ginseng extracts, it is best to consult a doctor before using any ginseng product. That said, the following dosages used in studies are considered safe to achieve the positive effects of ginseng:
- Brain health: The best dose for this purpose is between 200 to 960 mg that works well to improve cognitive function, fight oxidative stress, and lift the mood.
- Erectile function: To fight any erectile problems and to increase stamina, 1400 to 2700 mg of Korean ginseng use can show positive effects.
- Flu: Ginseng root is widely used to treat cold, and taking 200 mg of Korean ginseng may help improve symptoms.
- For menopausal women: Studies show a dose of between 300 mg to 900 mg of red ginseng to be beneficial for menopausal symptoms and cardiovascular risk factors for menopausal women. This is given the phytoestrogens or plant-like estrogens with a chemical structure like human estrogen in red ginseng.
- Fatigue: Patients suffering from fatigue, lack of interest, or cognitive function problems can take a dose of 250 – 400 mg of a ginseng product twice daily to help.
This is a general preventive dose with maximum health benefits noted around 400 mg daily.
The quality of the ginseng supplement will depend on its ginsenoside content, so that is an essential factor to consider.
Does Panax Ginseng Side Effects?
Ginseng products are mostly considered to be safe for use but only for the short term. While they have many positive effects, they can also have some side effects if not used with care. Therefore, it is important to talk to the doctor or the health provider before taking ginseng berry extract for any reason.
- Ginseng is known to have some drug interactions, and if it is mixed with any, it might cause unwanted effects. It may become a severe concern if you are a patient with diabetes and are using other kinds of medication, including insulin.
- If you are taking something to control blood sugar levels, hypertension, or use blood thinners, then Panax ginseng should only be used after consulting with your doctor.
- It may also interfere with the metabolism of monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOs), a class of drugs used to treat depression.
- Some of the common side effects of ginseng products are insomnia, dizziness, upset stomach, or nervousness.
- These extracts may also have other side effects, depending on the condition being treated and its resistance against ginseng.
- You should immediately stop taking any supplements if you experience irregular, fast heartbeat or allergic reactions such as a rash, itching, or swelling.
Ginseng is seen as promising for a lot of health conditions with mood correction, immune system enhancement, and cognitive improvement right at the top.
This potent herb may also address fatigue issues resisting physical stressors, and promoting emotional well-being. Given its effectiveness and safety, this is a supplement worth taking a close look at when consumed as directed.
With history and science backing its various health benefits, we feel that Panax ginseng is a supplement worth your investment.
- Does Panax ginseng increase serotonin?
Different studies show that ginseng can improve serotonin levels in the hippocampus.
This improvement in levels may be another way ginseng exerts anti-depressant effects.
- Does Panax ginseng increase dopamine?
Studies have looked at improved dopamine in individuals who have Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).
Many test-tube studies support this, but more research is still needed.
- How long does Panax ginseng stay in your system?
Ginseng, being a water-soluble substance, gets absorbed fully within 24 hours and its active ingredients stay in the body for about 2-3 days.