Ginseng is the root of the Panax ginseng plant that originated from East Asian mountains. It was predominantly used in China, Korea and Japan mostly in traditional medicine, but nowadays it is considered a health supplement.
Ginseng is normally sold in its natural form, or as an ingredient in traditional medication, and it can also be bought as an OTC (over the counter) supplement from pharmacies.
Li Shizen, a Chinese physician (i.e., herbalist, naturalist, acupuncturist, physician and author) who lived in the Ming Dynasty, described this powerful root as a “superior tonic” in his book Compendium of Materia Medica in 1596.
This root plant has 3 classifications depending on how long it is grown and harvested – fresh, white or red.
Fresh ginseng is normally harvested before 4 years; white ginseng is harvested 4 – 6 years. Red ginseng being of the highest quality, is harvested after a period of 6 years or more. Therefore, pricewise, red ginseng is the most expensive.
Here are a few health benefits of ginseng:
Research has shown ginseng extracts and ginsenoside compounds are potent antioxidants which have anti-inflammatory properties.
Korean red ginseng given to human test subjects gave results showing improved antioxidant activity and reduced inflammation especially in subjects suffering from eczema.
Another study was conducted on male athletes who were given 2 gms of Korean red ginseng extract thrice daily over a week. Post exercise results showed lower signs of inflammation from these athletes compared to the placebo group.
Improvement of brain function:
Brain functions like mood, behavior and memory have been found to improve in individuals who took ginseng. Researchers are conducting in-depth studies to find firm evidence that ginsenosides and compound K, which are components of ginseng, could prevent or reduce damage to the brain by free radicals.
Positive effects in improved behavior, cognitive brain functions and increased levels of calmness were noted in patients suffering from Alzheimer’s disease, when they were given ginseng supplements.
Possible improvement of ED (Erectile Dysfunction):
Men treated with red ginseng were found to have nearly 60 per cent improvement in ED symptoms compared to western medication.
Compounds in ginseng were found to reduce oxidative stress in blood vessels and improving blood flow to the penis, thus helping to restore normal functions.
More studies are being carried out to obtain conclusive results on the usage of ginseng supplements to improve ED.
A booster for your immune system:
A group of patients who recovered from stomach cancer were given a high dosage of red ginseng (approximately 5,000 mg daily). Results showed these patients had significant improvements to their immune systems which also led to a lower recurrence of the disease.
Similar results were noted in stomach cancer patients undergoing post-surgery chemotherapy.
Separate studies have shown that taking red ginseng may lower the risk of people developing cancer by as much as 16 per cent.
The consumption of ginseng has been shown to increase one’s energy. Here again, polysaccharides and oligopeptides found in ginseng, lower the oxidative stress and promote higher energy production in your cells, which counteract fatigue, i.e., you will feel more energized.
Improve blood sugar levels:
In a 12-week study on people with type 2 diabetes, it was found that taking 6 grams of red ginseng along with their regular medication showed a marked reduction in their blood sugar levels.
Diabetics should be cautioned on the amount of ginseng taken, as their blood sugar levels may go lower than normal, leading to other complications.
How to add ginseng to your diet:
Ginseng can be consumed in a variety of ways – raw, steamed, stewed, in soups and even in stir frys. It can even be taken as a supplement in capsule or tablet forms and ginseng oil is also available.
How much ginseng should one take?
This information is best answered by your doctor, especially if you already have underlying medical issues, as it is very important to note that ginseng or any other supplement, may have serious side effects when taken with your other medications.
As with all our health articles, the above are general views on ginseng. Do consult your medical practitioner for proper medical advice related to consuming ginseng in any form.
30th May 21:05