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As an herbal remedy, ginseng is unique in its many benefits for a range of health conditions. Learn why American ginseng is now considered most effective.
Ginseng is one of the most popular and widely-researched herbs on the planet and is close to being a natural cure-all. In fact, the botanical name for ginseng is “Panax ginseng” — Panax meaning “all-heal” or “panacea.” The benefits of ginseng have been known for thousands of years. While this herb is usually thought of as a traditional Chinese herb, there’s an American species with a long history of use too. Ironically the Chinese now prefer American ginseng. Let’s look at the many health benefits of ginseng, one of the world’s most valuable herbal remedies.
The Many Health Benefits of Panax Ginseng
Ginseng Relieves Stress
Ginseng is an adaptogen. Adaptogens are herbal remedies that make you more resilient to mental, physical, and environmental stress.They generally work by reducing the stress hormone cortisol while strengthening the adrenal glands. Dr. Frank Lipman, author of The New Health Rules, describes adaptogens as working like a thermostat. By supporting adrenal function, “Adaptogens can calm you down and boost your energy at the same time without over-stimulating.” Adaptogens like ginseng nourish your adrenal glands, unlike caffeine which stresses them. Ginseng can even protect your stomach from ulcers that are caused by stress.
Ginseng may help with stimulating physical and mental activity among people who are weak and tired. A Mayo Clinic study revealed that ginseng showed good results in helping cancer patients with fatigue.
Ginseng may improve thinking ability and cognition. Research published in the The Cochrane Library, conducted at the Medical School of Nantong University in China, examined whether this claim holds any truth.
Lead author, JinSong Geng, M.D., said that given the results of the study "ginseng appears to have some beneficial effects on cognition, behavior and quality of life." However, the authors of the review cautioned that despite some positive findings, studies included in the systematic review did not add up to a "convincing" case for ginseng's effectiveness as a cognitive enhancer.
In commenting on the study, Richard Brown, M.D., an associate professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia University, said: "It was a very careful review. But as with many Chinese herbs and treatments, while ginseng has been used by millions of people, there aren't a lot of rigorous modern studies."
Another study, published in the Journal of Dairy Science, explored whether it would be possible to incorporate American ginseng into foods. The researchers developed ginseng fortified milk with sufficient levels of ginseng to improve cognitive function.
Ginseng has seven constituents, ginsenosides, which may have immune-suppressive effects, according to results of experiments which were published in the Journal of Translational Medicine
Allan Lau, who led the study, said that "the anti-inflammatory role of ginseng may be due to the combined effects of these ginsenosides, targeting different levels of immunological activity, and so contributing to the diverse actions of ginseng in humans".
There may be substances in ginseng that have anticancer properties. A few population studies in Asia have linked the herb's consumption to a lower risk of cancer.
Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center researchers found that Ginseng improved survival and quality of life after a diagnosis of breast cancer.
The American Cancer Society said that "clinical trials are still needed to determine whether it is effective in people."
Men may take ginseng to treat erectile dysfunction. A 2002 Korean study revealed that 60 percent of men who took ginseng noticed an improvement in their symptoms. In addition, research published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology provided "evidence for the effectiveness of red ginseng in the treatment of erectile dysfunction."2
Flu and RSV
Research published in the International Journal of Molecular Medicine has suggested a possible link between ginseng and the treatment and prevention of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV). This study was conducted in mice and found that red ginseng extract improved the survival of human lung epithelial cells infected with influenza virus.