Ginseng is a popular herbal medication and extract derived from the roots of a perennial plant (Panax ginseng) found mostly in China, Korea and Siberia. Ginseng is used is to promote health and improve wellness, as well as to treat stress and as a mild stimulant. Ginseng has not been implicated in causing liver injury although it may have the potential of causing significant herb-drug interactions that can lead to liver injury.
Ginseng refers to 11 different varieties of a short, slow-growing plant with fleshy roots. Ginseng may restore and enhance well-being.
The herb has a light-colored, forked-shaped root, a relatively long stalk, and green leaves in an oval shape.
Both American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius, L.) and Asian ginseng (P. Ginseng) may boost energy, lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduce stress, promote relaxation, treat diabetes, and manage sexual dysfunction in men.
People have traditionally taken ginseng to help with a range of medical conditions.
More research is needed to confirm if it has any benefit as a supplement. Researchers believe that ginsenosides, chemical components found in ginseng, are responsible for any clinical effects of the herb.
Western scientists and health professionals often question the medicinal properties of ginseng.
Researchers suggest that ginseng may have the following health benefits:
Ginseng may help stimulate physical and mental activity in people who feel weak and tired. One study of 21 men and 69 women found that ginseng showed good results in helping people with chronic fatigue.
A 2014 study of people receiving cancer treatment found that ginseng helped reduce cancer-related fatigue. However, researchers only documented the energy-boosting effects of ginseng in people currently undergoing treatment. Ginseng did not show statistically significant improvements in people who had already finished cancer treatment.
Ginseng may improve thinking processes and cognition. A 2018 report examined the accuracy of this claim.
This report concluded that, based on human and aminal studies, ginseng components have the potential to treat some cognitive deficits. These studies showed ginseng could reduce oxidative stress, which could lead to enhancement in cognitive function.
A 2016 study on the effects of Korean red ginseng on cognitive function in patients with Alzheimer’s disease found promise as well.
The study involved 14 people, three men, and 11 women, with a median age of 74.93 years old. The patients received 4.5 grams of Korean red ginseng for 12 weeks.
The study concluded that the Korean red ginseng helped improve frontal brain lobe function.
Ginseng may reduce inflammation. According to a 2020 studyTrusted Source, ginsenosides, the active components of ginseng, may target pathways in the immune system that could reduce inflammation.
Men may take ginseng to treat erectile dysfunction.
A systematic reviewTrusted Source tested the effects of red ginseng on erectile dysfunction. The review demonstrated that the number of trials, total sample size, and the quality of the experimental methods were not enough to demonstrate ongoing clinical benefit.
A 2012 studyTrusted Source of 119 men with mild-to-moderate erectile dysfunction found that ginseng berry extract improved overall sexual function. The study lasted 8 weeks, during which some of the group received Korean ginseng berry extract, and others received a placebo.
More research is needed to determine if ginseng is a reliable treatment for erectile dysfunction.
Research on the effects of ginseng on mice suggests a possible linkTrusted Source between ginseng and the treatment and prevention of influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV).
Findings of another study suggestedTrusted Source that red ginseng extract could improve the survival of human lung epithelial cells infected with the influenza virus.
It is undetermined exactly how the anti-viral mechanisms in ginseng work based on the above study.
A 2014 studyTrusted Source suggests that ginseng may help lower blood sugar and help treat diabetes. Ginsenosides may affect insulin production in the pancreas and improve insulin resistance using other mechanisms.
Another 2014 study showed similar benefits of ginseng on lowering blood sugar. Some participants took 2.7 grams of fermented red ginseng each day, while others took a placebo. Researchers found that ginseng was effective in lowering blood sugar and increasing insulin levels after a meal compared to the placebo.
People may experience a moderate interaction when using ginseng with a class of antidepressants called monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs).
Ginseng can alter the effects of blood pressure, diabetes, and heart medications, including calcium channel blockers such as nifedipine. Never take ginseng and heart medications at the same time without first consulting a doctor.
The herb can also increase the risk of bleeding when taken with blood thinners, such as warfarin or aspirin.
Ginseng: Health benefits, facts, and research (medicalnewstoday.com)