For those who are interested in natural or herbal healing, ginseng, also known as “forest gold,” is indeed worth its weight in gold. Panax ginseng is popularly known as a “tonic,” presently referred to as an adaptogen. An adaptogen is defined as a substance that “increases resistance to physical, chemical and biological stress and builds up general vitality, including the physical and mental capacity for work.” Panax ginseng in particular boosts energy, promotes healthy blood flow and libido (thus why it’s so beneficial for men’s sexual health), promotes a healthy immune system, helps fight illnesses, promotes cellular health, increases brain function and acts as a powerful anti-inflammatory. The amazing list of ginseng health benefits goes even further than the contents of this blog.
There are three popular types of ginseng: Panax (Asian), American and Siberian, which is not a true ginseng and is now commonly known as “eleuthero.” Ginseng’s medicinal properties are extracted from either the root, leaves or flowers of ginseng plants. The types are identified by the amount of ginsenosides present. These agents are responsible for a number of health benefits, which are not limited to those mentioned above. For example, another possible ginseng health benefit is helping to maintain healthy blood sugar levels within normal ranges. And the list still continues.
Ironically, the term ginsenosides may sound quite dangerous, but only to harmful organisms or conditions that may lead to bodily discomfort. Ginsenosides are actually responsible for ginseng’s numerous healing and preventative properties. Since Panax ginseng’s most important active components are ginsenosides, they are heralded as being responsible for its multiple health benefits.
Ginseng Helps the Body Generate and Balance Energy
One of Panax ginseng’s most commonly known abilities is increasing energy levels. For example, one four-week study compared Panax ginseng extract to placebo to determine the anti-fatigue effects. The study included 21 men and 69 women (90 participants) who were suffering from idiopathic chronic fatigue (ICF). By using two fatigue severity tests, one that was a self-rating scale, and one that was a visual scale, it was determined that the herb significantly reduced their fatigue. It also increased glutathione and glutathione reductase, both of which are powerful antioxidants.
A separate and interesting study observed Panax ginseng’s ability to help the body generate thermal energy, or yang, thus maintaining higher body temperature in a cold atmosphere. One animal study found that Panax ginseng administered in hypothermically stimulated rats increased the rats’ body temperatures; it did not increase the body temperatures in hyperthermically stimulated rats. On the other hand, American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) showed an ability to increase yin energy and aid in hypertension and cooling down.
Ginseng Protects Against Illness and Boosts Immune System
The immune-boosting effects of Panax ginseng have been purported for thousands of years. One article discusses the science behind this folk remedy. It analyzes ginseng’s effects on different types of immune cells, inflammatory diseases and infections.
For instance, Panax ginseng regulates natural killer cells, which are cells that recognize and fight off foreign invaders. In addition, another study showed that it can increase phagocytic activity. Phagocytes are composed of monocytes, which are present in the blood, and macrophages, which are present in the tissue. They fight against ingested microbes and initiate inflammatory mediators and cytokines for protection.
Ginseng Supports Healthy Cognitive Function
Panax ginseng has been confirmed to improve brain function in several ways. An article written by David Kiefer, M.D., and Traci Pants, B.S., includes studies to bolster such claims. One study included 112 healthy volunteers over the age of 40. After they were administered 400 mg of Panax for eight weeks, they showed faster basic reactions and better conceptual thinking skills. Another study showed that ginseng improves psychomotor skills, which includes information processing, auditory reaction and attention span. Ginseng also improves social functioning and mental health. Lastly, two studies, one of 20 healthy individuals and one with 384 postmenopausal women, showed that ginseng can improve memory and attention.
Do Panax Ginseng Health Benefits Make it a Panacea?
Panax ginseng comes with a plethora of positive benefits with few known side-effects. As an herb whose name literally translates to the Greek words all (pan) and cure (axos), it has the same meaning as the word panacea. Ginseng certainly deserves more attention as a possible alternative to certain pharmaceuticals for every day and more serious health conditions. Further researching the benefits of this herbal gem may well prove its status as a panacea.