Getting To Know Ginseng

Getting To Know Ginseng

Adam Parsons
Adam Parsons
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A staple of traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng still has a valued place in the modern world. Thanks to a variety of consumption methods and a host of possible wellness benefits, it's never been easier to experience all this ancient root has to offer. Follow along, and get acquainted with ginseng today.

As a mainstay in health shops and long used in traditional holistic practices, ginseng root is as popular today as ever. With a rich history steeped in traditional Chinese medicine, there is still a place in the modern world for ginseng. Whether used in the form of a powdered extract, as an ingredient in recipes, or simply brewed into a tea, versatility is the name of the game when it comes to ginseng. Join us as we give a complete overview of everything you need to know about this root, its potential benefits, and how to include some in your daily life.

What Is Ginseng?

What Is Ginseng?

Ginseng is a root belonging to the Panax genus. When harvested, Panax ginseng, also called Chinese ginseng or Korean ginseng, is used in a wide variety of settings, with a focus on promoting a host of potential wellness benefits. The name “ginseng” comes from the Chinese word “rénshēn”, which essentially means “person” (rén) and “plant root” (shēn). The name is a reflection of the fact that ginseng has a shape not unlike a person, with long, limb-like appendages. But name aside, just how far does ginseng's use date back?

The Origins Of Ginseng

The origins of ginseng

It's argued that ginseng was first used well over 4,500 years ago. However, recorded use dates back to 196 AD in China, where it was initially utilised as a means of providing a burst of revitalising energy, and to address states such as insomnia and gastritis. The viability of these uses are hotly debated in the modern world, but that certainly hasn't stunted ginseng's popularity.

What Is The Difference Between Ginseng And Ginger?

What is the difference between ginseng and ginger?

Similar in appearance and with similar applications, ginger and ginseng often appear as bedfellows in the world of natural supplements, with many believing the two are interchangeable. However, ginseng and ginger are indeed entirely different plants. Still, both roots have been used for thousands of years in traditional holistic practices, specifically traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and feature an abundance of vitamin c, zinc, and magnesium. But their differences are also fairly stark. For example, due to the sweet yet spicy flavour ginger provides, it's used more often in cooking compared to ginseng. Moreover, ginseng can potentially boost the function of the immune system, whereas ginger cannot.

Adding to the confusion is the fact that Korean ginseng is the most commonly used type in areas such as China and Korea, and is known for having more stimulating effects, whereas American ginseng, found in Canada and America, offers up more relaxing effects. There's also Siberian ginseng, which, though used for similar purposes, is technically not a type of ginseng at all.

How Does Ginseng Work?

How Does Ginseng Work?

Now that we have an understanding of what ginseng is, how does it work in the body? As mentioned, there are plenty of potential effects that come with using ginseng, and there are several different ways to experience them. Traditionally, the root is eaten raw, but it can also be steamed before consumption. In modern times, ginseng is typically dried and then ground into a fine powder before being ingested in recipes or in capsules. Regardless of the method, once ingested, ginseng interacts with the body and mind to exert a range of effects that may benefit wellness. Although the mechanism(s) of action of Korean and American ginseng are not fully elucidated, researchers have noted some compelling effects in humans.

The Potential Benefits Of Ginseng

The potential benefits of ginseng

Rich in antioxidants and researched in relation to its effect on inflammation, ginseng contains two key compounds believed to be responsible for many of the root’s potential benefits: ginsenosides and gintonin. Of course, the effects of ginseng will vary from person to person, but below are a few areas in which ginseng may impact well-being.

Energy And Fatigue

Ginseng, more specifically the Korean variety, has been researched for its potential to boost energy and stave off the effects of feeling fatigued. A study carried out in 2013 (Kim et al.) showed that, over the course of 4 weeks, a group of 90 people who were given 1 or 2 grams of ginseng experienced a reduction in both mental and physical fatigue compared to placebo.

Cognition And Mood

It's thought that ginseng also has the potential to positively impact aspects of cognition, such as memory, as well as mood. While there are no psychoactive, euphoric elements to ginseng, a study from 2002 (Ellis & Reddy) shows the effect of ginseng on general quality of life. A group of 30 volunteers were given 200mg of ginseng per day for 4 weeks, at the end of which researchers noted an impact on mental health and an overall positive change in mood. However, after a period of 8 weeks, these effects appeared to diminish, potentially meaning that the impact of ginseng on brain function could be short term in effect.

Inflammation

Given its abundance of active compounds, ginseng has been studied in the modern era for its effect on inflammation. One study (Jung et al., 2011) administered 2 grams of Korean ginseng, three times per day, to 18 male volunteers for seven days. The volunteers were tested at the end of each day, and it was noted that each displayed significantly lower inflammatory markers.

Erectile Dysfunction

Ginseng has also been observed for its impact on erectile dysfunction. There is scientific research to suggest that taking ginseng can lower oxidative stress levels, in turn increasing blood flow to the penile muscles. One such study (Choi et al., 1995) notes a 60% improvement among participants taking Korean ginseng compared to those using regular erectile dysfunction medication.

Is Ginseng Safe To Use?

Is Ginseng Safe To Use?

Given the varying methods of administration, it's easy to find a way to use ginseng that suits you and offers the ideal dose for your needs. However, it's advised that pregnant or breastfeeding women steer clear of using ginseng, as there is not enough information to support its consumption during these stages. Also, due to the energy-boosting nature of ginseng, those with heart conditions should consult a medical professional before taking it.

Possible Side Effects Of Ginseng

As is the case with most supplements or vitamins, the over-consumption of ginseng can lead to some possible side effects. While none are life-threatening or particularly severe, it's advised you stop taking ginseng should you experience any of the following:

  • Headaches
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rash

If you have any concerns regarding any of these side effects, consult a medical professional before consuming ginseng.

Discover The Power Of Ginseng For Yourself

Discover The Power Of Ginseng For Yourself

Now that you're well-versed in all things ginseng, how can you experience it for yourself? While you can visit your local supermarket to pick up ginseng teas and juices, did you know there are far easier ways to introduce a little ginseng into your daily life? Zamnesia's Healthshop has you covered with top-quality products featuring ginseng as a main or complementary ingredient, allowing you to get the most out of this root’s wellness potential. By simply taking a couple capsules a day, you can discover the versatile power of ginseng for yourself.

References
  • Choi HK, Seong DH, & Rha KH. (1995 Sep). Choi, H. K., Seong, D. H., & Rha, K. H. (1995). Clinical efficacy of Korean red ginseng for erectile dysfunction. International Journal of Impotence Research, 7(3), 181–186. - https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov
  • Ellis, J. M., & Reddy, P. (2002). Effects of Panax Ginseng on Quality of Life. Annals of Pharmacotherapy, 36(3), 375–379. - https://journals.sagepub.com
  • Hyeong-Geug Kim, Jung-Hyo Cho, Sa-Ra Yoo, Jin-Seok Lee, Jong-Min Han, Nam-Hun Lee, Yo-Chan Ahn, & Chang-Gue Son. (Apr 17, 2013). Antifatigue Effects of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer: A Randomised, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled Trial - https://journals.plos.org
  • Jung, H. L., Kwak, H. E., Kim, S. S., Kim, Y. C., Lee, C. D., Byurn, H. K., & Kang, H. Y. (2011). Effects of Panax ginseng supplementation on muscle damage and inflammation after uphill treadmill running in humans. The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, 39(3), 441–450. - https://www.worldscientific.com