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.
I’ll tell why they clamor for it shortly.
But first, 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
Panax ginseng is the botanical name for the herb we commonly know as ginseng.
It goes by over 50 names but is most commonly called Asian, Chinese, or Korean ginseng, depending on where it is grown. (1)
Sometimes Panax ginseng is called “true” ginseng to distinguish it from Siberian or American ginseng.
Ginseng’s use in Asia goes back over 5,000 years. (2)
The word “ginseng” means “man-root” in Chinese since, with a little imagination, the root looks a little like a human.
A literal translation of Panax ginseng into English is “all-healing man root.” (3)
Traditional Chinese medicine considers ginseng one of the most important herbs.
It is used as a balancing tonic with the unique ability to both stimulate and relax the nervous system.
It’s believed to bring long life, strength, and wisdom to those who take it. (4)
Now ginseng is a multibillion dollar industry with 99% of all of the world’s supply coming from four countries: China, South Korea, the United States, and Canada.
In South Korea, 1,000 researchers are devoted to the study of ginseng and publish more than a hundred research papers on it every year. (5)
Here are some of the most notable proven ginseng benefits they and others have discovered …
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. (6)
Dr. Frank Lipman, author of The New Health Rules, describes adaptogens as working like a thermostat.
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By supporting adrenal function, “Adaptogens can calm you down and boost your energy at the same time without over-stimulating.” (7)
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. (8)
Ginseng Boosts Mood and Mental Well-Being
Ginseng creates a relaxed but alert state similar to that experienced by drinking green tea.
Study participants often report the following benefits of ginseng: improved overall well-being and better energy, sleep, sex life, and personal satisfaction. (9)
It’s useful for treating both anxiety and depression. (10)
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Ginseng is a main ingredient in the traditional Chinese herbal formula Kai Xin San.
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Ginseng Boosts Energy, Endurance, and Strength
Energy boosting is one of ginseng’s most well-known benefits.
It’s been used to increase strength and stamina for thousands of years.
It’s good for healthy people who want to increase their physical performance and for those coping with disease-based fatigue.
The mental and energy boosts from ginseng are smooth and not like that from coffee.
It won’t make you jittery or crash.
Ginseng has been shown to reduce fatigue and increase energy in cancer patients. (13)
It’s one of the more useful herbal remedies for chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS).
More than half of those who try it report a boost in energy. (14)
It’s been equally useful for those with unexplained chronic fatigue.
Ginseng Keeps You Young Inside and Out
The Chinese believe that ginseng promotes longevity and they may be onto something.
For instance, it keeps your skin healthy and can reduce wrinkles when taken orally.
It treats male pattern baldness when applied topically and taken internally concurrently. (15)
It increases circulation, sending more blood to all your organs.
Ginseng protects major organs such as the heart, liver, and kidneys from aging and damage. (16)
When taken by middle-aged men, ginseng reduces overall mortality from all causes. (17)
Ginseng Improves Memory and Mental Performance
Ginseng works as a brain booster and protector.
It can improve mental performance and ability to concentrate.
As an antioxidant it helps prevent free radical damage to vulnerable brain cells.
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It also helps prevent memory loss and protect against age-related mental decline.
Taking Panax ginseng root daily for 12 weeks can improve mental performance in people with Alzheimer’s disease. (18)
It also improves memory in stroke patients. (19)
When both ginseng and Ginkgo biloba are included in a brain supplement, they seem to have a synergistic effect, improving short-term memory and minimizing symptoms of ADHD. (20)
Ginseng Is Nature’s Viagra
Ginseng has a long history of being used to improve libido and sexual function in both men and women.
It is considered an aphrodisiac in traditional Chinese medicine and is used to restore sexual function in men. (21)
Korean red ginseng is particularly useful for men with erectile dysfunction, helping in 60% of cases. (22)
Red ginseng is ginseng that’s been processed differently. It comes from the same ginseng plant, just as green tea comes from the same plant as black tea.
Ginseng Helps Regulate Blood Sugar Levels in Diabetics
Ginseng increases insulin sensitivity and may be useful for both type 1 and type 2 diabetics. (25)
It reduces blood sugar levels in type 2 (adult onset) diabetes.
It protects the pancreas and tends to normalize insulin production in type 1 (juvenile) diabetics.
The best form of ginseng for diabetes is Korean red ginseng.
If you are taking any anti-diabetic medication, monitor your blood sugar levels carefully or talk to your doctor before adding ginseng to your supplement regimen.
If you have hypoglycemia, be mindful that ginseng has a slight tendency to lower the blood sugar levels of non-diabetic adults.
But you can offset this effect by taking it with food.
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Ginseng Boosts Your Immune System
Ginseng increases the number of immune cells in the blood.
Taking ginseng can reduce your risk of getting the flu or a cold. (26)
And if you do catch a cold, ginseng can reduce its length and severity of symptoms. (27)
Oddly, ginseng enhances the effectiveness of vaccines if taken concurrently. (28)
It increases immune function for those with chronic fatigue syndrome and HIV. (29)
Ginseng shows promise as a natural remedy for fibromyalgia.
It reduces the pain, inflammation, insomnia, and anxiety that often accompany this condition. (30)
Ginseng’s unique set of compounds — ginsenosides — are the active ingredients responsible for modulating the immune response.
Ginseng Protects You from Cancer
Ginseng has anti-tumor properties and is protective against some kinds of cancer including lung, liver, pancreatic, ovarian, and stomach cancers.
Smokers who take ginseng are at lower risk for the usual smoking related cancers than smokers who don’t take it. (31)
Ginseng also provides better outcomes for breast cancer patients — improved survival rates and better quality of life. (32)
Ginseng gives cancer patients more energy and stimulates their appetite.
Ginseng Can Help You Breathe Easy
Ginseng has been used traditionally for lung problems.
It can alleviate symptoms of asthma.
It improves lung function and symptoms of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. (33)
Ginseng, when taken along with antibiotics, is more effective for bronchitis than antibiotic treatment alone. (34)
Ginseng Can Help You Kick the Habit
Ginseng can reduce the anxiety and depression that occurs upon withdrawal from addictive substances of all kinds, from morphine to nicotine.
And if you happen to drink too much, it’s a proven herbal hangover remedy. (35)
Why American Ginseng Is Considered Best in the World
When the first Europeans settlers came to North America, they were surprised to find ginseng growing there.
American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) belongs to the same genus as Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng), but is a unique species.
It was used by native Americans as a sacred, healing herb.
European settlers exported American ginseng.
For over 200 years, it was the second most popular North American export, trailing only furs.
In an ironic twist people, China now prefers ginseng grown in North America to Asian ginseng!
Here’s why …
Chris Kilham is a world-renowned author, educator, and proponent of herbal remedies.
On his website Medicine Hunter, he explains the back story regarding the desirability of American ginseng.
North America used to have an abundance of wild ginseng but it was severely over-harvested.
Now it’s mostly cultivated in Wisconsin and Canada, places known for their extremely cold weather.
It turns out that harsher growing conditions encourage higher concentrations of ginseng’s active ingredients.
The compounds that protect the plant also protect the health of those who consume it.
The benefits of American ginseng are similar to those of Asian ginseng but not identical.
Traditionally it’s considered a cooling, soothing herb compared to Asian ginseng which is warming and stimulating. (36)
This makes American ginseng the better choice for stress.
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In China, native ginseng was known as the “elixir of life” for thousands of years.
But now the Chinese prefer American ginseng for its superior quality and its ability to enhance brain function.
Even the Chinese have become wary of their own healing herbs being laden with pesticides and other contaminants. (37)
American ginseng grown in Wisconsin must meet rigorous standards and is widely considered the best ginseng in the world. (38)
That’s why many Chinese are willing to pay more for genuine American ginseng.
“Few consumers are more faithful to American products than Chinese users of ginseng. American ginseng fetches the highest price of any cultivated variety.” — Los Angeles Times (39)
American Ginseng: A Proven Brain Booster
Cereboost is a patent-pending ginseng formulation derived from American ginseng with clinical studies to back up its claims of effectiveness.
Study participants were given a mental aptitude test and performed significantly better after ingesting Cereboost.
It worked quickly to improve memory, mental clarity, and sharpness within just a few hours.
Brain supplement brands that contain this proven ingredient include Pure Encapsulations, Dr. Sinatra, and ResVitale.
Warning: Walmart, Target, GNC, and Walgreens store brand ginseng supplements were found to contain either contaminants and/or little to no ginseng. Walgreens’ brand was found to contain nothing but garlic and rice. (40)
How to Use Ginseng
When you set out to buy ginseng you’ll find an amazing array of options.
There are ginseng supplements in the form of capsules, tablets, powders, and liquid extracts.
There are ginseng tea bags and loose bulk tea.
You can buy dried ginseng roots either whole or pre-sliced.
These are generally used to make tea or are added to cooked foods like soup.
If you don’t mind the taste you can gnaw on dried slices “as is.”
If you are taking ginseng supplements, the general dosage is 200 to 400 mg daily.
The higher 400 mg dose is usually needed to provide maximum benefits for brain function. (41)
Ginseng Side Effects and Warnings
Just because ginseng is natural doesn’t mean it’s totally safe for everyone.
Ginseng’s most common side effects are insomnia or nervousness, especially if you take it while consuming caffeine.
Less common reactions are headache, anxiety, and digestive upset. (42)
Ginseng should not be given to children and should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women as it can cause vaginal bleeding.
Talk to your doctor before taking ginseng if you have high blood pressure, bipolar disorder, an autoimmune disease, or a history of breast cancer.
If you take any medications, either prescription or over-the-counter, check this list of medications that should not be mixed with ginseng at Drugs.com.
Most notably this list includes blood thinners, diabetic medications, and anti-inflammatory drugs including over-the-counter pain remedies such as aspirin and Tylenol.
Siberian Ginseng: A Close Ginseng Cousin
When you go shopping for a ginseng supplement, it’s likely you’ll come across Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus).
Siberian ginseng is not a true ginseng, it’s more like a cousin.
It’s in the same family, but not the same genus (Panax).
Siberian ginseng has its own unique set of properties and contains different active compounds — eleutherosides instead of ginsenosides.
But the benefits are very similar to the benefits of true ginseng.
Siberian ginseng is widely used in Russia and most of the research on this herb has been done there.
Russian athletes have used it since the 1950s.
It’s thought that their use of Siberian ginseng is one of the reasons they reigned in sports during the 1970s and 1980s.
After Chernobyl, Russians were given Siberian ginseng to offset the effects of radiation exposure. (43)
It’s an adaptogen and is traditionally used to prevent colds and flu and to increase energy, longevity, and vitality. (44)
In the US, it’s illegal to market Eleutherococcus senticosus as ginseng. The term “ginseng” is reserved for ginsengs of the Panax genus. (45)
Ginseng Benefits: The Bottom Line
Ginseng is truly one of nature’s “cure-all” plants.
It has a 5,000-year-old history of human use for a wide variety of mental and physical conditions.
There are two main kinds of ginseng, Asian and American.
Siberian ginseng is not really a ginseng at all, but offers similar benefits.
With its proven brain enhancing benefits, strict growing standards, high levels of active compounds, and fewer contaminants, American ginseng is widely considered to be the best in the world.