It’s been celebrated for its stimulating effects since ancient times, but there’s more to the humble ginseng root than meets the eye…
Panax ginseng (also known as Asian, Chinese, Manchurian, Korean or red ginseng) takes its name from the Greek word ‘panacea’, meaning ‘cure all’. It was reportedly seen as so valuable that Chinese emperors paid for it with its weight in gold.
Ginsenosides are the natural pesticides that protect the ginseng plant from insects and bacteria – and us from the stresses of daily life! This is because, when we take them in a supplement they act on the brain to normalise the function of the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, which can be disrupted by stress.
Once we’re back in balance, our adrenal glands will produce just the right amount of cortisol to keep us alert and focused, rather than tired and unable to relax. This is because ginseng can help regulate the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. When we are stressed, our adrenal glands may produce too much cortisol (which can leave us unable to relax and sleep) or too little cortisol (which can leave us tired and lacking in energy). Taking ginseng supplements can relieve symptoms of fatigue in healthy adults.
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Ginseng boosts immunity by stimulating white blood cell activity: research suggests a daily dose could help reduce the symptoms of the common cold.
Power up your brain
Ginseng can boost mood and mental performance. In one study, people who took 400mg ginseng supplements for 12 weeks, felt calmer and performed better on mental arithmetic tests. A 2014 study even called ginseng ‘a promising neuroprotective strategy in stroke’ – it’s thought that its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help to prevent nerve cells from damage.
Ginseng can lower blood pressure, protect against heart failure and help maintain healthy cholesterol by enhancing circulation and regulating blood lipids (fats). A 2012 review concluded that ‘the collective data conclusively indicate that ginseng protects from myocardial damage.’
Watch out for Siberian ginseng
Confusingly, Siberian ginseng isn’t actually ginseng, since it doesn’t contain any ginsenosides. It is, however, packed with eleutherosides, which are pretty nifty in their own right…
Researchers have identified:
- six components of Siberian ginseng with antioxidant properties
- three components with cholesterol-lowering properties
- two components which stimulate the immune system
- one component which may help control insulin
- one anti-inflammatory component
- one antibacterial component
Advice is for information only and should not replace medical care. Please consult a doctor or healthcare professional before trying any remedies.
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