Ginseng is a common herbal medicine used and recommended for improving overall health. The term ginseng refers to both American (Panax quinquefolius, L.) and Asian or Korean (Panax ginseng) ginseng. It is important to note that many studies showing ginseng's benefits have been small or inconclusive. More research is needed to say definitively what ginsengʻs benefits are.
What Are The Health Benefits Of Using Ginseng Tea?
Ginseng refers to the 11 varieties of short, slow-growing plants with fleshy roots. It is an herb rich in many antioxidants and has many proven health benefits. Ginseng can be used in many forms and has historically been used to treat various medical conditions. The herb is "generally recognized as safe" (GRAS) by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
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As mentioned, ginseng is used in a variety of ways and for a variety of reasons. The herb is often called an "adaptogen," meaning it is an herb that helps the body adapt to various kinds of stress. Ginseng is one of the most popular adaptogens. Some studies, although mainly small and inconclusive, have shown the benefits of using ginseng to include:
- Reduce Inflammation
- Improved Energy Levels
- Improved Mental Clarity
- Improved Immune System
- Improved Cardiovascular Health
- Improve Digestive Health
- Improved Sexual Health
- Reducing wrinkles and signs of aging
- Promoting elasticity and collagen production
- Reducing puffiness and inflammation
- Lightening or brightening skin
Ways To Use Ginseng
The most common way to consume ginseng is as a tea or supplement. However, there are many other ways in which ginseng can be used, including as a supplement (as a tablet or capsule), as an extract, in a topical cream, and eaten raw, dried, or steamed.
Types of Ginseng
American and Asian ginseng vary in their concentration of active compounds and their effects on the body. It is believed that American ginseng has more of a relaxing effect, whereas Asian ginseng has a more stimulating effect. Nevertheless, both varieties contain the two primary compounds that are said to produce many associated benefits: ginsenosides and gintonin.
|Type of Ginseng||Scientific Name||Effect on Body|
|American||Panax quinquefolius,||More relaxing|
|Asian, Korean, and Chinese||Panax ginseng||More stimulating|
|Siberian||Eleutherococcus senticosus||Immune system boost, general stimulant|
American ginseng is native to North America and is known to have more relaxing effects. It has been cited that Native Americans used the ginseng root as a stimulant and also to treat headaches, fever, indigestion, and infertility. The majority of research surrounding American ginseng has investigated its benefits in:
- Reducing fatigue
- Increasing Cognitive Functioning
- Fights Cold and Flu Symptoms
- Managing Diabetes
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Asian or Korean Ginseng
Asian ginseng is commonly called Panax ginseng and has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. Panax taken orally is believed to increase your resistance to environmental stressors while improving overall health and well-being. Korean red and white ginseng refers to how the Asian ginseng root is prepared. Korean white ginseng is dried but unprocessed, whereas Korean red ginseng has been steamed and dried.
There have been controlled studies that have examined Asian ginsengʻs effect, although many of these studies have used combinations of herbs, so it is not always possible to say whether ginseng by itself produced the results. The herbʻs most commonly noted side effect is insomnia, possibly due to the ginsengʻs stimulating effects.
Siberian ginseng is entirely different from that American and Asian ginseng, despite its name, as it does not contain the main compounds that other types of ginseng have. Instead, Siberian ginseng is rich in the active ingredients, eleutherosides, that are suspected to stimulate the immune system. Research surrounding Siberian ginseng focuses on its benefit in treating the common cold and flu symptoms and reducing genital herpes outbreaks.
Health Benefits of Ginseng Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
Consider this additional information when it comes to the health benefits of ginseng.
Are There Side Effects To Using Ginseng?
Potential side effects will vary between American and Asian ginseng varieties, with the most notable difference being the recurrence of insomnia as a side effect of Asian ginseng use. This, again, is thought to be because of the ginsengʻs stimulating effects. Some of the other common side effects of both American and Asian or Korean ginseng include:
- Skin rash
- Vaginal bleeding
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Does Ginseng Interact With Other Medications?
There is continuous research being conducted on drug interactions with mixing ginseng. So far, there are 102 drugs known to interact with ginseng, with one major and 101 moderate drug interactions. A major interaction refers to one that may potentially be life-threatening or cause permanent damage. The major interaction with ginseng is the chemotherapy drug Imatinib. The 101 moderate drug interactions can be found here. Taking Panax ginseng and stimulant drugs could cause serious problems, including increased heart rate and high blood pressure. You should avoid taking stimulant drugs along with Panax ginseng.
What Is Indian Ginseng?
Indian ginseng is commonly referred to as Ashwagandha. Despite its name, Ashwagandha, or Indian Ginseng, is not nearly the same as American or Asian ginseng. Ashwagandha has gained popularity in recent years for its relaxing effects. Some other benefits of its use are said to be:
- Increase energy
- Improve overall health
- Reduce inflammation
- Reduce pain and anxiety
Can I Take Ginseng Every Day?
This is a question with a multitude of answers. Generally speaking, consuming ginseng continuously and for long periods is not recommended. This is especially true regarding Asian ginseng, as it is known to have more stimulating effects. When using ginseng, you should take periodic breaks and consult a trained herbal prescriber if you are considering long-term use.
Ginseng is considered an adaptogen. Adaptogens are certain plants and mushrooms believed to help your body adapt to stress; however, limited scientific evidence supports these benefits claims. Nevertheless, American and Asian ginseng has been used for centuries to improve overall health and well-being and increase immunity. It is essential to monitor any side effects and ensure you are not taking anything that would interact poorly with ginseng use. Be sure to bring up any concerns to your doctor.
Kendra Bean is from Maui, Hawaiʻi. She is currently enrolled at the University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa, specializing in Epidemiology. She is passionate about improving health literacy and access to care, specifically in rural areas.