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For more than 2,000 years, the ginseng group has been employed in traditional Chinese medicine. Ginseng has a variety of benefits including anti-inflammatory, stimulatory, antioxidant and anti-apoptotic. Apoptosis is the programmed death of cells. Korean ginseng has long been known to have anti-cancer activity[1] through its apoptosis action. 

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Ginseng can reduce cognitive decline in the elderly as well as the potential of developing dementia-like illnesses. Korean red ginseng has a higher anti-fatigue factor than white ginseng. 

Fresh ginseng is gathered before the age of four, while white ginseng is harvested between four and six years. Red ginseng is not harvested until after the age of six years. Ginseng is classified as white or red depending on processing methods.

Ginseng is a common ingredient in supplements and natural medicines, and there are several different species of this perennial plant. The most common types, Asian ginseng, and American ginseng are among the 13 species classified as Panax. 

The concentration of active components in American and Asian ginseng differs in the way it affects the body. American ginseng is thought to have a calming effect, while Asian ginseng has an energizing impact. Korean and Asian ginseng are used interchangeably.

Ginseng’s primary active components are ginsenosides. It is suggested that each ginsenoside has a tissue-specific effect.

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Is Ginseng Good for Memory? 

Ginosides release acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter responsible for memory and the retention of information.

Components in ginseng have been shown in test tubes and animal tests to protect the brain from free radical damage. This may be one mechanism for its role as a cognitive enhancer. The accumulation of free radicals in the brain causes a decline in function and increased tissue aging.

Combining Ginkgo biloba and ginseng in 256 middle-aged healthy volunteers in a double-blind, placebo-controlled study[2] showed an improvement in working and long-term memory of 7.5% of the respondents. The combination seems particularly effective for “secondary memory[3],” or long-term memory. 

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According to the findings of a study[4] on rats that had Alzheimer’s induced prior to the experiment, ginseng at a level of 200 mg/kg can increase memory and learning.

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It also enhanced the level of a brain-derived neurotrophic factor in hippocampus tissue and improved the balance of oxidative and antioxidant indicators.

Furthermore, compared to the group treated just after induction of Alzheimer's, the group treated with ginseng before induction of Alzheimer's exhibited a more significant response to ginseng treatment than those given ginseng after induction of disease. This shows a role for ginseng in cognitive impairment.

Health Benefits Of Ginseng

What else can ginseng do for you? Here are six evidence-based benefits of this plant.

Blood Sugar Regulation

Ginseng appears to help persons with and without diabetes control their blood glucose levels.

Research demonstrates that ginseng extracts aid diabetes patients by offering antioxidant protection that reduces free radicals in their cells.

In one study[5], 19 persons with type 2 diabetes were given 6 grams of American ginseng along with their usual anti-diabetic medicine or diet.

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They maintained reasonable blood sugar control throughout the 12-week research, which was surprising to researchers. The participants also exhibited an 11% reduction in blood sugar levels, a 38% reduction in fasting insulin. Participants also had a 33% increase in insulin sensitivity.

After a sweet drink test, another study[6] found that American ginseng helped improve blood sugar levels in ten healthy participants. 

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An additional study[7] found that consuming 2.7 grams of fermented red ginseng daily was more effective than taking placebo at decreasing blood sugar and boosting insulin levels following a test meal.

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Reduce Inflammation

Ginseng has[8] anti-inflammatory properties as well as antioxidant effects.

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Ginseng extracts and ginsenoside components have been found in test tubes to reduce inflammation and boost antioxidant capacity in cells.

For example, in one test-tube investigation[9], ginseng root extract decreased inflammation and boosted antioxidant activity in eczema skin cells.

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Also, a larger trial[10] followed 71 postmenopausal women for 12 weeks while taking 3 grams of red ginseng or a placebo. Following that, antioxidant activity and oxidative stress indicators were assessed.

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According to the researchers, red ginseng may help lower oxidative stress by enhancing antioxidant enzyme activity.

Increase Energy Levels

Ginseng has been demonstrated to aid in reducing weariness, the promotion of energy, and the reduction of mental fatigue. 

Various animal studies have connected various ginseng components, such as polysaccharides and oligopeptides, to reduced oxidative stress and increased energy synthesis in cells, which could aid in the fight against fatigue[11].

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The participants who were administered Panax ginseng had less physical and mental weariness and lower oxidative stress than those given a placebo.

In another trial, three hundred sixty-four fatigued cancer survivors were given either 2,000 mg[12] of American ginseng or a placebo. After eight weeks, those who took ginseng experienced much less weariness than those who took a placebo.

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Ginseng Benefits Brain Health & Function

Ginseng has been shown to help with mood, behavior, and memory. Similar to the adaptogenic herb, Ginkgo biloba, both herbs enhance memory, reduce inflammation, boost brain function, and contain a lot of antioxidants. Studies[13] have demonstrated the neuroprotective effect of the combined administration of ginkgo biloba and ginseng on brain health in animal models.

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In one study[14], 30 healthy participants were given 200 mg of ginseng every day for four weeks. They improved their mental health, social functioning, and mood at the end of the trial.

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However, after eight weeks, these benefits were no longer substantial, implying that the effects of ginseng may diminish with continued use.

In another study[15], 30 healthy adults were given single doses of Panax ginseng both before and after a 10-minute mental test to see how it influenced their cognitive function, mental weariness, and blood sugar levels.

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The 200-mg dose was more beneficial than the 400-mg dose in decreasing cognitive impairment and weariness during the test and improving working memory[16].

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Ginseng may have aided the uptake of blood sugar by cells, resulting in improved performance and reduced mental tiredness. However, it's unclear why the lesser dose worked better than the higher dose.

Furthermore, researchers have discovered that patients with Alzheimer's disease had improved brain function and behavior. An improved neurochemical[17] activity profile was noted in mice with induced Alzheimer’s treated with a combination of ginseng and Ginkgo biloba.

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Benefits Against Cancer

Ginseng may aid in the prevention of some malignancies.

Ginsenosides, which are found in this herb, have been demonstrated to aid in inflammation reduction and antioxidant protection. Observations [18]in various studies concur that inflammation, oxidation, and cancer are closely related.

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The cell cycle is the regular process through which cells divide and expand. Ginsenosides may help break this cycle by preventing aberrant cell growth and production.

Furthermore, an observational study[19] found that those who take ginseng are less likely than those who don't to acquire cancers such as lip, mouth, esophagus, stomach, colon, liver, and lung cancer.

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Ginseng may also help individuals undergoing chemotherapy improve their health, lessen adverse effects, and boost the effectiveness of some treatment medications.

While research on the role of ginseng in cancer prevention has yielded some promising results, it is still inconclusive.

Some of the research looked at its impact on immunity focused on cancer patients undergoing surgery or chemotherapy.

One study[20] followed 39 persons recovering from stomach cancer surgery for two years, giving them 5,400 mg of ginseng daily.

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Surprisingly, these people's immune functions improved significantly, and their illnesses recurred less frequently.

Furthermore, according to a study[21], ginseng users may have a 35 percent higher likelihood of being disease-free for five years after surgery from colon cancer. They also had a 38 percent higher survival rate than non-ginseng users.

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Boost Immune System

Ginseng may help to boost your immune system.

There is research to suggest that ginseng will increase the blood's immune cells improving the body's immune response. A study[22] of 227 people over 12 weeks showed a decrease in the number of colds in people who got ginseng.

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In another similar study[23], the ginseng-taking patients caught fewer colds, and those that did catch them had less severe symptoms and were sick for a shorter duration.

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Ginseng extract may even be able to improve the efficacy of vaccines[24] against diseases like influenza.

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Final Thoughts

For generations, an herbal ginseng treatment has been utilized in Chinese medicine for its numerous health benefits. Furthermore, aside from all the beneficial effects noted above, ginseng has also been shown to normalize[25] high blood pressure.

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Ginseng is worth a try, whether you wish to improve a specific ailment or simply give your health a boost.

Written by:

Lee A

Medically reviewed by:

Medically reviewed by: