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 the root is often shaped like a human (if you use your imagination). (3)
A literal translation of Panax ginseng into English is “all-healing man root.” (4)
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. (5)
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.
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 strengthening the immune, nervous, and glandular systems. (9)
Dr. Frank Lipman, author of The New Health Rules, describes adaptogens as working like a thermostat.
By supporting adrenal function, “Adaptogens can calm you down and boost your energy at the same time without over-stimulating.” (10)
Adaptogens like ginseng nourish your adrenal glands, unlike caffeine which stresses them.
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. (13)
Ginseng is a main ingredient in the traditional Chinese herbal formula Kai Xin San.
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. (17)
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 increases circulation, sending more blood to all your organs.
When taken by middle-aged men, ginseng reduces overall mortality from all causes. (22)
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 prevents free radical damage to vulnerable brain cells.
It prevents memory loss and protects against age-related mental decline.
Taking Panax ginseng root daily for 12 weeks can improve mental performance in people with Alzheimer’s disease. (23)
It also improves memory in stroke patients. (24)
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. (25)
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. (26)
Korean red ginseng is particularly useful for men with erectile dysfunction, helping in 60% of cases. (27)
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
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. This effect is largely nullified by taking it with food.
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. (31)
And if you do catch a cold, ginseng can reduce its length and severity of symptoms. (32)
Oddly, ginseng enhances the effectiveness of vaccines if taken concurrently. (33)
It increases immune function for those with chronic fatigue syndrome and HIV. (34)
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. (37)
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. (39)
Ginseng when taken along with antibiotics is more effective for bronchitis than antibiotic treatment alone.
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. (40)
Why China Prefers American Ginseng
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.
Image courtesy of Marathon Ginseng Gardens
Now it’s mostly cultivated in Wisconsin and Canada, places not exactly known for their pleasant weather!
It turns out that harsher growing conditions encourage higher concentration of active ingredients in ginseng.
The compounds that protect the plant, protect our health too.
The benefits of American ginseng are similar to those of Asian ginseng.
American ginseng acts as an adaptogen, enhancing physical strength and boosting worn-out adrenal glands.
In China, native ginseng was known as the “elixir of life” for thousands of years.
Now the Chinese prefer American ginseng for its superior quality and its ability to enhance brain function.
American ginseng grown in Wisconsin must meet rigorous standards and is widely considered the best ginseng in the world. (43)
That’s why many Chinese are willing to pay more for genuine American ginseng. (44)
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
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 either contain contaminants and/or little to no ginseng. Walgreens brand was found to contain nothing but garlic and rice. (45)
Siberian Ginseng — A Close 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 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. (46)
It’s an adaptogen and is traditionally used to prevent colds and flu and to increase energy, longevity, and vitality. (47)
In the US it’s illegal to market Eleutherococcus senticosus as ginseng. The term “ginseng” is reserved for ginsengs of the Panax genus. (48)
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.
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