Although Panax Ginseng is immensely popular in the United States today, the herb has been used for medicinal purpose for hundreds of years. This blog post dives into the specific health benefits of this nature’s miracles has to offer, how its been used throughout history and its use in modern times.
What is Panax Ginseng?
Also known as Asian, Manchurian, Korean or Chinese ginseng, Panax Ginseng is a perennial herb indigenous to the mountainous forests of North China, Manchuria, and Korea.
This versatile plant has several uses for the body, which has made it one of the most popular and bestselling herbal products available worldwide. The plant’s main active components are ginsenosides, which can have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects. Today its popularly used for energy and vitality, general health and well being, immune system support and is even believed to help improve sex drive.
The History behind Panax Ginseng
Panax ginseng has been used for medicinal purposes for thousands of years. According to traditional Chinese medicine, each type of ginseng is believed to have unique healing properties. The plant is considered an adaptogen because it can be used as an overall well-being health tonic. Health wise, Panax ginseng primarily functions as an anti-inflammatory agent, an antioxidant, immunity booster, and reproductive health tonic.
Some of these claims have undergone modern scientific testing, while others are beliefs that have permeated dozens of decades in herbal medicine practice.
The first written reference of Panax ginseng as a medicinal herb can be found in Shen Nong’s Materia Medica (the Ancient Chinese Canon of Medicine) from the 1st century, CE. It says, “Ginseng is a tonic to the five viscera, quieting the animal spirits, stabilizing the soul, preventing fear, expelling the vicious energies, brightening the eye…and prolonging life.”
The origins of the genus name “Panax” can be traced back to the Greek root words pan akos, means “all cure.” The name is fitting for the plant, considering it can be used for several purposes.
“The genus Panax includes various species such as Panax quinque- foluis (American ginseng) and Panax japonicus (Japa- nese ginseng). Panax ginseng has been used for medicinal purposes for centuries,” wrote Edzard Ernst in the Journal of Ginseng Research. “In the Korean tradition, several different ways of pre- paring and manufacturing Panax ginseng exist. Fresh ginseng is less than 4 years old; white ginseng is 4 to 6 years old and is dried after peeling; red ginseng is harvested when it is 6 years old, subsequently it is not skinned but steamed and then dried.”
What are the Health Benefits of Panax Ginseng?
Panax ginseng is commonly used in herbal medicine due to the large amount of health conditions and concerns it is believed to alleviate.
Several ailments and frustrating symptoms that get in the way of enjoying life could be cured and lessened naturally thought this plant. According to Medline Plus, Panax ginseng can be used for loss of appetite, vomiting, intestinal problems, fibromyalgia, insomnia, nerve pain, joint pain, dizziness, headache, and hot flashes due to menopause.
Panax Ginseng offers such a large amount of health benefits, and it could be used to tackle some of the same issues that pharmaceutical drugs aim to fix. The plant can be used for depression, anxiety and chronic fatigue syndrome, as well as to boost the immune system, and fight infections in a lung disease called cystic fibrosis.
Panax ginseng can also give the human body a brain and strength boost, helping to improve thinking, concentration, memory and work efficiency, physical stamina, and athletic endurance.
Trials investigating the effects of Panax ginseng for psychological function have shown varying results. In one study published in 1996 about the effects of ginseng on cognitive functions, 112 healthy volunteers older than 40 years were given of 400 mg per day of the standardized ginseng product, Gerimax, for eight weeks. The test resulted in their better and faster simple reactions and abstract thinking. However, the study showed no change in concentration, memory, or subjective experience.
Another study published in 2002 in the journal Physiology & Behavior tested 20 healthy young volunteers who received a single 400-mg dose of ginseng. The study found improvement in their cognitive performance, secondary memory performance, and speed of performing memory tasks.
In addition, “the results of two small studies, each including about 30 young, healthy volunteers who received 200 mg of G115 daily for eight weeks, showed improvement in certain psychomotor functions (i.e., better attention, processing, and auditory reaction time), social functioning, and mental health,” reported American Family Physician. “However, some of the effects present at the fourth week disappeared by the eighth week.”
Panax ginseng has also shown to be effective in improving erectile dysfunction. In a 2002 double-blind crossover study evaluating the efficacy of Korean red ginseng in patients with erectile dysfunction, use of ginseng improved erectile function, sexual desire, and intercourse satisfaction for the 45 patients with erectile dysfunction.
Uses of Panax Ginseng:
According to American Family Physician, “Panax ginseng is used primarily to improve psychologic function, exercise performance, immune function, and conditions associated with diabetes.”
In the herbal supplement market, Panax ginseng is available in pill and tablet form. The University of Michigan Health System suggests taking 100 mg to 300 mg of Ginseng products with standardized ginsenosides, depending on the health need.
Panax ginseng is also used to make soaps, cosmetics, and as a flavoring in beverages. Ingredients that are derived from Panax “function mostly as skin-conditioning agents-miscellaneous, fragrance ingredients, skin conditioning agents-humectant, skin- conditioning agents-emollient, and cosmetic astringents,” says the Cosmetic Ingredient Review regarding their study of the root.
The plant is safe for these cosmetic purposes. In 2012, the Cosmetic Ingredient Review (CIR) Expert Panel issued a tentative report that the ingredient is safe in the present practices of use and concentration. In cosmetics, the ingredient is listed as Panax ginseng root extract, powder, water or oil.
The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database rates effectiveness based on scientific evidence according to the following scale: Effective, Likely Effective, Possibly Effective, Possibly Ineffective, Likely Ineffective, Ineffective, and Insufficient Evidence to Rate. Their effectiveness ratings for Panax ginseng are “possibly effective” for thinking and memory, diabetes, erectile dysfunction, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease and premature ejaculation.
Natural Medicines has concludes that there is insufficient evidence at this time to rate effectiveness for breast cancer, bronchitis, common cold, influenza, cancer, depression, anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia and fever.
However, studies show that Panax ginseng can be effective in protecting against the cold and the flu. “A study18 of 227 healthy volunteers demonstrated that daily administration of 100 mg of G115 for 12 weeks enhanced the efficacy of polyvalent influenza vaccine. The patients who received ginseng had a lower incidence of influenza and colds, higher antibody titers, and higher natural killer cell activity levels.”
In the article “Panax ginseng: An Overview of the Clinical Evidence,” which published in the Journal of Ginseng Research, Edzard Ernst wrote, “Panax ginseng is a popular herbal medicine used world- wide for a broad range of indications. Many clinical trials and systematic reviews are now available. Their conclusions vary but, for some indications, they are encouraging. Future clinical research in this area should aim at overcoming the methodological limitations of much of the previous research.”