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Walk into any specialty health store and you’ll see ginseng — in powdered form, tea, chewing gum, toothpaste, and more. An adaptogenic herb that’s been shown to help boost energy, memory, and cognition, ginseng has become increasingly popular in the health and wellness world in recent years.
But few people are familiar with ginseng’s long medicinal history, which goes back as far as 96 AD, when it first appeared in Traditional Chinese Medicine.
More recently, ginseng has been researched for its ginsenosides, which are chemical compounds that have been shown to help stimulate the central nervous system.
Ginseng comes in many variations, from Siberian ginseng to American ginseng, and each variation can have different benefits. If you’re looking to incorporate ginseng into your diet, here are a couple tips to help you figure out which variation is best for you.
If you see ginseng in the grocery store or a specialty store, you might think at first glance that it’s ginger.
Ginseng plants have a long stalk, red berries, and green oval-shaped leaves, but most of ginseng’s nutrients live in its roots, which is why you’ll often see the roots for sale. Older ginseng roots are especially valuable because they contain a higher concentration of nutrients, and it can take anywhere from 3 to 5 years for a ginseng plant to reach full maturity.
Fleshy ginseng root is used more often in medicine than the leaves; even so, both forms contain beneficial phytochemicals. Ginseng leaf extract contains many active plant ingredients, including ginsenosides, polysaccharides, triterpenoids, flavonoids, and amino acids. Ginseng root contains many of the same constituents. There are 11 different varieties of ginseng, each of which have unique benefits and properties, but the most common are Korean, Siberian, and American ginseng.
Here are a couple main differences between ginseng varieties.
American (Panax quinquefolius) and Korean ginseng are the two most popular types of ginseng on the market. In North America, ginseng has an interesting history as a perennial herb. It is native to deciduous forests in the United States, from Maine to Alabama, and even grows in the Midwest. Today, more than 90% of American ginseng is grown in Wisconsin. These crops are typically tended to for three years to produce high-quality, superior ginseng herbs for use. In clinical trials, American ginseng roots and stems have demonstrated promising benefits for the central nervous system and cardiovascular health.
American ginseng is currently harvested in 19 states, and ginseng root is exported more than any other native plant species. Most American ginseng is exported to China, and the earliest ginseng exports began in the 1700s.
Native American tribes have used American ginseng for hundreds of years, and it is highly revered as a “grandfather medicine,” a testament to its strength.
Ojibwa, Cherokee, and Delaware tribes are only a small portion of groups that used American ginseng. It was especially revered by the Ojibwa, who took great care to plant the seeds of medicinal plants to ensure that they kept growing. Ginseng is still of cultural significance to many tribes today.
Just as there are different varieties of ginseng based on the regions in which they grow, there is also “red” and “white” ginseng. The difference between the two has to do with how they are harvested and produced.
Red ginseng is made with a traditional Korean process of steaming and drying. This process is repeated, and the ginseng changes into a reddish color. This was done to preserve the plant in ancient times; however, it also may raise the level of certain ginsenosides. Red ginseng is considered a “warming” herb in traditional practices. On the other hand, white ginseng is known as a “cooling” herb in traditional practices.
One of ginseng’s nicknames is the “King of Herbs” and was used for centuries as an aphrodisiac.
Animal studies have shown a positive correlation between sex drive and ginseng, and research has supported this in human studies. Ginseng has also been found to potentially improve sperm quality in healthy men. The Mayo Clinic notes that ginseng cream is beneficial to male sexual health and potentially useful for erectile dysfunction. American ginseng is highly regarded as a sexual tonic for men with low libido and may improve sexual performance.
Ginseng also has sexual health benefits for women. One study from 2015 reported that Korean red ginseng helped postmenopausal women improve their sex drive.
Most people are looking for natural solutions to boost energy so they can ditch sugary drinks and the jitters from too many cups of coffee. Ginseng might be the answer you are looking for.
The New York Times reported that in a study of 290 cancer patients at the Mayo Clinic in 2010, patients using up to 2000 milligrams per day experienced more energy throughout the day. Another study by the American Society of Clinical Oncology reported similar results.
Chronic fatigue is another issue plaguing Americans. It is a complex health issue that is not greatly understood due to the variety of factors that cause fatigue. A poor diet and lack of exercise are only a small part of chronic fatigue. Stress is another factor. Many people with chronic fatigue are drawn to herbal supplements to help their energy levels. Ginseng is one of the most popular herbs used for promoting energy. A study published in 2018 evaluated ginseng in patients with chronic fatigue. American and Korean ginseng were found to be promising nutrients to support increased energy levels.
Diabetes occurs when your body can no longer properly produce and regulate insulin. As a result, the body cannot properly process food for energy.
Traditional Chinese medicine uses ginseng for its anti-diabetic properties and it is a common treatment in Type 2 diabetes.
Many clinical studies have explored the impact of ginseng on blood sugar, especially in diabetics. Studies have revealed that American ginseng may decrease blood glucose in people with Type 2 diabetes.
Several small research trials have demonstrated similar results; however, the correlation between blood sugar and ginseng use is still being explored due to the differing levels of phytochemicals in ginseng doses. It takes great care to manage Type 2 diabetes. This is a serious disease that should be managed with the care of a licensed professional. That said, it is worth speaking to your personal physician about the potential of ginseng for blood sugar management. Ginseng may also support blood sugar levels already within a normal range.
Historically, ginseng is a stimulant herb and used to support immune health. In 2019, Trends in Food Science & Technology reported many promising highlights in the use of ginseng. In the study, ginseng was found to be one of the leading, nourishing functional foods with immune support potential. Functional food is a term that refers to the medicinal benefit of ginseng. They also suggested that ginseng is an “immune therapeutic agent,” with ginsenosides and polysaccharides being the most active, health-promoting plant constituents.
Brain health is one of the top health concerns for Americans, in part due to rising Alzhemier’s disease and dementia cases each year. With this comes an interest in herbal supplements like ginseng. Ginseng is being explored as a solution to fight age-related cognitive decline and boost cognitive wellness. Ginseng is also said to increase both physical and mental performance. An older study from 2008 found that when Alzheimer’s patients took ginseng root daily for 12 weeks, they experienced cognitive benefits. Four years later, a 2012 study found ginseng to be effective at improving brain function in patients with severe Alzheimer’s disease.
The American Stroke Association, a division of the American Heart Association, found that ginseng was helpful for stroke patients as well, which is not surprising given the long history of traditional use in older adults in Chinese medicine.
When asked, “do you want to improve your sex life?” most people would jump at the chance. Ginseng has a very long history and reputation as a potent aphrodisiac, and this is one of its widest uses for men. It even has a nickname: manroot!
Many traditional Chinese medicine practitioners believe ginseng can improve sexual performance in both men and women. Studies are still investigating this; however, the Maryland University Medical Center suggests that it may boost sex drive and libido. Because ginseng is considered an adaptogen and it helps the body cope with stress, some theories believe that it enables the body to maintain a normal sex drive. Other ginseng benefits, like immune support, mental performance, and antioxidant support, also support overall men’s health.
Erectile dysfunction is also known as impotence, and is identified by the inability to keep or get an erection for sexual activity. Stress, alcohol intoxication, and other factors may cause erectile trouble every so often; however, if it is an ongoing issue, it easily damages self-esteem and confidence in men. Erectile dysfunction might be a symptom of other underlying conditions, like heart disease, but sometimes it is a natural part of aging.
Promising research exists for ginseng as a natural erectile dysfunction remedy. A study published in the International Journal of Impotence Research examined ginseng use in 119 men with moderate erectile dysfunction. Some of the men consumed four ginseng berry extract tablets (350 mg per tablet), while other men took a placebo. At the end of the eight-week trial, the men using ginseng experienced improvement in erectile dysfunction and premature ejaculation. Some men even use ginseng cream as a product to remedy premature ejaculation.
One of the most important factors of a woman’s health are her hormones. Unfortunately, it doesn't take much to negatively influence hormonal production. Poor diet, lack of exercise, and stress can all lead to irregular menstrual cycles and feeling out of balance. Gentle herbal support from ginseng may help to support a woman's hormones and her female cycle. Traditionally, ginseng has been touted as a uterine tonic for women, is used as a fertility herb because of its adaptogenic properties, and is used as an adrenal tonic. As a calming herb, ginseng can help reduce stress, which is especially important if couples are trying to conceive and are not being successful. Not being able to conceive is one of the most stressful issues plaguing couples, but most of the stress falls on women.
One of the most common issues plaguing women today is polycystic ovarian syndrome, also known as PCOS. A 2011 study found that ginseng reduced the frequency and formation of ovarian cysts. Adaptogens, including ginseng, are recommended for PCOS to support adrenal function, insulin and blood sugar balance, and cortisol. Many women can benefit from the therapeutic effects ginseng has on the body as an adaptogenic herb, not just women with PCOS and other metabolic disorders. Ginseng is also useful for supporting energy and cognitive function in women, especially if they are living busy lives!
Care/of sources our ginseng fromfrom small scale farms in the Jilin and Heilong Jiang provinces of China, where Asian ginseng has been cultivated historically.
Our local partners work in tandem with ginseng farmers who closely monitor the environmental impact of cultivation on the land. They use techniques like shading their fields and plant new trees after each harvest in order to farm as sustainably as possible.
Our Ginseng is non-GMO, vegan, and gluten free. Learn more about our ginseng here