Ginseng vs Ginger: Uses, Benefits, and Differences

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    Ginseng is best known for boosting focus and mental clarity, and ginger reduces digestive symptoms. Both roots can be used in cooking, teas, and supplements.

    Ginseng and ginger - two flowering plants known for their medicinal roots. With such similar sounding names, it makes sense why we might confuse these plants! Each has its own set of unique health benefits. We’ll discuss what are the key differences between ginseng and ginger, the health benefits of both, and which you might opt for while considering improvements to your supplement routine and general diet.

    What is ginseng?

    Ginseng is a flowering plant with fleshy roots, native to China, Korea, and other parts of Asia. The root portion has been used as a staple ingredient in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years due to its health-promoting properties. It was traditionally considered a valuable herb for its various medicinal uses, so highly esteemed that it was called the “root of life”. Ginseng was used to support a variety of health goals, including digestion, respiratory health, and enhancing working memory.

    In the 16th century, ginseng was introduced to Europe where it quickly gained popularity and eventually became a commodity. American ginseng was native to North America and had long been used by Native Americans to support health.

    What is ginseng used for

    There are many different species of ginseng, with two of the most common varieties, Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinqefolium), used to promote health and well-being.

    Ginseng is available in various forms, including fresh or dried roots, extracts, powders, and teas. It has a slightly bitter and earthy taste, as well as a sweetish aftertaste. Most commonly, it’s used to infuse teas and soups.

    Health benefits of ginseng

    Ginseng is prized for several health benefits.

    This root is a type of adaptogen, which is a natural substance that helps the body adapt to occasional stress, which has the potential to support your overall immunity.

    Ginseng’s adaptogenic properties can help modulate immune activity and support the central nervous system. Studies even show that the phytochemicals in ginseng can offer neuroprotection as well as enhance memory and learning.

    In a study of healthy young adults, participants were given doses of ginseng extracts which led to improvements in the speed of their numeric and word recall and a sense of self-rated ‘calmness’.

    These benefits of ginseng, including its antioxidant properties, are why it has been shown to support healthy aging.

    Many people use ginseng extracts to support focus. Care/of’s Focus Blend supplement is a combo of ginseng, gingko biloba, and vitamin B12 (methylcobalamin) to support healthy cognitive function and boost focus and mental energy.

    Potential side effects and risks of ginseng

    While ginseng is generally considered safe, it may cause potential side effects in some people, particularly when used in large amounts for extended periods.

    Side effects of ginseng may include insomnia, stomach upset, and headaches.

    It's important to note that while ginseng can be a healthy and beneficial ingredient, it can also interact with certain medications and may not be safe for everyone. Always consult with a healthcare professional before using it.

    What is ginger?

    Ginger is a flowering plant that is widely cultivated for its root, which is used as a spice and for its medicinal properties. Originally native to Southeast Asia, ginger is now grown in many parts of the world, including India, China, and Jamaica.

    What is ginger used for?

    The ginger root is used in many forms, including fresh, dried, powdered, or as an oil or juice. It has an unmistakable pungent and spicy flavor, with sweet, citrusy undertones.

    You can find ginger in many beverages, such as ginger ale and tea, a large variety of global cuisines, and as a popular ingredient in many herbal remedies and supplements due to its potential health benefits.

    Health benefits of ginger

    Ginger has a wide range of potential benefits.

    A notable benefit of ginger is its digestion supporting properties. Ginger can help alleviate temporary gastrointestinal discomfort and can help soothe the digestive tract through its carminative effects, which can feel like a sensation of intestinal warmth and can help manage occasional bloating. Research suggests that ginger may promote digestive health by reducing gastric emptying time, the time it takes for food to move from the stomach into the small intestine.

    Ginger also possesses diaphoretic properties, meaning it can support healthy blood flow. Gingerol, one of the main pungent oils in ginger, can inhibit the production of leukotriene and prostaglandin compounds in the body which can constrict blood flow.

    Gingerol and the other active compounds in ginger have antioxidant properties that can help manage oxidative stress in the body.

    Potential side effects and risks of ginger

    Ginger is generally considered safe when used as a spice or food ingredient and even for topical use on the skin.

    It can come with some side effects including abdominal discomfort, diarrhea, heartburn, and irritation of the mouth and throat. This depends on dosage and duration of use.

    Discuss with your healthcare professional before using it as a supplement to make sure it is appropriate for you, and since it may interact with certain medications and may not be safe for everyone.

    Similarities between ginseng and ginger

    Ginseng and ginger have several similarities, including:

    • Use in practice of traditional medicine for thousands of years
    • Immune-boosting properties
    • Supporting healthy blood flow
    • Use in cooking, such as herbal tea preparations
    • Richness in antioxidants properties

    Differences between ginseng and ginger

    Ginseng and ginger have some key differences, too, which include the following:

    • Health benefits: Ginseng is often used to improve cognitive function and helps you cope with occasional stress, whereas ginger is often used to support digestion and overall gut health.
    • Culinary uses: While both ginseng and ginger can be used in cooking, their differing flavor profiles make for different uses. Ginseng is more bitter than ginger, which has a sweeter flavor. Ginger is used in larger amounts in cooking than ginseng.
    • Availability: Ginseng is often more expensive and less widely available than ginger, which is a common spice and herb that is widely available in grocery stores and used in many cuisines around the world.

    Ginseng or ginger? Which one is right for you?

    If you are interested in taking ginseng or ginger, consider the health benefits that are the best fit for you. Do you want to support calm, focused mental energy? Then perhaps ginseng is the one. Interested in leveling up your gut health? You may want to try ginger.

    Can you take ginseng and ginger together?

    Ginseng and ginger are generally safe to be taken together, however every individual is different

    Can you take ginseng or ginger every night?

    Generally, ginseng and ginger can both be taken daily, although always talk to your healthcare provider to discuss if this is appropriate for you.

    The best time of day to take ginseng or ginger will depend on the reason for taking it. If you want to improve mental energy and focus, for instance, take ginseng in the morning or early afternoon, about 60 minutes before you need to focus. If taking ginger for digestion support, it may be best to take it before meals to help stimulate digestion. Some people may also benefit from taking ginger when experiencing bloating.

    Final takeaways

    Both ginseng and ginger, with their long history of use, have long been linked to a number of impressive health benefits. With similarities as well as differences, and both generally considered safe when used appropriately, these health-promoting roots may be worth integrating into your health routine.

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    Dr. Carla Montrond Correia ND, CNS
    Medical Content Manager
    Dr. Montrond-Correia is a licensed naturopathic physician and a certified nutrition specialist (CNS). She holds degrees from University of Bridgeport, Georgetown University, and University of Saint Joseph, and supplemented her education with internships in the health and wellness space. She's focused on research, herbal medicine, nutrigenomics, and integrative and functional medicine. She makes time for exercise, artistic activities, and enjoying delicious food.
    Victoria Peck-Gray, RD
    Freelance Contributor
    Victoria is a registered dietitian and functional nutritionist who helps people with resistant weight loss and PCOS transform their metabolic health and lose weight through a functional nutrition and lifestyle approach that addresses root causes. She is owner of her private practice, Wonderfully Made Nutrition and also leads her group metabolic coaching program for women called The 4 Method.