Ginseng has been used in the Chinese and Korean medicines for the past thousand years. It is highly popular and available when compared to other medicinal herbs. Though there are several herbs with the same name, the name ginseng commonly refers to Korean Red Ginseng (Panax ginseng). This herb is also known as a man-root since it has a structure similar to the human body. Earlier, herbalists used to consider that this medicinal herb could treat any disease, but that is not entirely true (Adams et al, 2000). As of today, scientists are calling ginseng an adaptogen which helps a human being to cope up with physical as well as psychological stress (Bucci, 2000).
A Detailed Insight into Panax Ginseng or Asian Ginseng
As per the Traditional Chinese Medicine or TCM, ginseng is responsible for promoting yang energy. The Yang energy helps to improve blood circulation across the body and to recover the strength. That is why this herb has been used in China and Korea extensively to help people recover after any illness.
Asian ginseng can be differentiated in two different forms: white ginseng and red ginseng. To obtain white ginseng, the herb is grown for 4 to 6 years and then it is skinned as well as dried in the sun to reduce the water content in the herbs below 12%. White ginseng has lesser medicinal value than its red counterpart since it is considered that the enzymes somehow get destroyed during the process of drying under the sun.
On the contrary, the red ginseng, popularly known as Korean Red Ginseng, is harvested after six years and it undergoes a steaming process which provides it with red colour. The red ginseng is usually produced from the roots and is highly meticulous in treating a plethora of ailments. In 2002, a research was conducted to better understand the benefits of Korean Red Ginseng and it was found that it can be very helpful in treating erectile dysfunction in men (Yun and Lee, 2001).
Benefits of Ginseng
The benefits of ginseng are extensive. This medicinal herb is used to treat several medical conditions and it has also been found to improve the cognitive functions in people. Thus, nowadays ginseng is also being used to treat diseases like Parkinson’s disease (Hirashima et al, 2002).
Let us have a look at the benefits of Ginseng
- Boosts the immune system:
For thousands of years, the Asian herbalists have preached that ginseng plays a vital role in boosting the immune system. Thus, it helps greatly in preventing people from the diseases like influenza, cold, fever etc. It has been confirmed by several recent studies, which showed that the herb really increases the count of immune cells in the body and boosts the immunity system.
- Helps to treat Type 2 Diabetes:
Type-2 diabetes generally marks the increase of blood sugar level in the body. The β-cells in the pancreas secrete a specific hormone called insulin which regulates the level of blood sugar in the body. However, if the insulin level in the body starts to drop below the normal level, the level of blood sugar rises and this condition is termed as diabetes mellitus or type-2 diabetes. In the recent researches, it has been found that the root extract of ginseng stimulates the β-cells in the pancreas and alters their metabolism which boosts the secretion of insulin in the body (Zhang and Baffy, 2001). As a result, it helps greatly in improving the diabetic conditions.
- Improves Heart Health:
Ginseng is known to have considerable effects on the cardiovascular system. It has been noted that Korean Red Ginseng helps greatly in reducing the blood pressure and relaxes the heart muscles greatly (Kim et al. 1995). Panax ginseng acts as an anti-oxidant. It helps to purify the body from the inside and gets rid of all the substances that can cause damage to the heart. Moreover, it helps to control the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood which is known for creating heart blockages. Also, ginseng helps to increase the levels of HDL or good cholesterol which greatly improves the heart health.
- Improves cognitive functions:
Several studies have found that using ginseng can greatly help in improving the cognitive functions as well as mental health. Ginsenoside which is a major component of ginseng has been found to have considerable effects on the central nervous system. It helps to increase the growth of brain cells and thus protects the neurons from any damage (Kim et al, 1998). That is why scientists are performing studies to treat diseases like Parkinson’s disease with the help of ginseng.
- Increases energy:
Ginseng is the perfect health supplement for people who get tired easily. This herb can help to treat weakness and lethargy in people. It comes with vital nutrients which can aid in providing more energy to the patients who are feeling lethargic. Ginseng increases the secretion of ATP in the cells. It is well known that ATPs are the major providers of energy in a human body. As the count of ATP molecules increases in the body, tiredness starts to fade away.
- Reduces the rate of ageing:
Korean Red Ginseng has anti-oxidant properties. Thus, it clears your body from inside and stimulates proper blood circulation across your body. It prevents the body cells from dying which in turn avert the signs of ageing.
With the increasing number of studies on the subject, new evidences are surfacing about the benefits of Korean Red Ginseng or Asian ginseng in several physical and psychological problems. But there is still a long way to go and a lot more to come out. However, it can obviously be said that ginseng really has a plethora of benefits in treating several health problems.
- Adams LL, Gatchel RJ. Complementary and alternative medicine: applications and implications for cognitive functioning in elderly populations. Alt Ther. 2000; 7(2): 52–61.
- Bucci LR. Selected herbals and human exercise performance. Am J Clin Nutr. 2000;72(2 Suppl):624S-36S.
- Yun TK, Lee YS, Lee YH, Kim SI, Yun HY (2001). “Anticarcinogenic effect of Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer and identification of active compounds”. Journal of Korean Medical Science. 16 (S): 6–18.
- Mizumaki Y, Kurimoto M, Hirashima Y, Nishijima M, Kamiyama H, Nagai S, Takaku A, Sugihara K, Shimizu M, Endo S. Lipophilic fraction of Panax ginseng induces neuronal differentiation of PC12 cells promotes neuronal survival of rat cortical neurons by protein kinase C dependent manner. Brain Res. 2002; 20: 254–260.
- Zhang CY, Baffy G, Perret P, Krauss S, Peroni O, Grujic D, et al (2001). Uncoupling protein-2 negatively regulates insulin secretion and is a major link between obesity, beta cell dysfunction, and type 2 diabetes. Cell. 105: 745–55.
- Kim ND, Kang SY, Schini VB (1995). Ginsenosides evoke endothelium-dependent vascular relaxation in rat aorta. Gen Pharmacol. 25: 1071-1077.
- Kim YC, Kim SR, Markelonis GJ, Oh TH (1998). Ginsenosides Rb1 and Rg3 protect cultured rat cortical cells from glutamateinduced neurodegeneration. J Neurosci Res. 4: 426–432.