Updated: Mar 30
Ginseng is a popular and ancient herb dating back to 2700 B.C.. Known for it's significant health benefits, in this blog we take a brief look into Ginseng's history, and outline the many health benefits it provides. Because of the current social landscape surrounding corona, and our vital need to boost our immune systems, we're focusing specifically on ingredients that can either help prevent contracting a disease or virus, or that can help fight it if you become infected. Ginseng qualifies as both preventative and helpful in the event of infection. Let's get to it!
Ginseng is an ancient herb originating in China. A fairly common and well known ingredient, this herb dates back to 2700 B.C., with it's name derived from the Chinese word rénshēn meaning man herb. Ginseng was first discovered in the Manchuria mountains and was originally used as a food ingredient. It wasn't until around 206 B.C. that ginseng became wildly popular as a medicinal herb.
This herb became so popular throughout ancient China that Chinese emperors were willing to pay it's weight in gold for the ingredient. Because of this, ginseng became an ingredient for royalty only, going so far as executing any non-royalty caught with the ingredient.
Marco Polo, during his many adventures, became aware of this popular Chinese ingredient and began sharing with the rest of the world this secret herb. Because of this new awareness, French Jesuit priest Father Jortoux documented to physical description of ginseng, including the plant and the environment in which it grew.
Father Jortoux's work inspired Father Lafitau who had been living with the Iroquois Indians of North America, and realized the grow environment for ginseng in China was very similar to the environment in North America.
Oddly enough, through his research, Father Jortoux discovered Native American's had already been growing and using ginseng. Natives had been using this ingredient in the same form and fashion as the Chinese, yet there was no known connection between the two civilizations.
Ginseng is loaded with potent antioxidants that are known for reducing inflammation. A recent test tube study determined that ginseng and ginsenoside compounds showed to inhibit inflammation and increase cellular antioxidant capacity.
Improves Brain Function
Ginseng is being found to improve memory, behavior and mood. Free radicals in the body are known for causing brain damage affecting memory, behavior and mood.
A recent study has shown ginseng has the capacity to fight these free radicals improving our brain function. More research is required, but initial studies have suggested there is a shelf life for ginseng related to brain function. Currently, it appears there is an 8 week drop off in effectiveness of ginseng on the brain.
A recent study conducted by the Division of Urological Clinic of Sao Paulo University in Sao Paulo Brazil determined that ginseng is a useful alternative for treating erectile dysfunction.
ED exists when oxidative stress in blood vessels and tissues reduces normal function. Ginseng is believed to protect against these stresses helping to assist in normal functioning.
Immune System Boosting
Studies related to the immune system and the effects ginseng has on this system have been primarily focused on cancer patients.
One specific study was conducted on 39 patients, all recovering from surgeries related to stomach cancer. These patients showed significant improvements in immune functions, and even showed a significant reduction in cancer related symptoms.
Other studies have shown ginseng may have upwards of a 35% improved chance of living disease-free, and a 38% higher survival rate from disease when compared to those who did not consume ginseng.
More research is needed to determine the effects of ginseng on non cancer patients, however preliminary discoveries are showing very good promise.
Increases Energy Levels
Ginseng is now known for fighting fatigue and increasing energy levels. Ever feel lethargic? Try ginseng!
A recent four week long study focused on the effects of ginseng on 90 patients reporting chronic fatigue. Patients who were given ginseng experienced increased physical and mental energy compared to those given a placebo. They were also reported to show reductions in oxidative stress. Another study focused on cancer patients were given ginseng. It was discovered that after 8 weeks of consumption, those given ginseng had significantly lower fatigue levels.
Ginseng has been discovered to assist in controlling blood glucose for those who have diabetes, as well as those who do not.
This includes evidence suggesting ginseng can improve pancreatic cell function, boosts insulin production, and improves the uptake of blood sugar into tissue.
One study looked at 19 people diagnosed with type 2 diabetes. These patients, after being given ginseng, were discovered to have maintained improved blood sugar control, with an 11% decrease in blood sugar levels, and a 38% decrease in fasting insulin, and a 33% increase in insulin sensitivity.
Steeped in history, ginseng has always been considered a potent medicinal herb. So powerful in fact, many people lost their lives in pursuit of limiting the reach of this herb to only the rich and noble. Spanning centuries and many different cultures, science is just now starting to discover why this herb was in such high demand, as well as widely used through history. The health benefits of this herb are vast. Helping to fight inflammation and some cancer, as well as boosting energy levels and our immune systems. Consumption of this ingredient should be a priority for those who seek to find ways to improve our health, and to fight off existing health related diseases and viruses.
Check out these teas containing Ginseng!