Ginseng

Our review of products that may be helpful for vision, menopause, and other health conditions finds named plants which have similar qualities: Panax ginseng and Peruvian ginseng. Peruvian ginseng is not really ginseng, but Maca, (Lepidium meyenii) - although it is frequently referred to as Peruvian ginseng.

Panax Ginseng

Ginseng comes from Asia (Panax ginseng) and America (Panax quinquefolius), have traditionally been used to treat a huge variety of health conditions, most notably to support energy levels. Researchers think that the predominant active ingredients, ginsenosides, are responsible for the known benefits. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is an entirely different plant and does not contain ginsenosides. 1 Many of the beneficial results of ginseng arise from its synergistic relationship with other herbs.

The Mind

Panax ginseng is known as an adaptogen because it supports the body's reaction to emotional, mental and physical stress and fatigue. While there have been positive findings in a number of research studies, it is hard to validate the results through systematic meta analysis because of the wide variety of study designs. For example, in some studies of ginseng as a cognitive enhancer, subjects and controls were given ginseng or placebo while in other studies, the subjects used ginseng and placebo one after the other -- making it difficult to compare apples and oranges.

Ginseng is known to support brain functioning and the ability to concentrate. Researchers found that improvements in working memory measured by mental arithmetic resulted. In one placebo controlled randomized, double-blind study 30 volunteers received placebo or 200mg ginseng or 400mg ginseng for 8 days, and then after a 6 day pause to clear the system, received gingseng or placebo for another 8 days, then another 6 days with no treatment, and then the final placebo or 200mg or 400 mg ginseng. For both groups receiving gingseng both calmness and capacity for mental arithmetic improved. 2

Anti-Fatigue

Researchers examined the effect of American ginseng in combating fatigue in lab mice. while such properties of ginseng have previously frequently been reported, the scientists wanted to examine the effect of the proteins in ginseng rather than the herb in its entirety. They extracted and measured amounts of proteins and amino acids from ginseng, gave them to lab mice who were divided into four groups, and gave them various dosages relative to the animal's body weight for 28 days. The mice performed physical activity and normal measures of fatigue were gauged such as amount of work, blood lactate, nitrogen in urine and other measures. The mice who received the treatment were able to perform work for longer times with less fatigue than the controls.3

Other Results

Bone Health Researchers found that bone cells (osteoblasts) treated with ginsenosides extracted from ginseng improved osteoblastic function - bone health, strength, mineralization, etc.4.

Anti-Inflammatory In another study researchers found that ginseng, when combined with Angelica gigas and Rhus verniciflua was helpful in treating inflammation.5

Atherosclerosis Ginseng may be helpful in addressing concerns associated with high cholesterol and plaque. Researchers found that a Chinese variety of ginseng (Panax notoginseng), which also contains ginsenosides, was helpful in reducing plaque in lab animals fed on high cholesterol diets who hadatheroscherotic plaque.6

Hypertension Researchers have found that ginseng is helpful in managing high blood pressure. In one study researchers looked at why it provides benefits to the vascular system. They examined arteries in a lab situation, treating them with ginsenoside extractions and concluded that the treatment reduced oxidative stress and had the capacity to protect the functioning of the lining of blood vessels - contributing to better vascular health in cases of hypertension.7

Immune System Strength Another traditional property of ginseng is that it supports the immune system protecting people who take it from sickness. Researchers decided to see whether ginseng could protect subjects from the highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus. Lab animals were fed Red ginseng (Chinese ginseng) for 60 days before being infected with H5N1. The animals' survival rate was 40-45% compared to placebo, almost as effective as treatment after infection with combined drugs zanamivir, celecoxib and mesalazine.8 A reasonable conclusion is that ginseng is helpful in preparing the body to resist infection.

Summary

There is an enormous amount of new research on ginseng. Among other research published in in the first 3 months of 2014 alone are studies on ginseng in cancer treatment, gastric inflammation and gastric cancer, memory impairment and learning deficiency, pain management, cardiovascular disease, chemotherapy treatment, oxidative stress, insulin resistance, ovarian problems, and stroke. For more recent research see NIH's listing of current research at http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed and search for panex ginseng.

Note: People with cardiac conditions and high blood pressure should consult their doctor before use.

Maca

Maca works synergistically with Panax ginseng (true ginseng) and has been known for 5000 years as a nervous system stimulant, and a restorer of vitality which is said to reduce menstrual problems, symptoms of menopause, and osteoporosis, support the immune system, the eliminative system, joint health, emotional balance, capacity for sound sleep and brain functioning. It is rich in protein, minerals, amino acids, vitamins and other nutritional substances that together provide these benefits. While there are no known side effects it is not recommended that it be taken for more than 3 months at a time. You should consult your medical provider if you have a cardiac condition or high blood pressure before taking.

Ginseng News:

Takes a moment to load

Footnotes

1. University of Maryland Medical Center, Medical Reference Guide, Asian Ginseng
2. Panax ginseng (G115) improves aspects of working memory performance and subjective ratings of calmness in healthy young adults, J.L. Reay, et al, Human Psychopharmacology, August, 2010.
3. Anti-fatigue effects of proteins isolated from Panax quinquefolium, B. Qi, et al, Journal of Ethnopharmacology, March, 2014
4. Stimulative Effect of Ginsenosides Rg5:Rk1 on Murine Osteoblastic MC3T3-E1 Cells., M. H. Siddigi, et al, Phytotherapy Research, March, 2014
5. Anti-inflammatory and anti-proliferative effect of herbal medicines (APR) in RAW264.7 cells, H. S. Choi, et al, Molecular Medicine Reports, May, 2014
6. Panax notoginseng saponins inhibits atherosclerotic plaque angiogenesis by down-regulating vascular endothelial growth factor and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate oxidase subunit 4 expression, Y. Qiao, et al, Chinese Journal of Integrative Medicine, March, 2014.
7. Ginsenoside Rb3 attenuates oxidative stress and preserves endothelial function in hypertension, British Journal of Pharmacology, Feb, 2014.
8. Red Ginseng-containing diet helps to protect mice and ferrets from the lethal infection by highly pathogenic H5N1 influenza virus, E. H. Park, et al, Journal of Ginseng Research, Jan., 2014.