An traditional herb has been getting a lot of attention from researchers lately. Ginseng! It came from the Appalachians and Ozarks. where it was used by American Indians as a medicinal herb. In the 1700’s, it was sold extensively to Asian traders who promoted its cultivation in China and Korea. It is now cultivated commercially in the Eastern US and upper Midwest.
Adaptogenic not Ergogentic
Ginseng is mostly adaptogenic, rather than ergogenic. Two fancy words for two simple concepts. Adaptogenic means better tolerance for physical and mental stress; ergogentic means performance enhancing.
1. Ginseng supports the ability to concentrate. American Menominee and other Indians used ginseng as a mental stimulant to prepare them for arduous mental and physical endeavors. Modern researchers have confirmed this ability to strengthen working memory and concentration. Subjects taking ginseng experienced both increased calmness and improved ability at mental arithmetic. As an adaptogenic, ginseng helps keep us calm and relaxed when faced with that exam and so we think more clearly.
2. Ginseng enhances energy and endurance. For centuries athletes and warriors have used ginseng to prepare themselves for battle or competition. Modern scientists wanted to know why and in testing discovered that the common measures of fatigue, such as blood lactate levels and nitrogen levels in urine were markedly reduced after exercise. As an adaptogenic ginseng helps athletes better tolerate the stress incurred from strenuous exercise and feel less fatigue afterwards.
3. Ginseng strengthens the immune system. Another traditional use of ginseng by herbal healers was to protect against illness. Scientists have discovered that ginseng enhances or stimulates immune system activity. In fact, they found it is almost as effective as a cocktail of fancy drugs in lab animal survival rates from the deadly bird flu. As an adaptogen, ginseng helps keep the body in overall balance as well as stimulate the immune system. This helps us be more resistant to the challenges of flu season.
4. Ginseng helps fertility. Ginseng was noted as an herb par excellence for male and female fertility, libido and reproductive system balance. Probably, its biggest market today in Asia is for its use as an aphrodisiac because of its help with erectile dysfunction. But, seriously, researchers have found that ginseng enhances sperm quality, especially where there has been exposure to toxins and alcohol. For women, ginseng is reported to benefit uterine health and function, improving the ability of fertile eggs to implant in the uterus. As an adaptogen, ginseng brings balance to the reproductive system.
5. Ginseng benefits seniors. For women facing menopause, ginseng brings balance to hormones and the reproductive system, helping alleviate menopausal symptoms like hot flashes, insomnia and depression. It supports bone density, a critical factor in bone health for women (and men) facing osteoporosis. As it reduces inflammation, it can be quite helpful for reducing joint pain experienced by seniors.