As early as 25 A.D. a medical journal praised ginseng “the imperial herb” because of its nontoxic and rejuvenating properties. In the meantime 16-31% of Americans have consumed ginseng in the hope to increase their health and wellness. It is mostly the root of ginseng, which is used for medical purposes, and it is sold either whole, as a powder, or as a water- or alcohol based extract.
Among the many medically active ingredients, the ginsenosides are the most intensely studied substances.
There are well designed clinical studies which have tested ginseng’s ability to modulate diabetes, heart disease, mental function and physical performance. In the meantime there is enough evidence, which shows that Panax quinquefolius (its botanical name) can reduce blood glucose in individuals with and without type 2 diabetes.
Another study examined ginseng and its influence on blood pressure readings. Patients with type 2 diabetes (adult onset diabetes) who received a dosage of 3 grams daily over a period of 8 weeks achieved a reduction in their blood pressure readings, making it safe to take and also as an adjunct in the management of blood pressure.
Cognitive performance may be influenced positively by ginseng, however it is dependent on the dose, which is used. A lower dose of 200 mg reduced the mental performance, whereas a dose of 400 mg significantly improved accuracy in a demanding test.
Ginseng has not found to be effective to improve physical performance or be a weapon against fatigue.
In a 12- week trial patients received ginseng as a general supplement together with multivitamins or multivitamins alone. Ginseng significantly improved the quality of life, which could not be achieved with multivitamins alone.
Taking all the findings together, it is evident, that ginseng has beneficial properties for patients with diabetes, and it is also useful to improve cognitive function. Ginseng may reduce blood pressure readings, but more studies are needed. The blood pressure reducing effect seems marginal and ginseng, if taken for this purpose, should be used only as an adjunctive treatment along with the regular medication. As far as physical performance is concerned, it seems to be of little use. It does not show any interaction with prescription drugs, and for this reason it can be considered safe for general use.
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Reference: The Whitehall-Robins Report, September 2004, Vol.13,No.3
Last edited Oct. 27, 2014