Panax ginseng (the Araliaceae family), also known as Korean Ginseng or Red Ginseng, is an plant famous for its capability to help the body adapt to stress. Generally, starts flowering at its fourth year and the roots take 4 to 6 years to reach maturity. Panax ginseng includes triterpene glycosides, and saponins, known as ginsenosides. Ginsenosides, the saponin glycosides, are thought responsible for Panax ginseng pharmacological activities. There are dozens of ginsenosides (At least 30 ginsenosides have been identified in Panax ginseng). Different ginsenosides appear to have differing effects, and the exact mixture of the ginsenosides in a given ginseng product may play a important role in its efficacy. The root has higher ginsenoside content. According to Germany Commission E (an official government agency similar to the FDA), ginseng root contains at least 1.5% ginsenosides, calculated as ginsenoside Rg1.
Panax Ginseng Pharmacological Effects and Benefits
Panax ginseng is used for concentration, memory, depression, anxiety, loss of appetite, vomiting, physical stamina, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), fibromyalgia, diabetes, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), premature ejaculation, and for boosting the immune system. Animal-based and in vitro studies show that Panax ginseng increases phagocytosis, natural killer cell activity, and the production of interferon. Panax ginseng is widely used as a adaptogen for fighting stress. There is some findings that it might work against stress by affecting the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Helps the body modify adrenal and thyroid imbalances and “adapt” to stress.
Ginseng is known to be an adaptogen. Adaptogens, that has the ability to bring the body back into a healthy, balanced state. Panax ginseng helps to support the healthy functioning of the hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal axis, which may be helpful for the reduce of fatigue and the effects of stress. Saponin triterpenoid glycosides, provide the adaptogenic activities that enable to balance and counter the effects of stress. These steroid-like ingredients appear to act on the adrenal glands, helping to avoid adrenal hypertrophy and excess corticosteroid production in response to physical, chemical or biological stress. Russian researchers report that ginseng normalizes the level of arterial pressure and is effective in the treatment of both hypotension and hypertension.
In a double-blind study, participants taking a daily combination of a multivitamin-mineral supplement with 40 mg of ginseng extract for 12 weeks reported important improvements in quality of life measured with a questionnaire compared with a group taking just multivitamin-mineral supplement. A study reported in the “Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness” found that korean ginseng can enhance the body’s capacity to cope with physical and mental stress by eliminating symptoms of fatigue. Commission E has approved Panax ginseng for use as a “tonic for invigoration and strengthening at times of fatigue and debility, for declining capacity for work and concentration, also during convalescence.”
The vasodilating activities of panax ginseng have been shown to develop sexual function in men with. The use of panax ginseng encourages the flow of blood to the penis and improves the response of the nervous system thereby improving the quality of erections. In a study of 90 men with erectile dysfunction,60% of the subjects reported development in their symptoms compared with 30 % of those using the placebo. The findings was published in the “International Journal of Impotence Research”. In 1996, the Journal Panminerva Medica reported a study in which infertile men demonstrated improved sperm count and motility after being treated with 4 grams of red ginseng for 3 months. A study reported in November 2002 in The Journal o f Urology indicates that panax ginseng is an effective therapy for erectile dysfunction. As published in Jan 2003 edition of The Journal of Family Practice, supplement with panax ginseng offers a safe and effective alternative for achieving and maintaining erection, even in severe cases of erectile dysfunction.
Experiments have shown results, indicating that Korean ginseng promotes the growth of male reproductive organs, increases sperm and testoterone levels, and enhances sexual activity in lab animals. According to a 1999 “World Health Organization” examination, ginseng saponins are thought to reduce serum prolactin, therefore increasing libido in male impotence. In a study found that 4 g of panax ginseng per day for 3 months led to an development in sperm count and sperm motility.
This plant stimulates the formation of blood vessel and develops blood circulation in the brains, thus improving memory and cognitive abilities. Several findings have showed that panax ginseng improves mental performance, especially during times of stress. In a study at a hospital in 1982, a group of nurses were given ginseng or placebo for 3 consecutive days before switching to night duty. The ginseng therapy group reported better scores for competence, mood, general well-being and performance on tests for speed and coordination compared to the placebo group. In one study of 112 healthy participants older than 40 years, the application of 400 mg per day of the standardized panax ginseng extract for 8 weeks resulted in better and faster simple reactions and abstract thinking. In a 2006 study reported in the “Journal of Psychopharmacology“, 27 healthy young participants completed a 10 minute “cognitive demand” test. Use of ginseng demonstrated an enhanced performance.
The most commonly known ginsenosides Rb1 and Rg1 are known to have an activity on brain functioning. Rg1 is thought to be a slight central nervous system stimulant, hypertensive, anti-fatigue agent, anabolic, and mental acuity and intellectual performance enhancer. Researches done in China demonstrated that ginsenosides enhance protein synthesis and activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. According to a study published in February 2012 in the “Biochimica et Biophysica Acta“; ginseng component Rg1 induces neuroprotection through ameliorating amyloid pathology, modulating APP process, improving cognition, and activating PKA/CREB signaling.
Experiments have shown that panax ginseng slows the heart rate and reduces the heart’s demand for oxygen. Panax ginseng stimulates optimal blood circulation and supplies the stamina and energy necessary for a body. An intravenous formulation of ginseng seems to enhance ejection fraction in patients with Congestive heart failure (CHF). This plant might improve hemodynamics and might work synergistically with digoxin. Shenmai injection (Panax ginseng, Schizandra fruit, Ophiopogon) may have antiarrhythmic activity. Shengmai San is a widely used formula in modern China, usually given as a prepared liquid a decoction, or as an intravenous drip. This formula is administered to patients who have suffered a serious disease, particularly heart attack, congestive heart failure, or severe bronchitis, and to treat a sudden drop in blood pressure associated with cardiogenic or septic shock.
Animal-based studies have shown that panax ginseng can facilitate the release of insulin from the pancreas and enhance the number of insulin receptors in the body. There is some findings that taking panax ginseng, 200 mg daily, can lessen fasting blood glucose levels and hemoglobin HbA1c in patients with type 2 diabetes. Ginseng can lessen insulin requirements and prolong the effect of injected insulin. Patients with type 2 diabetes mostly find that after 2 weeks of taking ginseng tea, their blood-sugar levels go down by between 40 and 50 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl). In the “Journal of Nutrition, Metabolism & Cardiovascular Diseases” (January 2008), it was reported that panax ginseng improves glucose and insulin regulation in well-controlled, type 2 diabetes.
Panax ginseng is thought to avoid liver damage in people who have been exposed to drugs and toxins. “The Journal of Hazardous Materials” November 2011 edition reported the protective activity of Korean ginseng against serum biochemical changes and apoptosis in liver of rats treated with carbon tetrachloride. This study demonstrated that ginseng therapy may play a protective role by enhancing liver enzyme activities and recovering biochemical parameters, and improving the changes in histological structure against carbon tetrachloride-induced liver damages in rats.
Panax ginseng acts on the immune system by producing higher activity levels of natural killer cells, increasing total lymphocyte count and raising levels of T-helper cells. In vitro studies reveal enhanced natural killer cell activity and increased immune cell phagocytosis after ginsenoside exposure. Korean Red Ginseng contains a polysaccharide called ginsan that stimulates natural killer cell activity, according to a study reported in the Aug t 2011 edition of the journal Immunology Letters. Researchers have found that a combination of echinacea and ginseng increases the activity of natural killer cells, an substantial immune system component, in individuals with chronic fatigue syndrome.
A clinical trial in 60 healthy participants demonstrated enhanced chemotaxis, phagocytosis, increased total lymphocyte count, and increased numbers of T helper cells in those who received ginseng extract in a dosage of 100 mg twice daily for 8 weeks. A study of 227 healthy participants showed that daily administration of 100 mg standardized Panax ginseng extract, for 12 weeks enhanced the efficacy of polyvalent influenza vaccine. The people who received panax ginseng had a lower incidence of colds and influenza, higher antibody titers, and higher natural killer cell activity levels.
In a study found that steamed then dried panax ginseng had favorable effects in individuals infected with HIV, and increased the effectiveness of the anti-HIV medication, AZT. Cho YK, Lee, Oh and Kim report on a study comparing 5.4 g of panax ginseng daily on 16 HIV+ patients versus 10 people who took no anti-HIV drugs for 3 – 4 years. In the group using this form of Korean Red Ginseng, the average CD4 count increased from baseline of 301 to 359. In the control group, the baseline CD4 count of 352 decreased to 156. Researchers concluded that “Korean Red Ginseng has definite long-term immune modulating effect without adverse effects on HIV-infected patients”. A study reported in Aug 2009 in the journal “Clinical and Vaccine Immunology,” indicates that panax ginseng may have favorable effects against HIV when combined with HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy). HIV-1 (Human immunodeciency virus type 1 is a virus that causes AIDS, a condition in which the immune system fails due to the destruction of CD4+ helper T cells macrophages, and dendritic cells. Owing to the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) and the improvement of many anti-retroviral medications the rates of mortality and morbidity related to HIV-1 disease have lessen significantly. But, anti-retroviral drug-resistant mutants are incessantly occurring and limit the availability of effective medications. Korean red ginseng has been shown to exert favorable effects on HAART by maintaining CD4+ T cell counts and delaying the development of resistance mutations in HIV-1 patients treated with HAART.
Panax ginseng reduce the production of tumor necrosis factor, lessen DNA strand breakage, and inhibit the formation of induced skin tumors. Studies on human breast cancer cells indicate that ginseng, particularly its constituent ginsenoside-Rb1, acts as a phytoestrogen. A prospective study investigated non-organ specific cancer prevention of ginseng. A study conducted in South Korea followed 4,587 women and men aged thirty-nine years and older from 1987 to 1991. People who consumed panax ginseng regularly were compared with similar people who did not. It was documented that in that time, those who used ginseng had a 60 % lower incidence of death from cancer, particularly stomach and lung cancer. An epidemiological study analyzed the preventive activity of Panax ginseng on 3,974 patients with various types of cancer compared to case-matched controls for 67 weeks. Patients taking panax ginseng showed a 50% lower risk of cancer recurrence compared to patients not taking ginseng. Cancer incidence reduced by 36 and 69 % in people taking ginseng for 1 year or 5 years, respectively. A greater protective effect was seen in cancers of the esophagus, pharynx, liver and lung .
The general recommended daily dosage of ginseng is 1 g to 2 g of raw herb, or 200 mg daily of an extract standardized to contain 4% to 7% ginsenosides. German Commission E approves a dosage of 1 to 2 grams per day of dried root, or preparations providing the equivalent. The Pharmacopoeia of the People’s Republic of China officially lists 3 to 9 grams as the dosage for ginseng in decoction form. The doses for different problems; Preventing Cold and Flu; 100 mg daily. Immune System; 100 mg twice a day. Memory Enhancing; 400 mg. Type 2 Diabetes: 200 mg daily. Erectile dysfunction; 900 mg three times daily.