By: Nutrition expert- Vidula Kozarekar, Mumbai.
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Ginseng is a medicinal plant widely used for the treatment of various conditions. The pharmacological effects of ginseng have been demonstrated in cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases and have been used for promoting immune function, central nervous system (CNS) function, relieving stress, and for its antioxidant activities.
Among eleven different species of ginseng commonly called as ginseng, three species of ginseng, i.e., Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng), P. quinquefolius (American ginseng) and P. notoginseng (Chinese notoginseng or Sanchi) are the three most commonly used ginseng herbs at present (1).
Natural-dried ginseng is known as white ginseng, and red ginseng is prepared by steaming fresh ginseng root prior to drying on the purpose of enhancing efficacy, safety, and preservation (2).
How Ginseng improves immunity?
Red ginseng, which results from the special preparation of ginseng, has an unusual saponin profile; which is of higher pharmacological and medicinal functions than white ginseng (3).
Ginseng has been well known as an immune modulator. Roots (mostly), stems, leaves of ginseng and their extracts have been used for maintaining immune homeostasis and enhancing resistance to illness or microbial attacks through effects on immune system. Immune system is composed of diverse types of cells with their own specialized functions and each type of the immune cells differently responds to ginseng treatment (4), (5).
Efficacy of Ginseng extract:
- Improving cerebral functions
A 24-week randomized open-label study with Korean red ginseng (KRG) showed cognitive benefits in patients with Alzheimer’s disease. The effect of KRG on cognitive functions was sustained for 2 yrs. follow-up, indicating feasible efficacies of long-term follow-up for Alzheimer’s disease (6).
- Preventing cancer
In a literature review author XinJin et al. found that; ginseng consumption is associated with a significantly decreased risk of cancer (7). Othman A AL Shabanah et al revealed in a study that; ginseng may inhibit breast cancer cell growth by activation of the apoptotic pathway (8).
- Anti-oxidation and anti-aging activity
A study conducted by Eunson Hwang et al found in a study that; Panax ginseng and Crataegus pinnatifida together can prevent aging by inhibiting wrinkle formation and increasing moisture in the human skin (9).
- Treating metabolic syndrome
Dong-Hyuk Junga et al found evidence that Red Ginseng had a favorable effect on mitochondrial function and hormones in men with metabolic syndrome. There was a Significant improvement in mitochondrial function and an increase in total testosterone levels were observed in the RG group when compared with the placebo group. Diastolic blood pressure and serum cortisol significantly decreased in the RG group (10).
- Improving male reproductive function
Ginseng is a vital constituent of traditional Chinese medicine and has been used to treat sexual dysfunction as well as to enhance sexual behavior and gonadal functions in men. Oral administration of the Korean Ginseng Berry extract improved all domains of sexual function. It can be used as an alternative medicine to improve sexual life in men with sexual dysfunction (11).
While ginseng appears to be safe, people taking certain medications should pay attention to possible drug interactions. Ginseng can be consumed raw or lightly steamed or in the form of tea. It can also easily be added to your diet via its extract, capsule or powder form. Whether you want to improve a certain condition or simply give your health a boost, ginseng is definitely worth a try.