Revered by many Korean and
Japanese people and eagerly sought after by millions of others, ginseng is
often called the "root of immortality." Although 2,000 years of continuous
use have given ginseng its own bit of immortality, its effect on the
mortality of man is a little less certain. Even enthusiastic Eastern
advocates of the root can't claim that ginseng will give you everlasting
life. However, it is possible that ginseng will give you a longer life ...
and a more lively one as well.
For centuries, ginseng has been one of the world's most popular herbs,
consumed by people from hundreds of different generations for thousands of
years. Today, millions of people around the world still take ginseng,
including some of the world's foremost aging and longevity researchers.
Because ginseng supposedly strengthens all the body's organs and makes them
more resistant to disease, it has been given credit for curing almost every
illness under the sun, from cancer to impotence. While you have the
testimony of millions of people who've trusted ginseng with their health for
several thousand years, scientists still have trouble nailing down exactly
what, if anything, ginseng does.
Precisely because so many health claims are made for ginseng, it's hard for
Western science to take the herb seriously. In fact, many Western
researchers still insist that there is very little credible research to back
up the claims despite the 3,000 scientific studies that have been done on
ginseng in the past 50 years.
Many researchers are also skeptical because ginseng seems to produce no
specific effects, treating instead a wide range of conditions. For the most
part, Western doctors still believe that any benefits of ginseng come from
the placebo effect. In other words, they think it works wonders because the
person taking it believes it will.
In contrast, Chinese medicine rates ginseng as one of its most potent
healers. Traditionally, the Chinese classify their drugs into three
categories: inferior, middle, and superior. Inferior drugs have specific
effects for specific conditions. This is exactly the type of drug Western
researchers dream about and love to discover or invent. In the Chinese
system, middle drugs strengthen body function. Superior drugs work for
everything, and it is into this category that Chinese doctors place ginseng.
In Eastern medicine, ginseng is considered an adaptogen. This means it works
to keep the body in balance in all circumstances, bad or good. An adaptogen
also increases the body's resistance to unhealthy influences. It works only
when needed or when the body has a deficiency. Since ginseng does contain
antioxidants, it may be those compounds that give ginseng its body-balancing
abilities. Researchers also suspect it's ginseng's antioxidant activities
that can help protect your heart, liver, and lungs.
Recently, United States Department of Agriculture scientists discovered that
the mineral chromium works in a way similar to an adaptogen, by raising and
lowering blood sugar as needed. It's very possible a number of foods and
nutrients work only as needed, which gives 20th-century credibility to the
ancient health claims made for ginseng.
In the late 1980s, a Chinese study suggested that ginseng's antioxidant
status might make it a potent anti-aging drug. A recent Chinese study
offered support for this theory when it found that ginseng actually slowed
the aging process of 71 people over age 60.
Other antioxidants may help you live longer, but with ginseng, you get the
double advantage of living longer and feeling like enjoying all those extra
Better blood sugar control. Both animal and human studies
indicate that ginseng improves blood sugar control. In animals, ginseng
improves the release of insulin from the pancreas. For diabetics, this means
an improved ability to keep blood sugar levels normal.
Two recent human studies also reported that ginseng significantly lowers
blood glucose levels. Lower blood glucose levels mean less work for your
kidneys and less risk of developing ketoacidosis, a toxic buildup of ketones
(substances produced when the body breaks down fat for fuel) that can be
In addition, one of those studies found that 100 to 200 milligrams (mg) of
ginseng a day significantly improved mood, vigor, wellbeing, and mental and
physical performance in newly diagnosed diabetics.
Boosts brain power. At least four different human studies
indicate that ginseng can improve memory and concentration.
In 1990, a two-month study conducted in China of 358 people ages 50 to 85
revealed that 50 mg of ginseng given three times a day for two months
significantly improved memory and overall health.
An experiment conducted by Dr. Israel Brekhman, the Soviet researcher who
pioneered much of the research on East Asian ginseng, revealed that radio
operators who received a ginseng extract transmitted text faster and made
fewer mistakes than radio operators not given ginseng.
Cans cancer. Several recent studies suggest that various
components of ginseng may be protective against a variety of cancers,
including skin cancer; liver cancer; ovarian cancer; and cancers of the
larynx, esophagus, pancreas, and stomach.
In fact, in laboratory studies of ginseng's effect on liver cancer cells,
researchers were astonished to find that ginseng turned tumor cells into
normal-functioning cells. Researchers noted that ginseng had a similar
effect on skin cancer cells. According to cancer researchers, the ability of
any substance, natural or man-made, to turn cancer cells into
normal-functioning cells without damaging other cells is a pretty rare
occurrence. As promising as the studies are, researchers hasten to point out
that they do not know if the active ginseng components would have any effect
on an actual tumor site in a human.
Another study conducted at the Korea Cancer Center Hospital in Seoul
revealed that people who regularly consumed ginseng had only half the risk
of developing cancers of the mouth, pharynx, esophagus, stomach, colon,
rectum, liver, pancreas, larynx, lung, and ovaries as people who never
consumed ginseng. In fact, the longer a person had used ginseng, the lower
his risk. A person who had taken ginseng for one year had a 36 percent lower
risk of cancer, while a person who had used ginseng for five years or more
had a 69 percent lower risk of cancer.
Most ginseng products, except fresh ginseng slices, fresh ginseng juice, and
white ginseng tea, were associated with a lower risk of cancer.
Invigorates the immune system. More and more studies suggest
that ginseng's anti-cancer activity may be due to its effect on the immune
system. Ginseng revs up your immune system by stimulating the production of
T lymphocytes and natural killer cells, which help your body combat
Could control cholesterol and help keep heart healthy. There
is some speculation among researchers that ginseng may help control
cholesterol. A component called sitosterol, which is absorbed by your
intestines and lowers cholesterol, has been isolated from ginseng.
In fact, animal studies provide support for the theory. These studies show
that long-term use of several ginseng components does decrease cholesterol
and triglyceride levels. To ginseng users, this may mean a lower risk of
clogged arteries and heart disease.
In addition, another study of 358 people ages 50 to 85 found that 50 mg of
ginseng three times a day provided effective treatment of coronary heart
Energizes you to help you keep going and going and going ...
Ginseng can help you keep going just when you think you can't go any more.
It may be especially helpful for people lamenting the lost energy of their
In a study of 120 people ages 30 to 60, researchers found that ginseng
significantly improved lung performance and responses to reaction tests in
people ages 40 to 60, but not in the younger adults.
Even though ginseng may provide the most benefits to older people, it can
even improve the performance of top athletes. It boosts performance by
increasing the body's uptake of oxygen, lowering the heart rate, and
maintaining glycogen (a storage form of carbohydrate energy) more
efficiently, which enables your muscles to work longer before they reach
Dr. Brekhman found that runners in a 2-mile race who took ginseng finished
an average of 53 seconds faster than runners who didn't take ginseng.
Another study of 12 student nurses found that ginseng slightly improved
their speed and coordination while working the night shift.
Stops stress. Some researchers suggest that ginseng's ability
to fight off fatigue is connected to ginseng's general ability to relieve
Researchers theorize that ginseng stops stress by indirectly recharging
rundown adrenal glands, which sit on top of your kidneys and help your body
react and adapt in times of stress. When constant stress has left your
adrenals run down and worn out, ginseng gets them going again. Once the
adrenals are recharged, they can continue to help your body rebound from
Many animal studies support the theory that ginseng helps the body cope more
effectively with stress, preventing illnesses that stress can cause. Early
research suggests that ginseng may have a similar effect in humans.
Usurps ulcers. Animal studies have indicated that ginseng may
help prevent stress-induced ulcers. Several studies also indicate that
ginseng can help prevent stomach damage caused by drinking alcohol. In this
case, whole ginseng seems to be more effective than other ginseng products.
May lick liver disease. One study found that ginsenosides, the
active components in ginseng, appear to be protective against liver disease.
Red ginseng appears to be more potent than white ginseng. Another study
conducted at Kurume University School of Medicine in Japan found that
ginseng combined with several herbs into a formula the Japanese call
Sho-saiko-to provides powerful healing for chronic liver diseases, as well
as being protective against cancer.
Acts like an aphrodisiac. Ginseng's most famous claim to fame
is its reputed ability to help men overcome impotence. Thus far, there's
been very little scientific support for the super sex claims made for
Recently, however, Dr. Tony Lee, professor of pharmacology at Southern
Illinois School of Medicine, uncovered information that gives some
credibility to this age-old claim. According to Dr. Lee, ginseng contains
compounds that stimulate nerve cells in the penis, which may help men
maintain an erection.
But that's not all ... In addition, some research has
indicated that ginseng may be helpful in preventing blood clots, anemia, and
swelling caused by fluid retention. It may also help relieve depression.