If it’s true that you are what you eat, then that’s a good reason why Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) root has been consumed by humans for more than 5,000 years. Its man-like appearance led to it being used as an adaptogen to maintain overall health and vitality. Asian ginseng also has a long history of use as a sexual energizer for men.
The term ginseng refers to several species of the genus panax. For more than 2,000 years, the roots of this slow-growing plant have been valued in Chinese medicine. The two most commonly used species are Asian ginseng, which is almost extinct in its natural habitat but is still cultivated, and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), which is both harvested from the wild and cultivated. Panax ginseng should not be confused with Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), which, to avoid confusion, has recently had its name officially changed in common nomenclature to simply eleuthero.
The National Institutes of Health gives the hometown American ginseng a respectable “B” for blood-sugar benefits. The agency notes that several studies suggest ginseng may lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes before and after meals. These results are promising, especially because ginseng does not seem to lower blood sugar to dangerous levels.
A number of human clinical studies back up the NIH’s claims that ginseng can positively affect blood-sugar levels. Even a single dose of 200 milligrams can significantly lower blood-sugar levels within two hours.1
However, the same group of researchers came back in 2008 and found chronic use of ginseng in healthy people had no discernible effect on any markers of blood-sugar.2
This might suggest that ginseng can be better used to address blood-sugar issues if you’re already in a bad way, instead of keeping yourself healthy – at least as far as diabetes issues go.
Asian ginseng, meanwhile, is used as an adaptogenic tonic, and also for enhanced performance. Adaptogens are said to produce a state of increased resistance to stress, promoting general vitality, and strengthening normal body functions. Fluffy parameters to measure, to be sure, but can people be wrong about using it for fully 5,000 years?
The highly regarded American Botanical Council, in its book “The ABC Classical Guide to Herbs” (Thieme, 2003), summarized 29 human studies totaling more than 12,000 people, finding 24 of the 29 studies “demonstrated positive effects for indications including cancer prevention, diabetes, immune support, fatigue, menopause, and circulation.”
The usual dose is 200 milligrams per day, standardized to four percent ginsenosides. HerbMed.org has a great clearinghouse of information related to published studies on various ginseng species.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this section is a public service of WellWise.org, and should not in any way substitute for the advice of a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended to constitute personal medical advice.