Panax Ginseng (also called Asian Ginseng, Korean Ginseng, Chinese Ginseng, and True Ginseng) belongs to ‘Ginseng’ plant family. It improves mood, mental performance, cognitive skills, stamina, and physical endurance. It stimulates the mind and reduces mental fatigue and mental stress. It also improves lung function, so improves the lungs health and eases breathing.
It is also beneficial for women because it reduces menstrual discomfort and helps to manage menopausal symptoms. Ginseng Root is used in form of white ginseng or red ginseng for the treatment of Alzheimer’s disease, fatigue, low immunity, depression, anxiety, and cystic fibrosis. It is also likely to be beneficial in anemia, diabetes, gastritis, hangover, chronic bronchitis, flu, and delirium in high-grade fever. It is commonly used to improve libido in men and to treat men’s problems including erectile dysfunction (ED) and premature ejaculation.
The roots of Panax Ginseng have therapeutic value. It is available in two forms – White ginseng and red ginseng discussed under types of Panax ginseng below. Red ginseng is commonly used for getting therapeutic benefits.
Fresh roots are sliced and advised to eat raw. The dried roots are used in form of powder. Dried roots are also used to make a decoction. The standardized extracts derived from the roots are used to make capsules or tablets and added in several health supplements. Dried roots are also used to make ginseng tea and ginseng mother tincture (alcoholic extract). Each preparation has different dosage, which will be discussed later in this article.
Types of Panax Ginseng
In the market, there are mainly two types of Panax Ginseng (True Ginseng) available. However, both come from the same plant, but have a difference in processing and preserving methods.
- White Ginseng
- Red Ginseng
The roots of Ginseng are peeled off and dried in the air and in the sun. The moisture content in white ginseng is below 12% and its color is yellowish white. There are some enzymes present in the roots that decrease the therapeutic value of the white ginseng by breaking down the active constituents during the processing.
Main Bioactive Constituents in White Ginseng
- Ginsenoside Rb1
- Ginsenoside Ro
- Ginsenoside Re
Korean Red Ginseng
The product obtained by steaming and then sun-drying the roots of panax ginseng without peeling off is called Korean Red Ginseng. In this process, heat (steaming) involves that changes the bioactive constituents in the roots and increases the shelf life. Its color is reddish brown. The steaming process prevents the deterioration of active constituents and likely to alter the phytochemistry (biochemical composition) in the roots. This process improves the therapeutic value of the ginseng.
Main Bioactive Constituents in Red Ginseng
- Ginsenoside Rb3
- Ginsenoside Rg3
Fermented Red Ginseng
The steamed and dried Red Ginseng is further fermented. The fermentation process improves its efficacy and safety. It further improves the bioavailability of Ginsenosides in the human body. (1)
Ginseng Classification in Korea
|Fresh Ginseng||Harvested from the plants Less than 4 years old||Used Fresh|
|White Ginseng||Harvested from 4 to 6 years old plants||Dried after peeling|
|Red Ginseng||Harvested from 6 years old plants||Dried after steaming without peeling the roots|
Other plant species known with Ginseng Name
In addition to Panax Ginseng (Korean Red Ginseng), there are other plant species that also known with ginseng name. These are:
- Panax Quinquefolius – American Ginseng (Xi Yang Shen)
- Panax Japonicus – Japanese Ginseng
- Panax Notoginseng – Pseudo ginseng
- Panax Vietnamensis – Vietnamese Ginseng
- Codonopsis Pilosula – Dang Shen (Poor man’s ginseng)
- Dracaena Angustifolia – Nam Ginseng
- Eleutherococcus Senticosus – Siberian Ginseng
- Eurycoma Longifolia Jack – Malaysian Ginseng (Tongkat Ali)
- Gynostemma Pentaphyllum – Cheap Ginseng (Southern Ginseng)
- Kaempferia Parviflora – Thai Ginseng
- Lepidium Meyenii – Peruvian Ginseng (Maca root)
- Pfaffia Paniculata – Brazilian Ginseng (Suma Root)
- Trichopus Zeylanicus – Kerala Ginseng
- Withania Somnifera – Indian Ginseng (Ashwagandha)
Codonopsis Pilosula (Dang Shen), also called poor man’s ginseng, is taken as cheap substitute for Panax Ginseng in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Gynostemma Pentaphyllum (Cheap Ginseng) is also taken as substitute for Panax Ginseng. These species are more affordable and recommended for people who cannot eat Panax Ginseng for getting similar benefits.
Phytochemistry (Chemical Composition)
Ginsenosides are active constituents present in Panax Ginseng responsible for its therapeutic properties. There are more than 100 Ginsenosides are found in the roots of ginseng. Some of them are:
- Ginsenoside Rb1
- Ginsenoside Rb2
- Ginsenoside Rc
- Ginsenoside Rd
- Ginsenoside Re
- Ginsenoside Rf
- Ginsenoside Rg
- Ginsenoside Ro
Panax Ginseng has following healing properties.
- Nervine Tonic
- Anti-nociceptive (reduce pain)
- Anti-ulcer (ginseng leaves)
- Immune stimulant
- Emetic (in higher dose)
Panax Ginseng is helpful in following health conditions.
- Mental fatigue
- Insomnia (Sleeplessness)
- Mood disorders
- Alzheimer’s disease
- Drug withdrawal
- General fatigue
- Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS)
- Delirium in Fever
- Premature ejaculation
- Erectile dysfunction (ED)
- Loss of libido
- Mood swings during menopause
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Nerve pain
- Memory loss
- Cognitive disorders
- Cerebrovascular Dysfunction
- Joint pain
- Pre-diabetes and diabetes
- Hearing loss
- Lung infections caused by Pseudomonas bacterium
- Cystic fibrosis
- Chronic bronchitis
- Swine flu
- Common cold and flu
- Breast cancer
- Hot flashes due to menopause
- Heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Loss of appetite
- Intestinal problems
- Bad breath
Used in preventive medicine
- Ovarian cancer
- Liver cancer
- Lung cancer
- Skin cancer
Panax Ginseng Benefits & Medicinal Uses
Panax ginseng has a warming effect in the body, so it is likely to increase the heat in the body. It mainly acts as a stimulant, which enhances the function of the brain and boosts its stamina. Generally, it acts on the brain as neuroprotective and reduces oxidative stress.
Key Benefits of Ginseng
- It improves cognitive skins.
- It improves thinking and analytic skills.
- It Increases memory.
- It Improves concentration.
- Increases physical stamina
- Increases work efficiency
- Reduces stress and improves the ability of mind to fight with stress
- Reduces mental fatigue
- Improves physical endurance capacity in athletes
- Boosts immunity
- Slows the aging process
- Prevents wrinkles
- Prevents cognitive decline
Stress, Anxiety and Depression
Ginseng is an adaptogen and antidepressant that reduces stress and it is helpful for treating anxiety disorders and depression. It improves blood circulation to the brain, which helps to reduce the effects of mental stress. It reduces aggression and improves social behaviour. Ginsenosides, main components in the ginseng, exert anti-stress and anti-depressive effects. Acidic polysaccharide content also acts as antidepressant. (2, 3)
Acetate fermented Korean Red ginseng is more effective for stress disorders, anxiety disorders and depression because it has more potent antidepressant effects than other forms of the ginseng. (4)
Ginseng might alter genetic transcription of tyrosine hydroxylase (TH) and dopamine β-hydroxylase (DBH). It attenuates the increased level of TH and DBH that elevate in stress and restores the natural level of neurotransmitters. This process helps to reduce the mental stress. (5)
The anxiolytic effects of the Ginseng are comparable with diazepam. (6)