Ginseng - An Ancient Herb with Modern Benefits

Learn the facts on ginseng, including the benefits of ginseng

Ginseng is an ancient herb that has been used in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Its root remains one of the most widely used Chinese medicines in the world.1

There are many types of ginseng, with the most common types being Asian (Panax ginseng) and American (Panax quinquefolius). Panax ginseng helps the body adapt to its environment by supporting endurance and adrenal gland health.

Keep reading to learn:

  • What ginseng is
  • The benefits of ginseng
  • How to use ginseng

Before making changes to your diet, nutrition, and exercise routine, consult your healthcare practitioner. Always discuss any vitamin and mineral supplements you are taking or plan to take, since these may interact differently with medications and health conditions.

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What is Ginseng?

Ginseng is an ancient herb that has been used in Chinese medicine for centuries. The color of this small root depends on its age at time of harvesting. Red ginseng root is harvested between 4 – 6 years and white ginseng is harvested at 6 plus years.2

There are multiple types of ginseng, but only American and Asian ginseng have active ingredients called ginsenosides, which may help the body adapt to physical and emotional stress.3 ‡

Because ginseng may help stimulate the body’s response to stress, ginseng is classified as an adaptogen.3 ‡

What are Adaptogens?

Adaptogens are botanicals that help your body respond appropriately to occasional stress. These herbs are named because they appear to adapt to each person’s needs. There are several types of adaptogens, each providing a unique benefit for the stress response, from calming occasional stress, supporting energy metabolism, and even supporting sleep.4,5 ‡

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis has a significant role in the body’s ability to respond to and adapt to stress. As an adaptogen, ginseng supports improved HPA axis functions in response to stress and in supporting a reduction in mental fatigue during prolong mental activity.6,7 ‡

What are the Benefits of Ginseng?

The benefits of ginseng include:

  • Supporting endurance and stamina8
  • Encouraging adrenal health in times of stress by maintaining healthy levels of certain adrenal hormones, most notably, corticosterone9
  • Assisting the body in adapting to physical and emotional stress.
  • Supporting male reproductive health10,11,12
  • Supporting performance on mental tasks7

Ways to Use Ginseng

Ginseng can be added to your diet and taken as a supplement:2

  • Fresh ginseng can be eaten raw, but it does have a slightly bitter and earthy taste.
  • Like fresh ginger, ginseng root can be sliced or grated and steeped in hot water to make an aromatic tea.
  • Ginseng root can also be added to soups and stews.

Using Ginseng Safely

Before consuming ginseng discuss this with your healthcare practitioner.

It’s important you know these potential side effects and precautions of ginseng:

  • Pregnant and lactating women should not take panax ginseng.
  • Panax ginseng has been associated with insomnia.
  • Possible side effects including heart palpitations, tachycardia, breast pain, vaginal bleeding, blood pressure changes, edema, rash, headache, and vertigo.
  • Panax ginseng is contraindicated for people with high blood pressure.

In addition, if you are taking any medication or other supplements, discuss these with your healthcare practitioner before taking panax ginseng.

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    1. Asian Ginseng, National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (Accessed December 14, 2021)

    2. 7 Proven Health Benefits of Ginseng (Accessed December 14, 2021)

    3. Asian Ginseng (Accessed December 14, 2021)

    4. Panossian, Alexander, Ean-Jeong Seo, and Thomas Efferth. “Novel Molecular Mechanisms for the Adaptogenic Effects of Herbal Extracts on Isolated Brain Cells Using Systems Biology.” Phytomedicine: International Journal of Phytotherapy and Phytopharmacology 50 (November 15, 2018): 257–84.

    5. Panossian, Alexander and Georg Wikman. “Effects of Adaptogens on the Central Nervous System and the Molecular Mechanisms Associated with Their Stress – Protective Activity.” Pharmaceuticals (Bassel) (January 3, 2010): 188-224.

    6. Seungyeop, Lee and Dong-Kwon Rhee. Journal of Ginseng Research, volume 41, issue 4, (October 2017): 589-594

    7. Reay JL, et al. J Psychopharmacol. 2005 Jul;19(4):357-65.  

    8. Wang LC, et al. Planta Med. 1998 Mar;64(2):130-3.

    9. Hiai S, et al. Endocrinol Jpn. 1979 Dec;26(6):661-5.

    10. Sawiress FA, et al. Endocr Regul. 2011 Jul;45(3):139-48.

    11. Choi HK, et al. Int J Impot Res. 1995 Sep;7(3):181-6.

    12. de Andrade E, et al. Asian J Androl. 2007 Mar;9(2):241-4.