What is Ginseng?
Ginseng is a plant that has been used in traditional medicine in Far Eastern countries for many years. Ginseng, which is widely preferred in the use of herbal products, has effects that increase resistance to stress.
What is Ginseng? What are the benefits?
Ginseng is a plant that has been used in traditional medicine in Far Eastern countries for many years. Ginseng, which is widely preferred in the use of herbal products, has effects that increase resistance to stress. They are known as “adaptogenic” products because they increase resistance to physical, biological and chemical stress. In addition, it can be shown to have effects such as reducing fatigue, supporting physical endurance, increasing physical and mental capacity and anti-aging. These effects are provided by “ginsenosides”, one of the components of ginseng. Ginsenosides are compounds that may exhibit antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anticancer properties. In addition to its most well-known type, Asian/Korean (Panax ginseng) ginseng, it has different species such as Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). These types have their own unique properties and effects. Asian ginseng helps improve immune and psychological functions, as well as diabetes-related disorders. Asian ginseng, grown in Korea, China and Russia, has been used in the treatment of weakness, fatigue and some health problems from past to present. One of the most important points to consider about Ginseng is that it interacts with medications. Caution is advised when used together with warfarin, insulin, caffeine, phenelzine and oral hypoglycemic agents. Ginseng used in excessive amounts may cause some side effects. Complications such as nausea, diarrhea, hypertension, hypotension, euphoria, headache, insomnia and vaginal bleeding may occur at high doses. These side effects are generally mild and reversible (1, 2).
What is Ginseng?
Ginseng are perennial herbaceous plants that grow wild and cultivated in the Far East. It is 30-50 cm tall, has an erect trunk and is unbranched. The root parts are thicker and branched. It usually hides in tree roots and grows in mixed hardwood areas. Ginseng use has increased worldwide and has become one of the best-selling natural products. Widely used, Asian ginseng is preferred as a treatment for fatigue, weakness, difficulty in concentration, and decreased physical and mental functions.
Ginseng plant contains bioactive compounds in all parts, including its roots. There are 36 different ginsenoside compounds in the roots, stems and leaves, along with amino acids, peptides, vitamins and minerals, phytosterols and essential oils. According to a study, 100 g of ginseng root has approximately 338 kcal of energy, 12.29 g of protein and 70 g of carbohydrates. However, ginseng roots contain certain amounts of:
- Retinol (vitamin A),
- Thiamine (vitamin B1),
- Riboflavin (vitamin B2),
- Niacin (B3 vitamins),
- Cobalamin (vitamin B12),
- Ascorbic acid (vitamin C),
- Tocopherol (vitamins E),
- It contains calcium, iron and phosphorus.
The ginsenosides it contains help show anticancer, antidiabetic, antiamnestic, antistress, neuroprotective and immunomodulatory effects (1).
What are the Benefits of Ginseng?
Ginseng is a plant that can be used mainly in the treatment of conditions such as hyperglycemia, hepatosteatosis (fatty liver disease) and hyperlipidemia. The known benefits of ginseng, an adaptogenic nutrient, are given as follows:
- Since it has regulatory effects on the central nervous system, it helps support physical and cognitive activities.
- It helps increase resistance to physical, biological and chemical stress.
- It enables the regulation of cardiovascular capacity and functions.
- It contributes to strengthening memory and helps facilitate the learning process.
- It provides improvement and regulation of the activities of the nervous and endocrine (hormones and glands) systems.
- It has effects on the execution of carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism.
- It contributes to higher antibody levels in the body and an increase in T cells.
- It strengthens the immune system, ensures the body’s defenses and accelerates the healing process.
Ginseng has various effects in increasing the body’s physical and cognitive endurance. It causes stimulation of cortisol and adrenaline hormones during exercise and helps ensure maximum oxygen capacity during stressful exercises. Due to these functions, it is considered an adaptogenic food and is generally known to have positive effects on people who exercise. Additionally, studies show that ginseng may be effective in relieving or managing stress and depression. It is reported that it may contribute to increasing erectile function and libido in cases of erectile dysfunction and reducing the risk of cancer development (1, 2).
How to Use Ginseng?
Ginseng plant is harvested after an average of 3-6 years and is dried or exposed to heat to prevent spoilage. Harvested ginseng is stored in dry air (white ginseng) or baked/steamed (red ginseng). The ingredients and effects of white and red ginseng may differ. Today, there are three types of commercial ginseng: Korean, Chinese, American. It is used commercially in tea, medicine and supplement products. Chinese ginseng buds are used in medicine and contain high amounts of saponin molecules. After the use of oral ginseng products, the peak time in the blood may take approximately 4 hours. However, longer-acting ginseng products may also be available depending on the ginsenoside rates. Ginsenoside content varies depending on the harvest season and location, the age and growth of the plant, and the type of ginseng.
Consumed ginseng is metabolized by the intestinal flora. The number and type of intestinal bacteria affect the level of ginseng absorption and availability. Ginseng compounds taken into the body help maintain intra-body balance, reduce the effects of the aging process, strengthen the immune system, increase fitness and improve physical performance. Thanks to the compound K it contains, it has beneficial effects in relieving itching in atopic dermatitis. According to medical practices, the effects of ginseng are reduced or increased when consumed with plants such as Veratrum Nigru L. and radish. Specifically, Asian ginseng stimulates enzymes that reduce the effectiveness of antidepressants, antihypertensives, statins, and some HIV medications. However, Asian ginseng should not be used in high doses and for a long time in cases of hypertension, acute asthma, nose bleeding, acute infections and excessive menstrual bleeding. The generally recommended dose of dry ginseng root is 0.5-2 g for short-term use and 1 g for long-term use (1, 3, 4).
What is the Difference Between Red Ginseng and Ginseng?
Ginseng is a plant with different subspecies. White and red ginseng, which have both qualitative and quantitative differences depending on the post-harvest processes and their ingredients, also have different effects. Red ginseng is produced as a result of long-term storage and preservation of ginseng after harvest. The chemical and biological activities of red and white ginseng differ. These differences are explained by the fact that red and white ginseng ingredients are used in different signaling pathways in the immune system and have different bioactivities.
After harvest, chemical reactions develop as a result of processing ginseng and exposing it to heat, and the ginsenoids undergo structural transformation. As a result of these changes, white and red ginseng produce different effects. The applied temperature and the duration of the process affect these transformations. Red ginseng, produced by exposure to heat, helps relieve excessive bleeding during the puerperal period and increases body resistance during old age and after surgery. White ginseng is relatively milder. It has a special function in quenching thirst, one of the main symptoms of diabetes. Additionally, it has an effect on the treatment of lung diseases and relieving insomnia.
Red and white ginseng show similar effects in controlling conditions such as lack of energy and fatigue.