American ginseng, known by its Latin name of Panax quinquefolius, is a slow-growing medicinal plant that produces a fleshy, white root that has been used by Native Americans for thousands of years. Most ginseng grown in the United States is exported to Asia for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM). In TCM, American ginseng is thought to cool and nourish the body’s Qi energy as well as improve physical strength, promote health and increase longevity.
American ginseng is slightly different than Asian or Korean ginseng (Latin name Panax ginseng) which is known to be more stimulating and can caused increased heart rate and blood pressure. American ginseng is better for promoting a calm, focused energy while improving stress response and overall brain function. However, both types of ginseng contain all of the same ginsenoside and gintonin compounds, just in different concentrations. American ginseng is often referred to as "white ginseng" while Asian ginseng is usually called "red ginseng". This is due to the difference in natural color of the roots which is further exacerbated by how the roots are prepared. After harvesting, Asian ginseng is traditionally steamed in large warehouses before drying which brings out the reddish orange color and can change some of the compounds naturally found in the roots. However, American ginseng is chilled and dried which preserves the natural compounds. Dried American ginseng roots can be "heat-treated" before consumption by steaming or boiling in order to transform the ginsenosides so it is more similar to Asian ginseng. Steaming and boiling are also great ways to prepare the roots so they are soft enough to slice or chew.
Some of the potential health benefits of American ginseng with scientific evidence are:
- Increased energy and decreased fatigue due to lower oxidative stress levels and increased energy production in cells (1, 2).
- Nootropic and adaptogenic properties which means ginseng may improve focus and short term memory as well as help the body maintain balance while under stress (3, 4, 5).
- Improved immune response meaning ginseng may help the immune system respond to colds and flu (6, 7).
- Reduced inflammation associated with arthritis, muscle stiffness and diet (8, 9, 10).
- Lower blood sugar level for diabetics (11, 12).
- Inhibits growth of cancer cells and may help improve the effectiveness of cancer medications while reducing cancer related fatigue (13).
American ginseng is often prescribed for cancer patients and individuals with colds, flu or other illnesses involving the heart or lungs due to its possible anti-cancer properties and support of immune system function. Similar to guarana or L-theanine, ginseng extract is also main ingredient in many popular energy drinks to provide an extra boost of energy while mitigating some of the negative side effects of caffeine while providing smooth energy. It is also known to boost libido in both genders, while treating erectile dysfunction (ED) and improving sexual performance in males. It also may increase nitric oxide (NO) levels in the blood similar to ED medications and may be a natural substitute for sildenafil (the generic name for Viagra) or tadalafil (the generic name for Cialis). While there is still much research that needs to be done, recent scientific studies have found evidence which supports many of the purported health benefits from consuming American ginseng root on a regular basis.
Comprehensive reports from trusted medical sources cite many health benefits of ginseng on the mind and body while suggesting it can be used to treat common conditions and illnesses. A medical reference guide published by the University of Maryland Medical Center states that ginseng stabilizes blood sugar in diabetics, inhibits cancer growth, prevents and fights colds, improves the immune system and enhances cognition. This report even suggests ginseng can be used to treat ADHD without the use of drugs with more side effects or potential for addiction such as Adderall or Ritalin. Some of the health claims found in the University of Maryland Medical Center report are further supported by information from the University of Michigan Health System which cites studies providing evidence that ginseng can greatly reduced the number of and severity of colds and significantly improve blood sugar stability in diabetics.
The compounds responsible for these health benefits are known as gintonin and ginsenosides. Gintonin is made of complexes of lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) such as protein 151 (GLP151). Ginsenosides constitute over 30 different compounds such as Rb1, Rb2, Rb3, Rc, Rd, Rg3, Rh2, Rs1, Re, Rf, Rg1, Rg2, and Rh1. These compounds are found in high concentrations within the leaves and root of the plant. They are best consumed by taking a liquid extract instead of solid pills or capsules so that they can be quickly absorbed by the digestive system. Research shows liquid supplements are absorbed at almost twice the rate when compared to solid capsules. Another great option is using powder or whole roots to brew tea to get the same benefits of fast absorption.
While there are many drinks, supplements, pills and extracts on the market which state they contain ginseng, the ginseng may be low quality or not even present at all. A recent court case found that one beverage which advertised ginseng as an ingredient contained no detectable levels of ginseng! You can check out the full news report here. Whenever possible, we always recommend buying directly from our family farm's website or from another certified Wisconsin ginseng grower. This is the best way to get authentic, high quality ginseng roots, power or extract supplements. Studies have found that American ginseng grown in Wisconsin contains higher levels of ginsenosides than ginseng grown anywhere else due to the rich, sandy soil and temperate climate.
For more information on how to use and prepare American ginseng, check out the How to Use Ginseng page of our website for recipes and videos.
If you have any questions about how ginseng can help you, please contact us!
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