Also known as Panax ginseng or Asian ginseng, Korean ginseng has been used medicinally for thousands of years. Considered the premiere tonic herb, ginseng may help to strengthen the body's immune system, increase energy and endurance, improve sexual function and support the body in chronic cases of physical or mental stress.
Immune System Health
Korean ginseng contains powerful phytochemicals called ginsenosides, which may act as antioxidants in the body, potentially preventing numerous age-related diseases. An article published in “Nutrition Research” in September of 2012 showed that Korean ginseng decreased oxidative stress -- or damage caused by free radicals -- in aged rats. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, ginseng may also reduce the risk of getting a cold or flu. A number of studies show ginseng to have anti-cancer effects in test tube and animal trials, although more studies need to be conducted to determine whether ginseng can kill cancer in humans, according to a review published in “Cancer Causes and Control” in July 2000.
Ginseng to Combat Stress
Considered a traditional adaptogen by herbalists, ginseng is thought to help the body deal with stress and improve overall quality of life, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Research published in “Fitoterapia” in August of 2000 suggests that ginseng's positive effect on stress may be due to its ability to strengthen the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis – effectively increasing hormones like corticotropin that help the body to deal with stress.
Ginseng may also help with sexual dysfunction by improving sperm count and sexual performance; at least it was shown to do so in one small trial. In addition, Korean ginseng may help relieve symptoms of menopause, according to the medical center. Another traditional use of ginseng is in enhancing physical endurance. Numerous athletes have used the herb to improve performance.
Adverse Reactions and Precautions
When taken appropriately, ginseng is generally considered safe -- adverse reactions have been reported that include high blood pressure, diarrhea, anxiety, headache, insomnia, restlessness and vaginal bleeding. Korean ginseng should be avoided during pregnancy and lactation, and you should speak with your doctor if you are taking pharmaceutical medications or have any serious health concerns before starting Korean ginseng. According to the medical center, Korean ginseng should be avoided if you have an autoimmune disorder like lupus, Crohn's disease or rheumatoid arthritis.
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Asian Ginseng
- Nutrition Research: Panax Ginseng Reduces Oxidative Stress and Restores Antioxidant Capacity in Aged Rats
- Cancer Causes and Controls: The Cancer-Preventive Potential of Panax Ginseng: A Review of Human and Experimental Evidence
- Fitoterapia: The Aphrodisiac and Adaptogenic Properties of Ginseng
Amy Myszko is a certified clinical herbalist and nutritional consultant who has been helping people find greater health and balance through diet, lifestyle and natural remedies since 2006. She received her certification from the North American Institute of Medical Herbalism in Boulder, Colo. Myszko also holds a BA in literature from the University of Colorado.