Ginseng or Panax ginseng is a slow-growing plant with light-coloured fleshy roots and has traditionally been known to aid a range of medical conditions. Panax is derived from the Greek word ‘panacea,’ meaning ‘all-healing.’ Ginsenosides and gintonin are the two significant compounds found in ginseng. They complement one another to provide health benefits but ginsenosides are mainly responsible for ginseng’s main medicinal benefits. This is the reason why ginseng is one of the most popular herbal remedies and is believed to restore and enhance wellbeing. Ginseng is said to improve thinking, physical endurance, boost the immune system and is even utilised to help lower blood sugar and cholesterol levels, reduce stress, promote relaxation, treat diabetes, and manage sexual dysfunction in men.
Ginseng consists of a light-coloured, forked-shaped root, a relatively long stalk and green leaves with an oval shape but the fleshy root is the most medicinally valuable element of the plant. There are many ways to consume ginseng orally such as making it as a tea or including it in supplements, energy drinks and other beverages.
The list of benefits we could get from ginseng are endless but only a few have been proved scientifically,we have listed some of these below.
Boosts the immune system
Ginseng may strengthen the immune system because it has anti-allergic, antimicrobial and antioxidant properties that work as a defence mechanism against various microbial and bacterial infection.
Improves cognitive function
Ginseng may improve thinking processes and cognitive abilities which are neural activities that slow down as we get old. Additionally, ginseng’s antioxidants avert the onset of dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and other cognitive disorders.
The ginsenosides found in ginseng may have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties which can reduce nerve inflammation and improve motor function recovery after a spinal cord injury.
Could improve erectile dysfunction
Research has shown that ginseng has compounds that fight against oxidative stress in blood vessels and tissues in male genitalia, thus helping to restore normal function. Moreover, ginseng could also enhance testosterone hormone secretion in men.
Ginseng has been shown to help fight fatigue and promote energy by lowering oxidative damage and increasing energy production in cells, thus it could help stimulate physical and mental activity in people who feel tired and weak.
Could lower blood sugar
Although more clinical studies and standardisation of ginseng root are needed to consider ginseng as a possible complementary therapy for diabetes, the glucoregulatory properties found in ginseng could be beneficial in the control of blood glucose, in people both with and without diabetes.
May have potential benefits against cancer
Scientific research shows that ginseng may be helpful in reducing the risk of certain cancers through its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and apoptotic mechanisms that help inhibit tumour growth. It is true that a lot of research is still needed but studies have shown that ginseng root can stop the spread of colorectal cancer cells and also reduce the symptoms.
Safety and Potential Side Effects
Since ginseng can act as a stimulant to some people, health professionals advise not to mix ginseng with antidepressants as it may cause nervousness, manic episodes, tremors and insomnia. Furthermore, ginseng is not recommended for children or women who are pregnant or breastfeeding. Research shows that ginseng appears to be safe and should not produce any serious negative effects but keep it in mind that people with pre-existing health conditions shouldn’t use ginseng without talking to their health care providers first.
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