*I compiled this from various sources found on google. All public domain information easily found on Google or Yahoo. R
What Ginseng does
The biochemical mechanisms of ginseng remain unclear, although there is extensive literature that deals with ginseng’s effects on the brain (memory, learning, and behavior), neuroendocrine function, carbohydrate and lipid metabolism, immune function, and the cardiovascular system. Reports are often contradictory, perhaps because the ginsenoside content of ginseng root or root extracts can differ, depending on the species, method of extraction, subsequent treatment, or even the season of collection. Ginseng does have the potential to help with blood sugar levels and some studies show that it can reduce blood lipid levels.
Constituents of Ginseng
The roots of Asian and American ginseng contain several saponins named ginsenosides that are believed to contribute to the adaptogenic properties. They are used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve stamina and combat fatigue and stress. Saponins are interesting natural compounds found in many plants, herbs, roots, and beans. Saponins have potential in the prevention and treatment of diseases of the heart and circulatory system. For instance, they inhibit the formation of lipid peroxides (fat oxidation) in cardiac muscle or in the liver, they influence the function of enzymes contained in them, they decrease blood coagulation, cholesterol, and sugar levels in blood, and they stimulate the immune system. Some saponins may even have anti-tumor properties.
Ginseng Laboratory and Human Studies
Let’s examine some of the studies done with ginseng.
Ginseng and Cognitive functioning
Various tests of mental performance were carried out in a group of sixteen healthy male volunteers given a standardized preparation of Asian ginseng (100 mg twice a day for twelve weeks of a product called G 115). A similar group was given identical placebo capsules under double-blind conditions. A favorable effect of ginseng was observed in attention, mental arithmetic, logical deduction, and auditory reaction time.
Researchers at the Cognitive Drug Research Ltd., Beech Hill, Reading, in the United Kingdom evaluated the effects of a Ginkgo biloba / ginseng combination on cognitive function. The study lasted ninety days and was performed in a double blind, placebo-controlled manner with sixty-four healthy volunteers (aged 40 to 65 years) who had mild fatigue and low mood. The treatment was well tolerated by all volunteers. There were improvements noted in memory and overall cognitive functioning.
Ginseng root saponin at a dose of 50 mg three times a day was given for two months to 358 middle and old age individuals. The results showed that the herb improved memory and immunity.
Ginseng, Antioxidants, and Lipids
The administration of several grams of ginseng daily increases the ability of the body to maintain its antioxidant status. Furthermore, lipid levels such as LDL cholesterol are lowered (Kim, 2003).
Ginseng and Quality of life
The aim of this study was to compare the quality-of-life parameters in subjects receiving multivitamins plus ginseng with those found in subjects receiving multivitamins alone (Caso Marasco 1996). The study was randomized and double-blind, and it involved 625 patients of both sexes divided into two groups taking one capsule per day for twelve weeks. Group A received vitamins, minerals, trace elements and ginseng extract while group B received vitamins, minerals and trace elements only. By the end of the study, both the group-A and the group-B tested positively on a questionnaire evaluating quality of life, but Group A had a higher score.
Ginseng and Sex
Korean red ginseng, a herb considered an aphrodisiac in some Asian countries, seems to be an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction, according to the results of a small study from Korea. In some Asian cultures, ginseng has been used traditionally to boost sexual stamina, but the effectiveness of the herbal remedy has been evaluated in only a handful of studies, so a team at the University of Ulsan and the Korea Ginseng and Tobacco Research Institute in Seoul evaluated Korean red ginseng in 45 men with erectile dysfunction. The men were randomly assigned to take either 900 milligrams of ginseng or an inactive placebo pill three times a day. Eight weeks into the study, the men were taken off the treatment for 2 weeks, after which they switched treatments for the next 8 weeks. Neither the researchers nor the participants knew which pill–ginseng or placebo–the men were taking until after the study. Scores for erectile function, sexual desire and satisfaction during intercourse were higher when the men were taking ginseng than when they were on the placebo, the researchers report in the November 2002 issue of The Journal of Urology. The men reported being better able to achieve and maintain an erection while taking ginseng than when on the placebo. While they were taking ginseng, 60% of men said that their erections improved compared to 20% while taking placebo. The study did not examine how ginseng might have improve erectile function, but the investigators speculate that it may enhance the production of nitric oxide, a substance that helps widen blood vessels. They do not think that ginseng’s apparent benefits stem from hormonal changes, since the herb did not have a significant effect on testosterone levels. Despite the apparent improvements with ginseng, however, the researchers did not detect any improvement in blood flow to the penis while men were taking ginseng. In addition, most men who said that their erectile function improved did not experience more frequent ejaculations or more satisfaction with their orgasms, according to the report.
Ginseng as an Adaptogen?
Adaptogen is a term coined to loosely define certain herbs that help improve energy, vitality, mood, wellbeing, etc. Users of this term imply that these adaptogens are healthy to take and may prolong life, although there usually is little research to back up these claims. I prefer not to use the term adaptogen since it does not have a reliable scientific definition. Most who take ginseng notice an improvement in energy, vitality, sexual enjoyment, and mental clarity.
Availability of Ginseng
Countless varieties and dosages of ginseng are available. One option is to buy a ginseng product that has a standardized extract of 3 to 7 percent ginsenosides. Use 100 mg of this extract in the morning a few times a week. You may require 500 to 2,000 mg of he dried ginseng root to feel the effects. It’s best to cycle the use of ginseng. For instance, you can take ginseng for two or three weeks and then take off a few weeks.
Ginseng Side Effects
Insomnia is a common side effect from ginseng overuse, particularly Asian ginseng—especially when it’s combined in high doses with other herbs or nutrients that cause alertness. Althea, a 38 year-old owner of a garden shop in Maui, says, “I took ginseng that was recommended by a Chinese physician for fatigue. I took the ginseng for two weeks. I felt really better emotionally, mellow, and with increased energy. Then I started to have increased sleep problems and insomnia. I went three days being so mentally and physically overstimulated that I hardly got any sleep. I imagine this is what being on “speed” must feel like. I stopped taking the ginseng and within two days I slowly returned to my normal state.”
This story confirms my recommendations that dosages of nutrients and herbs have to be constantly evaluated since they can build up in the system.
Patients being treated with the blood-thinning drug Coumadin (warfarin) should probably avoid using ginseng, since ginseng seems to reduce the drug’s effects. Ginseng use for two weeks was tied to a significant reduction in the INR, meaning that the blood was now less thin and more prone to clotting.
Ginseng should be used cautiously in those with heart disease. Keep the dosage low in order to prevent heart racing or high blood pressure.
Mechanisms of Action of Ginseng
The roots of Chinese and American ginseng contain several saponins named ginsenosides that are believed to contribute to their properties. Saponins are interesting natural compounds found in many plants, herbs, roots, and beans. They are used in traditional Chinese medicine to improve stamina and combat fatigue and stress. Saponins have potential in the prevention and treatment of diseases of the heart and circulatory system. For instance, they inhibit the formation of lipid peroxides (fat oxidation) in cardiac muscle and in the liver. Saponins also influence the function of enzymes; decrease blood coagulation, cholesterol, and sugar levels in the blood; and stimulate the immune system. Some saponins may even have anti-tumor properties. Recent studies in laboratory animals have shown that both the Asian and American forms of ginseng enhance libido and copulatory performance. These effects of ginseng may not be due to changes in hormone secretion, but to the direct effects of ginseng, or its ginsenoside components, on the central nervous system and gonadal tissues. There is good evidence that ginsenosides can facilitate penile erection by directly inducing the vasodilatation and relaxation of penile corpus cavernosa. Moreover, the effects of ginseng on the corpus cavernosa appear to be mediated by the release of nitric oxide from endothelial cells and from nerves that surround the vessels. Treatment with American ginseng also affects the central nervous system and has been shown to significantly alter the activity of hypothalamic catecholamines, such as dopamine and norephinephrine, involved in the facilitation of copulatory behavior and hormone secretion. According to recent findings, that ginseng treatment decreases prolactin secretion, which also suggests a direct effect of ginseng at the level of the pituitary gland. High levels of prolactin inhibit libido. Studies sometimes have provided contradictory results, perhaps because the ginsenoside content of ginseng root or root extracts can differ depending on the species, method of extraction, subsequent treatment, or even the season of collection.
Many people who take ginseng find this herb to be a good overall energizer and cognitive enhancer. Due to the tremendous variety of ginseng products sold, it is difficult to give definite dosage recommendations. You could certainly try a few ginseng products to see which one(s) give you a positive effect. In practical and simple terms, Asian ginseng raises body temperature and is more stimulating while American ginseng is more calming. The effects of Siberian ginseng fall somewhere between these two.
Ginseng Research Update
Association of Ginseng Use with Survival and Quality of Life among Breast Cancer Patients.
Am J Epidemiol. 2006 Apr 1;163(7):645-53. Epub 2006 Feb 16. Cui Y, Shu XO, Gao YT, Cai H, Tao MH, Zheng W.
Department of Medicine, Center for Health Services Research, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt University, Nashville, TN.
The authors evaluated the associations of ginseng use as a complementary therapy with survival and quality of life (QOL) in a cohort of 1,455 breast cancer patients who were recruited to the Shanghai Breast Cancer Study between August 1996 and March 1998 in Shanghai, China. Patients were followed through December 2002. Approximately 27% of study participants were regular ginseng users before cancer diagnosis. Compared with patients who never used ginseng, regular users had a significantly reduced risk of death. Ginseng use after cancer diagnosis, particularly current use, was positively associated with QOL scores, with the strongest effect in the psychological and social well-being domains.
Certain active substances in ginseng appear to combat degenerative brain disease in rats. Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement that has long been used in traditional Chinese medicine. In the West, it is mainly touted as a way to boost energy and immune system defenses; the various commercial preparations are generally made from the roots of one of several plant species, including Panax ginseng – also called Asian ginseng – and Panax quinquefolius, better known as American ginseng. In the new study, a whole-root preparation of American ginseng did not fight degeneration in the brains of rats. But a partially purified extract of some of the herb’s active chemicals, known as ginsenosides, did. The study focused on brain damage that, in rats, mimics the degenerative process seen in Huntington’s disease, an inherited disorder of the central nervous system that progressively impairs movement and mental function. But the findings suggest that certain ginseng components have potential for treating other degenerative conditions, such as Parkinson’s. The partial purification of American ginseng boosted the concentration of three ginsenosides known as Rb1, Rb3 and Rd. Animals that were given the extract before receiving a brain-cell-damaging toxin called 3-NP showed less movement impairment than animals that received 3-NP alone, and none died. In contrast, rats given a preparation made from ginseng root showed as much impairment as animals given the toxin alone, and their death rates actually increased. The reason for the higher mortality is not yet clear. Exactly why certain ginsenosides, but not others, may protect brain cells from degeneration is unknown. The leading theory is that some of the chemicals act as antioxidants and neutralize oxygen free radicals – substances that, though natural byproducts of metabolism, can damage cells and potentially lead to disease. SOURCE: Annals of Neurology, May 2005.
Proof of the mysterious efficacy of ginseng: basic and clinical trials: suppression of adrenal medullary function in vitro by ginseng.
J Pharmacol Sci. 2004 Jun;95(2):140-4.
The root of Panax ginseng C.A. MEYER has been reported to have an anti-stress action. Therefore, the effects of ginseng components on functions of adrenal medulla, which is one of the most important organs responsive to stress, were investigated in vitro. First, the components of ginseng were mainly divided into two fractions, that is, the saponin-rich and non-saponin fractions. The saponin-rich fraction greatly reduced the secretion of catecholamines from bovine adrenal chromaffin cells stimulated by acetylcholine (ACh), whereas the non-saponin fraction did not affect it at all. The protopanaxatriol-type saponins inhibited the ACh-evoked secretion much more strongly than the protopanaxadiol-type. On the other hand, the oleanane-type saponin, ginsenoside-Ro, had no such effect. Recent reports have demonstrated that the saponins in ginseng are metabolized and absorbed in digestive tracts following oral administration of ginseng. All of the saponin metabolites greatly reduced the ACh-evoked secretion. M4 was the most effective inhibitor among the metabolites. M4 blocked ACh-induced Na(+) influx and ion inward current into the chromaffin cells and into the Xenopus oocytes expressing human alpha3beta4 nicotinic ACh receptors, respectively, suggesting that the saponin metabolites modulate nicotinic ACh receptors followed by the reduction of catecholamine secretion. It is highly possible that these effects of ginsenosides and their metabolites are associated with the anti-stress action of ginseng.
Brief communication: American ginseng reduces warfarin’s effect in healthy patients: a randomized, controlled Trial.
Pritzker School of Medicine, The University of Chicago, Chicago, Illinois
Ann Intern Med. 2004 Jul 6;141(1):23-7.
People using prescription medication often concurrently take herbal supplements. In a case report, the anticoagulant effect of warfarin decreased after patients consumed ginseng. To evaluate the interactions between American ginseng and warfarin. Randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. In this 4-week study, 20 patients received warfarin for 3 days during weeks 1 and 4. Beginning in week 2, patients were assigned to receive either American ginseng or placebo. International normalized ratio (INR) and plasma warfarin level. RESULTS: The peak INR statistically significantly decreased after 2 weeks of ginseng administration compared with placebo. CONCLUSIONS: American ginseng reduces warfarin’s anticoagulant effect. When prescribing warfarin, physicians should ask patients about ginseng use.
Effects of Panax ginseng extract on lipid metabolism in humans.
Kim SH, Park KS. Purdue University, 1362 Lambert, West Lafayette, IN, 47907-1362,USA.
Pharmacol Res. 2003 Nov;48(5):511-3.
The purpose of this study was to examine the effects of Panax ginseng extract on lipid metabolism in humans by measuring cholesterol, malondialdehyde (MDA), superoxide dismutase (SOD), and catalase (CAT). Serum total cholesterol (TC), triglyceride (TG), low density lipoprotein (LDL) and plasma MDA levels were decreased by administration of ginseng extract for 8 weeks (6g per day), however, high density lipoprotein (HDL) was increased. Those results suggest that hypolipidemic effect of ginseng is associated with a decrease in TC, TG, LDL, MDA levels and an increase in HDL. These findings support scientific claims that ginseng has the hypolipidemic potential. Administration of ginseng extract increased SOD and CAT activities while decreased MDA level indicating that antioxidant potential of PGE might induce hypolipidemic effect as one of action mechanism.
A double-blind crossover study evaluating the efficacy of korean red ginseng in patients with erectile dysfunction: a preliminary report.
Hong B. niversity of Ulsan College of Medicine, Asan Medical Center, Seoul, Korea.
J Urol. 2002 Nov;168(5):2070-3.
PURPOSE: We investigated the efficacy of Korean red ginseng for erectile dysfunction. A total of 45 patients with clinically diagnosed erectile dysfunction were enrolled in a double-blind, placebo controlled, crossover study (8 weeks on treatment, 2 weeks of washout and 8 weeks on treatment) in which the effects of Korean red ginseng and a vehicle placebo were compared using multiple variables. The ginseng dose was 900 mg. 3 times daily. RESULTS: Mean International Index of Erectile Function scores were significantly higher in patients treated with Korean red ginseng than in those who received placebo. Scores on penetration and maintenance were significantly higher in the ginseng than in the placebo group. In response to the global efficacy question 60% of the patients answered that Korean red ginseng improved erection. Among other variables penile tip rigidity on RigiScan showed significant improvement for ginseng versus placebo. Our data show that Korean red ginseng can be an effective alternative for treating male erectile dysfunction.
Ginseng improves pulmonary functions and exercise capacity in patients with COPD.
Gross D. Monaldi Arch Chest Dis. 2002 Oct-Dec;57(5-6):242-6.
Ginseng is a root that has been used to treat patients with various illnesses for the last 2000 years. The purpose of this study was to evaluate the effects of Ginseng extract (G115) on Pulmonary Function Tests (PFTs), Maximum Voluntary Ventilation (MVV), Maximum Inspiratory Pressure (MIP) and Maximal Oxygen Consumption (VO2max) in patients with moderately-severe Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD). Ninety-two adults were randomly divided into the experimental (n = 49, Ginseng 100 mg bid for three months) and placebo-control (n = 43) groups. PFTs, MVV and MIP were studied before treatment and every two weeks for the 3-month-study period. Exercise test and VO2max measurements were performed before the beginning and after six weeks and three months. Baseline demographics and pulmonary parameters were similar between the ginseng and placebo groups. In the ginseng, but not in the control group, all parameters significantly increased above baseline and compared with the placebo group. No side effects were observed. Ginseng 100 mg bid for three months, but not placebo, improved PFTs, MVV, MIP and VO2 max in patients with moderately-severe COPD with no side effects.
Ginseng, sex behavior, and nitric oxide.
Department of Physiology, Southern Illinois University, School of Medicine, Carbondale, Illinois 62901, USA.
Ann N Y Acad Sci. 2002 May;962:372-7.
In Asia, ginseng is commonly included in herbals used for the treatment of sexual dysfunction. Recent studies in laboratory animals have shown that both Asian and American forms of ginseng enhance libido and copulatory performance. These effects of ginseng may not be due to changes in hormone secretion, but to direct effects of ginseng, or its ginsenoside components, on the central nervous system and gonadal tissues. Indeed, there is good evidence that ginsenosides can facilitate penile erection by directly inducing the vasodilatation and relaxation of penile corpus cavernosum. Moreover, the effects of ginseng on the corpus cavernosum appear to be mediated by the release and/or modification of release of nitric oxide from endothelial cells and perivascular nerves. Treatment with American ginseng also affects the central nervous system and has been shown to significantly alter the activity of hypothalamic catecholamines involved in the facilitation of copulatory behavior and hormone secretion. Recent findings that ginseng treatment decreased prolactin secretion also suggested a direct nitric oxide-mediated effect of ginseng at the level of the anterior pituitary. Thus, animal studies lend growing support for the use of ginseng in the treatment of sexual dysfunction and provide increasing evidence for a role of nitric oxide in the mechanism of ginsenoside action.