CHECK OUT Be Healthy with Ginseng
From East to West and all points in between, ginseng, in its many forms, is the herb of choice for boosting stamina, building resistance to stress, and more
From Chinese to Siberian, we break down the health benefits of the myriad varieties of this powerful herb.
Korean, Chinese, Siberian, American … no, we’re not talking about an international summit, but about diff erent types of ginseng. The choices may seem as confusing as international politics, but in fact, the herbs are easier to understand.
No matter the variety, they all share one benefi t: they’re adaptogens, meaning they help to balance the system, boosting energy when it fl ags and calming the body in times of stress. All forms of ginseng can also enhance immunity. From there, however, the active ingredients and other benefi ts begin to diff er.
Asian and American
Both of these ginsengs are part of the same botanical genus. Chinese and Korean ( also called Asian) ginsengs are both Panax ginseng, and the geographical part of the common name simply identifi es where the plant was grown. The American variety is known as Panax quinquefolius.
While the two types of Panax aren’t identical in a chemical sense, both contain active ingredients known as ginsenosides, which are believed to be chiefl y responsible for the herb’s medicinal eff ects. Any of the Asian ginsengs may also be described as “white” or “red.” These labels do not indicate diff erent types of plants but describe diff erent preparations of ginseng root: peeled and dried in the case of “white,” and unpeeled and steamed in the case of “red.”
As with any plant, variations in the many components of a type of ginseng, and the method of processing, may produce somewhat diff erent eff ects. In the past, Asian ginsengs were the most studied, but in recent years, more researchers have been looking at American ginseng. Here are some highlights: Blood- sugar control: At the University of Toronto, studies of healthy people and type 2 diabetics found that American ginseng reduced bloodsugar spikes after eating sugar. Among healthy people, ginseng worked best when taken 40 minutes before the meal. Among diabetics, it worked equally well when taken at any point from two hours before eating to the start of the meal. An eff ective dose was 1,000 mg ( higher doses did not improve results). It’s possible that lower doses could be just as eff ective, but were not tested. In animal research, Asian ginseng has been shown to help prevent type 2 diabetes. Erectile dysfunction relief: Brazilian researchers tested Korean red ginseng for mild- to- moderate erectile dysfunction in a group of 60 men. Two out of three improved their ability to perform sexually after taking 1,000 mg of Korean ginseng, three times daily, for 12 weeks.