Ginseng

Ginseng

From seeing it in teas to being used in energy drinks, ginseng has a reputation for being quite a nutrient powerhouse, and with rightful reason.1

The root has been known and used for centuries for its ability to boost brain function, sexual health, heart health, and immunity.

What is Ginseng?

The Korean ginseng root (Panax ginseng) is a root grown in Asia that slightly resembles an organically grown carrot, with unique ‘limbs’ growing off of it. It has different health properties than the other well know form of ginseng, the American Ginseng.2

There are a few hypotheses that exist as to where and how Korean Ginseng originated. Though, neither has been proven right over the other.

It is hypothesised by the Chinese that the root seemed to have made its first appearance in Shangdang during the Han dynasty era. The root had been around for thousands of years based on archaeological findings, however, the introduction of the ginseng root during this time was the beginning of Chinese pharmaceuticals.3

However, another hypothesis suggests that the root has originated in Manchuria and Korea, due to those areas providing the natural means needed for the plant to grow. It has been said that the locals had then taken the ginseng and brought to China during migration. This was also during the Han dynasty as well, showing why both theories seem logical and are difficult to prove one to be correct over the other.4

The ginseng plant looks very distinctive, with the root looking slightly like a person, growing arms and legs. It is yellowish and can look similar to organically grown carrots.

What are the health benefits of Ginseng?

Interestingly, the older the root, the more health benefits that it can provide. The root should be at least six years old prior to harvest. The older the root, the more expensive it tends to be.4

  • Immune boosting- Ginseng is full of antioxidants, which help the body to protect the cells from damage caused by free radicals in toxins. Antioxidants are always important to consume, but especially with diseases such as cancer and heart disease, where the cells are under constant attack.6

By having the power to boost the immune system, the body has a better ability to fight off sickness and disease. Ginseng does this by boosting the number of immune cells - leukocytes, white blood cells that attack bacteria and viruses in the blood.6

  • Energy levels- The root is known to reduce anxiety and to increase energy levels. It improves alertness and brain health. It does this by increasing actoprotectors, which are the body’s adaptogens used to prepare the body for physical and mental performance, while reducing oxygen consumption which can cause fatigue. 7
  • Cardiovascular Health- With its high antioxidant composition, it increases the body’s ability to protect cells and fight off certain diseases, such as heart disease. Additionally, it decreases the LDL, the bad cholesterol, and increases HDL, the good cholesterol. 6
  • Erectile Dysfunction- Ginseng is shown to increase sperm production in males. Certain studies done on animals show that ginseng has the potential to increase sperm production, sexual activity, and sexual performance. Studies have shown that the root has increased sex drive in men and decreased erectile dysfunction. 6

Overall, ginseng can be a very powerful plant that is found in many health related food items and teas. Its health benefits such as increasing energy, physical and mental performance, heart health, and sexual health are renowned and been practiced since the Han dynasty era, with rightful reason.

     

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    References

    1. https://www.healthline.com/health/careful-about-ginseng
    2. https://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/06/22/ginseng-health-benefits.aspx
    3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15309758
    4. http://www.herbslist.net/korean-ginseng.html
    5. http://healthyeating.sfgate.com/benefits-korean-ginseng-tea-10678.html
    6. http://www.umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/herb/asian-ginseng
    7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3659633/