The name “ginseng” is used to refer to both American and Asian or Korean ginseng. Both contain the substances thought to give ginseng its medicinal properties. Ginseng is a light tan, gnarled root that often looks like a human body with stringy shoots for arms and legs. Native Americans used the root as a stimulant and to treat headaches, fever, indigestion, and infertility. Ginseng remains one of the most popular herbs in the United States.
- Help boost the immune system
- Reduce the risk of cancer
- Improve mental performance and well being
Laboratory studies in animals have found that ginseng is effective in boosting the immune system, and as an antioxidant. Other studies show that ginseng might have therapeutic potential for inflammatory diseases. Research on ginseng has focused on a number of conditions:
Several human studies show that ginseng lowered blood sugar levels in people with type 2 diabetes. The effect was seen both on fasting and after eating glucose levels. One study found that people with type 2 diabetes who took American ginseng before or together with a high sugar drink experienced less of an increase in blood glucose levels. Other studies suggest that North American ginseng prevents diabetes-related complications including retinal and cardiac functional changes by reducing stress. More research is needed.
Ginseng has been shown to inhibit tumor growth. In one laboratory study on colorectal cancer cells, researchers found that American ginseng possessed powerful anti-cancer properties.
Colds and flu
In two studies, people who took a product containing ginseng for 4 months got fewer colds than people who took a placebo. And those colds did not last as long.
Immune system enhancement
Some scientists believe ginseng enhances the immune system. In theory, this improvement in immune function could help the body fight off infection and disease. Several clinical studies have shown that American ginseng does boost the performance of cells that play a role in immunity.