Ginsengs are adaptogens, increasing resistance to all kinds of stress, increasing vitality and the ability to work. Ginsengs reduce high blood glucose levels and support immunity. Korean red ginseng promotes the growth of new blood vessels (angiogenesis). The major components of ginseng are ginsenosides, which promote wound healing by angiogenesis.
Diabetic rats treated with Korean red ginseng had normalization of erectile dysfunction, increased glutathione levels, and improved malondialdehyde levels (indicating reduced oxidation). The improvement of sexual performance with ginseng seems to be related to increased production of nitric oxide (NO) by cells. NO has a relaxant effect on blood vessels, thereby increasing circulation. Both Asian and American ginsengs increase sexual activity. Ginseng provides cardiovascular benefits by increasing circulation.
Ginseng, also, has positive effects on thinking and performance. It improves learning and memory in aged and brain-damaged rats. Human studies show similar findings, although not all studies show cognitive improvement with ginseng.
Ginseng’s active components, ginsenosides, are neuroprotective, rescue nerve cells from injury such as spinal cord damage, and protect against toxicity induced by homocysteine. Ginsenosides protect nerve cells from damage in Parkinson’s disease. Ginseng protects dopaminergic neurons by an unknown mechanism and prevents neuronal loss in animal models of amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS/Lou Gehrig’s disease).
Ginseng needs to be studied further before it can be called an anti-cancer agent. It increases the appetite, boosts the immunity, and can induce apoptosis (natural cell death) in cancer cells. Unfortunately, ginsenosides are poorly absorbed orally.
The long-term side effects of ginseng include the following: “hypertension, nervousness, sleeplessness, rash, diarrhea, confusion, depression, and depersonalization.” Asian and American ginsengs are stimulants. Ginseng interacts with MAO (monoamine oxidase) inhibitors and warfarin.
CONCLUSION: Ginseng, an ancient herb, has been shown scientifically to have numerous effects in addition to modulating stress. It stimulates immunity, relieves fatigue, supports the glands, and benefits people with diabetes.
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NOTE: Read about a neuroprotective extract of ginseng.