theginseng is a family of plants including, among others, American ginseng and Asian ginseng. The active ingredients present in American ginseng are panaxosides and those present in Asian ginseng are ginsenosides. Ginseng is found in different forms including fresh or dried roots, capsules, tablets, sodas and herbal teas. However, several ginseng-based products contain little or no active ingredient. Ginseng is touted as a dietary supplement that can improve physical and mental performance, and increase energy and resistance to the damaging effects of stress and aging. It is also said that ginseng could lower blood sugar, raise good cholesterol, and boost the immune system. Let's take a look at what research can tell us about ginseng and its potential health effects.é.
Ginseng and fatigue
A 2016 meta-analysis evaluated the effectiveness of ginseng supplements in reducing fatigue and improving physical performance. Twelve randomized controlled trials involving a total of 630 participants were included. The results show that ginseng supplements are effective in reducing fatigue, but not in terms of physical performance. However, the authors conclude that there is insufficient clinical evidence to support the use of ginseng supplements to reduce fatigue and improve physical performance, as the included trials were few and involved few participants.
In 2018, a review of the literature also looked at the effectiveness of ginseng as a treatment for fatigue. According to the ten studies reviewed, the evidence for ginseng's effectiveness in fatigue is modest, suggesting that ginseng may help with fatigue. However, more high-quality and larger studies are needed to confirm the effectiveness of ginseng in reducing fatigue.
Ginseng and blood lipids
A systematic review with meta-analysis published in 2019 evaluated the effect of ginseng supplementation on the blood lipid profile. Eighteen studies were included. Doses of the ginseng extract ranged from 0.2 to 20 g / day and the duration of treatment ranged from two to twelve weeks. Seven studies describe a significant change in the blood lipid profile: five studies observed a reduction in total cholesterol, four studies observed a reduction in LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and two studies observed a reduction in triacylglycerides. In conclusion, this study suggests that ginseng could help improve the blood lipid profile, in particular by lowering total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol..
In 2020, another systematic review with meta-analysis also investigated the effectiveness of ginseng supplementation on blood lipid concentration. Twenty-seven studies involving a total of 1245 participants were included. The results of the meta-analysis show that the consumption of ginseng does not significantly modify the lipid profile (total cholesterol, triglycerides, low density lipoproteins and high density lipoproteins). However, subgroup analyzes show significant reductions in total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and triglycerides with high dose ginseng supplementation. In addition, the impact of ginseng on total cholesterol and triglycerides was significant in long-term interventions. According to the authors, more studies with longer durations of supplementation in individuals with dyslipidemia are needed to confirm the effects of ginseng on blood lipids.s.
Ginseng and inflammation
A systematic review with meta-analysis published in 2019 evaluated the effects of ginseng supplementation on the level of C reactive protein (PCR), a marker of inflammation. The results show that the effect of ginseng supplementation on the level of PCR is not significant. However, subgroup analysis shows that ginseng supplementation could significantly reduce the level of PCR in individuals with a high baseline level of PCR. In conclusion, the results of this meta-analysis show that ginseng supplementation could significantly decrease the rate of PCR in individuals with a high level of this inflammatory marker.
Ginseng and cognitive function
A 2018 Korean longitudinal study investigated the effects of lifelong cumulative consumption of ginseng on cognitive function in older people living in cities. Participants were categorized according to their cumulative ginseng consumption: no consumption, low consumption (<5 years), and high consumption (5 years). The study finds that consuming ginseng for more than 5 years may benefit cognitive function in older people living in cities..
In conclusion, our understanding of the health effects of ginseng is limited. More high quality, larger studies are needed to evaluate the effectiveness of ginseng and to identify the compounds in supplements that are responsible for the observed effects.
Possible side effects of ginseng
Ginseng has a good level of safety, but some authorities nevertheless advise limiting its consumption to three months due to the possibility of developing side effects. The main possible side effects include:
- Nervousness and excitability, which subside after a few days
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- A significant decrease in blood sugar causing hypoglycemia
Other side effects include:
- Allergic reactions
- Sleep disturbances
- Digestive problems
In addition, sometimes more severe effects can occur, such as asthma attacks, increased blood pressure, etc.
Finally, the consumption of ginseng is not recommended in pregnant or breastfeeding women, as well as in children.
Possible interactions of ginseng with drugs
Ginseng can interact with a number of medicines, including aspirin, some antidepressants, some medicines used to treat diabetes, etc. It is recommended that individuals taking medication consult a physician before using any dietary supplement.
- Bach, H. V., Kim, J., Myung, S. K., & Cho, Y. A. (2016). Efficacy of Ginseng Supplements on Fatigue and Physical Performance: a Meta-analysis.Journal of Korean medical science,31(12), 18791886. https://doi.org/10.3346/jkms.2016.31.12.18799
- Arring, N. M., Millstine, D., Marks, L. A., & Nail, L. M. (2018). Ginseng as a Treatment for Fatigue: A Systematic Review.Journal of alternative and complementary medicine (New York, N.Y.),24(7), 624633. https://doi.org/10.1089/acm.2017.0361
- Ziaei, R., Ghavami, A., Ghaedi, E., Hadi, A., Javadian, P., & Clark, C. (2020). The efficacy of ginseng supplementation on plasma lipid concentration in adults: A systematic review and meta-analysis.Complementary therapies in medicine,48, 102239. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2019.102239
- Hernández-García, D., Granado-Serrano, A. B., Martín-Gari, M., Naudí, A., & Serrano, J. C. (2019). Efficacy of Panax ginseng supplementation on blood lipid profile. A meta-analysis and systematic review of clinical randomized trials.Journal of ethnopharmacology,243, 112090.https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jep.2019.112090
- Saboori, S., Falahi, E., Yousefi Rad, E., Asbaghi, O., & Khosroshahi, M. Z. (2019). Effects of ginseng on C-reactive protein level: A systematic review and meta-analysis of clinical trials.Complementary therapies in medicine,45, 98103. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2019.05.021
- Lho SK, Kim TH, Kwak KP, et al: Effects of lifetime cumulative ginseng intake on cognitive function in late life.Alzheimers Res Ther10 (1): 50, 2018. doi: 10.1186 / s13195-018-0380-0.
Article written by:
Marie-Noël Marsan, Nutritionist