Ginseng is a natural product with a long history of medicinal and health-related uses. Traditionally, it has been most widely used in China. However, in recent years it’s become a staple of homoeopathic treatments in the West and is fast spreading in popularity among the fitness community.
What Is Panax Ginseng?
Ginseng is a root that’s derived from plants of the genus Panax, and is grown in a number of locations including China, Canada and America.
Panax Ginseng is widely believed to have been used for over 5000 years. Originally it was used for food, but its health-giving properties quickly became apparent. In Chinese medicine, it’s been lauded for encouraging “yang” energy which is considered to be positive energy.
Panax Ginseng Benefits
Supports immune system
Panax Ginseng has been extensively reported to maintain homeostasis of the immune system and to enhance resistance to illness or microbial attacks. In fact, a study suggested that people who take ginseng could have up to a 35% higher chance of living disease-free for five years after curative surgery and up to a 38% higher survival rate compared to those not taking it.1
May increase energy
Ginsenosides are the natural pesticides that protect the ginseng plant from insects and bacteria – and us from the stresses of daily life. This is because, when we take them in a supplement they act on the brain to normalise the function of the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, which can be disrupted by stress.2
Once we’re back in balance, our adrenal glands will produce just the right amount of cortisol to keep us alert and focused, rather than tired and unable to relax. This is because ginseng can help regulate the release of stress hormones such as cortisol. When we’re stressed, our adrenal glands may produce too much cortisol (which can leave us unable to relax and sleep) or too little cortisol (which can leave us tired and lacking in energy). Taking ginseng supplements can relieve symptoms of fatigue in healthy adults.2
This is also great if you want to maximise your workout and recovery after the gym.
Could improve cognitive function
Ginseng has been proven to boost mood and mental performance. In one study, people who took 400mg ginseng supplements for 12 weeks, felt calmer and performed better on mental arithmetic tests. A 2014 study even called ginseng ‘a promising neuroprotective strategy in stroke’ – it’s thought that its anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties help to prevent nerve cells from damage.3
Panax Ginseng Side Effects
As ginseng is a stimulant, it is important to ensure you do not take too much of it. You may experience feeling jittery as your body has an excess of energy. If you find you are struggling with insomnia or poor sleep, refrain from taking any ginseng after midday. If it persists, leave it altogether.
Equally, if you find you are experiencing headaches or nausea, cut out your ginseng intake to check that is not the cause. As with other stimulants such as high caffeine products, ginseng is not recommended for pregnant women. As with many supplements, ginseng powders and tablets can be mixed with impure and even harmful products. As a precaution, always use a trusted brand or one recommended by a health professional.
Panax Ginseng Tablets vs. Powder
Panax Ginseng is often taken as either a tablet or a powder. But which is best?
Tablets are easy and convenient. They can be carried around without worrying about spills or measuring them out when you need them. Tablets are also pre-measured into doses, which takes out any effort in getting the exact amount you need for the results you want. For example, if you want some pre-workout energy, you can pop in a tablet as you get changed at the gym.
Powders, on the other hand, require more effort. However, their reward is you get greater control over what you take. For example, if you think you need just a little more or less ginseng before you work out, you can make that change next time you take it and keep adjusting from there.
Powders are also often considered to be faster acting than tablets. This is because they are often much more potent.