Ginseng supplements help promote healthy energy levels

Ginseng Supplements: What Do They Do?

Ginseng is an herb traditionally used in Asia that's most famous for its energy management benefits. But it has a variety of other purposes, including metabolic health support, stress management, the promotion of immune system health and cognitive function, and more. Indeed, ginseng's many health benefits have piqued the scientific community's interest for many decades, and it's been the subject of scientific research more than any other medicinal herb.

But with all the ginseng species available in supplement form—ranging from Siberian ginseng to Asian ginseng to American ginseng (or Panax quinquefolius)—it can get confusing. Fear not! We've got the lowdown on everything you need to know about ginseng, its varieties, and its many health benefits.

Top 7 benefits of ginseng supplements

A large body of scientific research has shown that ginseng supplements confer a variety of health-supporting benefits, including:

1. All-around energy support:

Ginseng's reputation as an energy management supplement is well-earned. It helps fight general fatigue without caffeine—making it a popular alternative to coffee.

2. Enhances physical and mental endurance:

As a powerful adaptogen, ginseng's been traditionally used to help increase physical, psychological, and emotional resilience to everyday stressors.

3. Promotes metabolic health:

Studies have shown that this powerful herb can help encourage a state of equilibrium by promoting a healthy response to insulin and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

4. Heart health benefits:

Ginseng dietary supplements can also support cardiovascular health by promoting healthy blood pressure.

5. Encourages a robust immune response:

Research has shown that the active compounds in ginseng can interact with immune cells and modulate immune function, promoting a well-rounded response to immune challenges.

6. Powerful antioxidant support:

Certain forms of ginseng, including red ginseng, can help increase antioxidant enzyme activity to help quench the activity of free radicals. In doing so, ginseng supplements help combat cellular stress.

7. Fosters a healthy response to stress:

As an adaptogen, Panax ginseng works with biological pathways involved in stress regulation and encouraging the body's natural ability to handle stress.

Understanding the different types of ginseng

Ginseng is a short, slow-growing plant that's native to North America and Eastern Asia (while both are ginseng plants, they are different species). The fleshy roots of ginseng can sometimes look like a person (or a body with extremities at the very least), hence the nickname "man-root."

There are various types of ginseng, but the ones below have been studied for their benefits to health and well-being.

1. Panax Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng):

This species goes by many names—you may know it as Asian ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng or Japanese ginseng. (Not surprisingly, it grows in East Asia.) The ginseng root of this plant is the original source of ginseng herbal supplements. When taken orally, the ginsenosides (active plant compounds) in Asian ginseng are thought to help increase resilience against environmental stressors. It's also used to promote general well-being.

2. American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius):

North American ginseng is primarily found in, you guessed it, North America, and its roots have been used in traditional medicine. Unfortunately, due to high demand, American ginseng is an endangered species. American ginseng's many health benefits include boosting energy levels and supporting a robust immune system. American ginseng contains ginsenosides, which are the active compounds thought to help maintain healthy blood sugar levels.

3. Panax Notoginseng (Panax notoginseng):

This plant is also known as pseudoginseng and it's native to China. Not surprisingly, it's been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries. It's often sought out because it's believed to have properties that support a healthy inflammatory response and may help promote cardiovascular health.

What’s the Difference Between Red and White Ginseng?

This is a trick question! There's a slight difference. The terms red ginseng and white ginseng refer to Asian ginseng roots prepared in two different ways and used differently in traditional Chinese medicine.

How to choose ginseng supplements that work

Now that you know the various types of ginseng, how do you determine which ginseng supplements are most effective? The answer to this question has to do with the way the supplement is formulated.
Look for these two terms on the product label to ensure your body is getting the maximum benefits.

1. Fermented ginseng:

Ginsenosides, the active compounds in ginseng, are poorly absorbed, and need to be converted to their active form upon digestion to be more bioavailable and be absorbed into the bloodstream. Supplements that use fermented Panax ginseng are significantly easier to absorb, delivering biologically active ginsenosides.

2. Standardized ginsenoside extracts:

You also want to ensure that the ginsenosides are "standardized," which means that each dose delivers a uniform amount of active plant compounds. Choosing a dietary supplement with ginseng root extracts standardized to ginsenoside content ensures you're giving your body the active ingredients and you get the maximum benefits.

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Are Siberian and Indian ginseng really ginseng?

No. It turns out these two are misnomers, because the plants are not actually ginseng. However, these plants share similarities with ginseng, both in looks and the head-to-toe benefits they offer.

1. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus):

Also known as eleuthero or Acanthopanax senticosus, this slow-growing shrub is native to southeastern Russia, northern China, Korea and Japan. But it's not related to Panax ginseng, panax quinquefolius, or American ginseng. As an adaptogen, research shows it can help the body recover from strenuous exercise and mental exertion. It's also been shown to have immunomodulation properties. In other words, Siberian ginseng may help support a healthy response to immune challenges. The roots of both plants have been used for centuries to help invigorate energy levels, support the spleen, nourish the kidneys, and even support already-healthy blood pressure. Look for high-quality dietary supplements for maximum benefits.

2. “Indian ginseng” or ashwagandha (Withania somnifera):

While ashwagandha is commonly referred to as "Indian ginseng," like Siberian ginseng, it is not a ginseng plant. Essential to Ayurvedic regimens, ashwagandha is well-known for supporting mind, body and mood health. Ashwagandha has been shown to help promote a healthy stress response by encouraging a relaxed and calm state of mind. Research has shown ashwagandha's potential health benefits also include supporting already-healthy cortisol levels, promoting memory, hormone balance, immune system function, and its calming effects, may also help promote better sleep quality. Look for high-quality products that use an ashwagandha extract from the root and leaf standardized to its active components for maximum benefits.

What supplements should I take with ginseng?

Ginseng is a popular energy supplement, but it certainly isn't the only one. And taking ginseng with other complementary nutrients is a great way to get even more pep in your step. If you really want to rev up your energy levels, you can pair ginseng with the following three additional supplements and complement ginseng's energy-supporting and resilience-enhancing benefits.

1. Cordyceps

Found in high altitudes in regions of the Himalayas, Tibet, Nepal, China and India, this potent fungus has one thing in common with ginseng: it has generations of usage in traditional Chinese medicine. The active compounds in cordyceps are thought to confer antioxidant benefits, and they're known to promote health and well-being by supporting already-healthy blood sugar levels, a healthy stress response and encouraging a state of equilibrium across different physiological systems.

2. Rhodiola

Another herb that pairs well with ginseng is rhodiola, which has demonstrated stress-modulating properties and helps promote cellular energy metabolism. Native to the cold regions of Europe and Asia, rhodiola has a long history of use in herbal medicine. Traditionally, this perennial plant has been used to enhance performance and tolerance of high altitudes. But today, rhodiola is used to support cellular energy metabolism by encouraging an efficient production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), your body's energy "currency." Clinical trials suggest rhodiola also has beneficial effects on physical and mental performance and endurance. Choose high-quality products that use a standardized rhodiola extract for a consistent delivery of important compounds and maximum benefits.

3. B-Complex

B vitamins (there are a total of eight!) support several biological processes and are essential for optimal organ function, healthy metabolism, nerve health and so much more. Your primary B sources are foods like grass-fed meats and organ meats, fatty fish, leafy greens, veggies, nuts and legumes. However, you may want to consider complementing your meals with a product that delivers the active form of B vitamins. That's because before your body can access the B vitamins it needs, it converts them to their active form. B-complex is an excellent dietary supplement to pair with ginseng because it delivers complementary benefits.

Are there other ways to get ginseng?

Many people think the best way to get ginseng (or ginseng extract) is to shop for "bulk herbs" you find in a bin at a store, or by venturing into the woods for some wild ginseng. But wild ginseng can impact your health and the environment.

  • Not easy to identify: Exploring the woods (or a different continent) in search of Panax ginseng or American ginseng sounds fun. But unless you're a professional or have extensive experience in a specific location, you could mistakenly choose a plant that impacts your well-being. It's not easy to distinguish beneficial herbs from harmful ones—even for a professional.
  • Endangered species: Unfortunately, the high demand for ginseng has driven several species to extinction (or near extinction). Asian ginseng, for example, only grows in Asia, where it is cultivated specifically for use as a traditional herb or a dietary supplement. And wild American ginseng is a protected species regulated by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service because it's already endangered in some locations in North America. Rather than foraging for herbs nearing extinction, stick with a ginseng dietary supplement—for optimal effectiveness, and to "do no harm" to the ecosystem.

Not sure which energy supplements are best for your unique needs? Take a quiz to get customized nutritional recommendations.

About the Author: Jessica Monge has a bachelor's degree in biological sciences & neuroscience and a master's degree in comparative studies and related languages from Florida Atlantic University. She worked as a tutor, freelance writer and editor before joining Life Extension, where she is currently a Digital Content Writer.


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