Ginseng is a plant with fleshy roots the Chinese have used as medicine for generations. There are many species of ginseng with the most commonly used being Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). The two species contain different concentrations of active compounds and thus have different effects. Asian ginseng, for example, is a stimulant, while American ginseng makes the user feel more relaxed. Ginseng is classified by how long it was allowed to grow before being harvested. Fresh ginseng is harvested anytime before four years; green ginseng is harvested after growing between four to six years; red ginseng is harvested after six years.
Scientists have been studying ginseng, especially Asian ginseng, and they have found it does have health benefits, including the ones described below.
Ginseng contains compounds called gintonin and ginsenosides, and the latter reduces inflammation. In 2009, the Journal of Translational Medicine published a study in which scientists identified nine ginsenosides and tested their effects on human cells. They found seven of the nine had anti-inflammatory effects.
Two years later, The American Journal of Chinese Medicine published a study in which they tested the effects of extracts derived from Asian ginseng on muscles inflamed by exercise. The researchers worked with two groups of male athletes; one group was given ginseng while the other was given a placebo. The groups drank their ginseng (or placebo) both before and after running on a treadmill with an uphill incline of fifteen degrees. The scientists found the group who got the ginseng showed less inflammation in their muscles than the group that got the placebo.
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