Waving ginseng over energy drinks won't do much for your energy and
stamina. But what about a therapeutic dose of ginseng, every day for a few weeks
or months? Let's look at the evidence.
Even though Chinese Emperors could afford to take ginseng all the time, lesser
mortals used it in short bursts. Chinese soldiers carried it into battle to
sustain them if they got injured. And there are numerous stories of people at
the point of exhaustion being miraculously energised by chewing a piece of
ginseng root. People on their death bed in China are often given ginseng to give
them the strength to get their affairs in order and receive their family before
Dramatic as this may be, we think the main benefits of ginseng are the long term
So what have the scientists found?
The first decent study in people was done in Germany back in 1983. It found that
taking Korean ginseng every day for nine weeks dropped the heart rate after
exercise by 12%.
After a few fuddled investigations in various countries, the Canadians did a
well controlled experiment using American ginseng in the early 1990's. They gave
one group of volunteers ginseng for six weeks, and another group a placebo with
no ginseng. The volunteers then performed exactly the same set of exercises.
They found that people who took ginseng needed significantly less air in their
lungs than those who didn't take ginseng. They also found the heart rate and
blood lactate was less in the ginseng-takers. This might be because ginseng
reduces the secretions of adrenalin and cortisone (see the section on stress).
The researchers concluded that American ginseng can increase respiratory and
cardiovascular endurance, and supported the German finding of improved
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition published an excellent review of all
published research findings in 2000. Most trials showed that ginseng improved
both physical and coordination performance. All the large studies that used a
high dose (over 2g per day) for two months or more showed that ginseng improved
Our energy levels, endurance and stamina depend partly on our heart and lung
capacity. But just as important is how well we move energy around our body. We
need to be able to burn fat and glucose easily when we need it. And absorb the
glucose into the cells where it can be used. Many trials have shown that
American ginseng lowers blood glucose - by helping it pass through cell
membranes and perhaps also by stimulating the special cells in the pancreas that
make insulin (see the section on blood glucose). Other research shows how
American ginseng helps convert body fat into energy when needed.
Researchers at the University of Alberta exposed rats to extreme cold and tested
how long they can swim. Even though the experiments are pretty unpleasant, the
results are remarkable. Animals pre-treated with American ginseng, and also its
most abundant ingredient Rb1 alone, withstood extreme cold much better and swam
longer in freezing water than untreated ones. Chemistry - better use of energy
inside the body as described above - is probably the reason.
Mayo Clinic trial on Fatigue caused by Cancer
Anyone suffering from cancer or who has recovered from cancer should discuss
this scientific paper with their health care professional - it's freely
available - just follow this link. The US government sponsored a large pilot
trial to see if American ginseng helped with cancer-related fatigue. Fatigue is
a serious problem with most cancer patients - their bodies have to deal with
chemical, radiation, and other therapies as well as the cancer itself. The
results were remarkable. More than twice as many people who received higher
doses of ginseng (1000mg or 2000mg per day) perceived a benefit in their fatigue
compared to those receiving only a placebo. Too little ginseng (750mg per day)
was not as effective.
Most of the 175 patients who completed this study were on a one or more heavy
duty cancer treatments of various kinds. The ginseng did not have any
significant toxicities or interactions with these existing treatments.
The researchers speculated that a possible reason for American ginseng helping
with exhaustion is in the chemistry. American ginseng appears to work in the
brain through chemical receptors and neurotransmitters that regulate the
transmission of nerve impulses.
Any scientific information has been assembled by Simply Ginseng from
reputable peer-reviewed scientific journals. We have tried to ensure it is
clear, balanced and without bias. This information should not be construed
as claims for any of our products. Always consult your health care
professional.Use only as directed. Always read the label.