Ginseng is a well-known herb, used in traditional medicine the world over. But it’s worth noting that “ginseng” refers to over 10 varieties of the man-shaped root of the Panax genus, the most popular being Asian ginseng (P. ginseng) and American ginseng (P. quinquefolius). Both American and Asian ginseng are known to boost immunity, regulate blood sugar levels and improve mood.
Researchers from China Pharmaceutical University explored how Asian ginseng and American ginseng can protect against metabolic disorders. In their report, published in The American Journal of Chinese Medicine, the team noted each species of ginseng works differently in treating the condition.
Both Asian ginseng and American ginseng are known to protect against metabolic disorders. In a separate study, a team from South Korea assessed whether Asian ginseng can help in treating metabolic disorders in vivo. They found that supplementing with ginseng caused a decrease in body weight and fat deposits. They concluded that Asian ginseng may help prevent obesity and other chronic conditions as a result of metabolic disorders.
Meanwhile, researchers from Soongeui Women’s College in South Korea looked at the hypoglycemic effects of American ginseng using a diabetic mouse model. Their study, which appeared in the Journal of Food Science, found that supplementing with American ginseng led to improved high-density lipoprotein — or good cholesterol — levels, better glycogen levels in the blood and significantly lower low-density lipoprotein — or bad cholesterol — levels. The team concluded that American ginseng has hypoglycemic effects and can be used in treating diabetes, a prevalent metabolic disorder.
In the current study, the team looked at the mechanisms of action for preventing metabolic disorders between the two ginseng species. The team first looked into the chemical processes for each. Then, they tested its ability to protect against metabolic disorders using a mouse model for obesity.
They found that both Asian ginseng and American ginseng work to prevent metabolic disorders by regulating the metabolism of linoleic acid, metabolizing cysteine and methionine and synthesizing unsaturated fatty acids. This, in turn, regulates blood sugar and lipid metabolism, as seen in the mouse model after treatment. (Related: The superior health benefits of ginseng.)
But the team did find a function unique to American ginseng. Aside from the functions described above, American ginseng had a specific function in monitoring carnitines and the metabolism of taurine to hypotaurine. The team noted that this may give American ginseng an edge over Asian ginseng when it comes to preventing metabolic disorders.
Other health benefits of American ginseng
There’s more to American ginseng than its ability to prevent metabolic disorders. In fact, studies have shown that American ginseng can benefit the body in many ways.
- It fights fatigue. A study in Supportive Care in Cancer noted that cancer patients who took American ginseng supplements reported an increase in vitality over those who took a placebo.
- It improves mental function. Taking American ginseng may increase a person’s short-term memory, in particular, his accuracy and response time, according to a study published in Nutritional Neuroscience.
- It may protect you from the common cold. Multiple studies have shown that American ginseng may offer some protection against respiratory tract infections, such as the common cold. In one study, which was published in the journal Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, researchers said that taking American ginseng reduced the incidence of colds by 25 percent.
Herbs.news has more on the other health benefits of ginseng.