Panax ginseng supports brain health in extraordinary ways, study suggests
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by: Lori Alton, staff writer | February 15, 2021
(NaturalHealth365) Virtually everyone is familiar with the feeling of physical fatigue: the sense of tiredness, the heaviness in the limbs, the overwhelming desire to rest. But there is another kind of fatigue that can be just as debilitating: mental fatigue. Sometimes referred to as “brain fog,” this temporary – but frustrating – mental state is characterized by impaired concentration, “fuzzy” thinking, lack of mental focus, and difficulty with simple cognitive tasks that would ordinarily be easy to complete.
Recent research supports Panax ginseng’s ability, a staple of traditional Chinese medicine, to promote mental clarity and enhance performance and memory. If you are affected by mental fatigue and “brain fog” caused by overwork or stress, you may want to learn what the studies have revealed about this intriguing Asian herb.
Treasured Asian herb is a time-honored herbal therapy backed by modern science
Panax ginseng, treasured by natural practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine and the Ayurvedic healing system, has been used for over 2,000 years to treat various ills. Modern science has confirmed that ginseng is an adaptogen — a substance that helps the body deal with physical and emotional stress.
This fact comes as no surprise to natural healers, who have been aware of ginseng’s powerful benefits for centuries. However, they describe its qualities in a less clinical, more poetic way. In Ayurveda, Panax ginseng is revered as a “Rasayana” – a substance so extremely beneficial to health that it can slow the aging process and help prolong life. Incidentally, Panax ginseng is also known as Asian, Korean, and red ginseng.
A type of ginseng known as American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) also confers health benefits but may be less potent when it comes to enhancing alertness and cognitive function.
Unique chemical compounds make this treasured herb more beneficial than you can imagine
Panax ginseng’s active constituents, a group of polyphenols known as ginsenosides, have potent antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. Ginseng also contains the disease-fighting flavonoids catechin and kaempferol. In addition to combating oxidative stress and free radical damage, Panax ginseng boosts levels of GABA. This neurotransmitter is essential for maintaining a calm, stable mood and can help reduce anxiety – which can contribute to mental fatigue.
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And, on a cellular level, Panax ginseng helps increase the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). Often known as the “body’s batteries,” these vital energy molecules in cell mitochondria capture and release energy from food. ATP is so important to well-being that low levels are a primary cause of fatigue and depression.
Unfortunately, (as with so many other life-sustaining molecules), ATP activity declines with age. Ginseng, however, can help to restore it.
Looking for quick relief? A single serving of Panax ginseng improves mental clarity, study suggests
In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, a one-time 200-mg serving of Panax ginseng extract reduced mental fatigue in healthy volunteers while improving cognitive performance on mental arithmetic tasks.
Fortunately, Panax ginseng’s benefits are not confined to the young and healthy. A separate study, performed at the Department of Neurology at the Clinical Research Institute in South Korea, showed that Panax ginseng caused substantial improvements in mental performance in patients with Alzheimer’s disease – leading researchers to praise ginseng’s potential as a natural therapy for the condition.
With Alzheimer’s disease currently affecting close to 6 million Americans, this is exciting news indeed!
And Panax ginseng even seems to alleviate chronic fatigue syndrome, a condition that is notoriously difficult to treat. In a placebo-controlled study involving 90 participants and published in the well-regarded journal PLoS One, researchers gave CFS patients either 1 to 2 grams of Panax ginseng root a day or a placebo. What they found was encouraging.
The ginseng group experienced less physical and mental fatigue when compared to the placebo group, along with reductions in oxidative stress. Significantly, the Panax ginseng group displayed increased levels of glutathione, the body’s most important antioxidant, along with lower levels of reactive oxygen species (free radicals) and malondialdehyde, a marker of oxidative stress.
Finally, a study published in Human Psychopharmacology showed that 400 mg of ginseng extract for eight days improved working memory and promoted a calm mood.
Wait, there are even more benefits of this versatile herb you should know
It’s hard to think of a body system that ginseng doesn’t benefit. This versatile herb enhances the body’s defenses against disease and infection by regulating immune cells – including such important players as macrophages, natural killer cells, T cells, and B cells.
Strongly antibacterial and antiviral, ginseng has been shown to inhibit influenza, HIV, and rotavirus, and to reduce harmful bacteria found in the lungs. In fact, one animal study shows that ginseng can improve cystic fibrosis and COPD.
Studies have suggested that ginsenosides in ginseng can act against diabetes by lowering blood glucose levels, improving insulin sensitivity, and enhancing the uptake of blood sugar into tissues. Ginseng’s blood sugar-lowering properties were illustrated in a study in which participants were first given red ginseng – followed 30 minutes later by a hefty dose of glucose (25 grams of sugar).
As the researchers expected, participants who took the ginseng and glucose experienced improved performance on challenging, repeated cognitive tests, along with less fatigue. But the most promising part was that the ginseng lowered blood sugar (while the glucose, of course, “spiked” it). The researchers concluded that ginseng was “vastly superior to sugar as an energy-boosting supplement.”
Natural health experts say that ginseng can help heal adrenal fatigue, and studies have shown that it may speed up metabolism and act against obesity.
Finally, ginseng helps to fight the chronic inflammation that is at the root of virtually all degenerative diseases, including cancer. Early studies suggest that people taking ginseng extracts are less likely to develop cancers of the mouth, esophagus, stomach, colon, liver, and lung.
Here is how to banish brain fog and enhance mental clarity naturally
Because ginsenosides are poorly absorbed from the digestive tract, natural health experts point to the need for more bioavailable forms of ginseng. In other words, fresh or dried ginseng root, while still beneficial, might not provide enough ginsenosides for therapeutic effects. Opt for a high-quality ginseng extract from a reputable vendor, standardized to contain 2 to 3 percent total ginsenosides. For maximum benefit, take before meals.
In particular, a type of ginseng extract known as G115 has been used extensively in studies, and in a 2020 review in the Journal of Ginseng Research the authors credited this particular formulation with safety, efficacy and superior bioavailability.
To relieve fatigue, stress, and tension, natural healers might recommend servings of 200 mg to 400 mg of ginseng extract a day. Of course, consult your knowledgeable integrative doctor before supplementing with ginseng. Because this herb is not meant for long-term daily use, your practitioner may recommend taking occasional ginseng “breaks.”
When “brain fog” begins to set in, many people turn to energy drinks laden with caffeine, chemicals, and sugar. After a brief boost, there is usually a slump or even a “crash” to contend with.
In contrast, Panax ginseng offers a drug-free solution. By accessing its energizing benefits, you can avoid this vicious cycle – and achieve mental clarity naturally.
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