Ginseng is one of the most popular over-the-counter medicinal products on a purely plant-based basis. Amazingly long is the list of good effects that are attributed to the remedy: the ginseng root increases performance and concentration, helps with diabetes, stress, fatigue and weakness, relieves old age, supports heart, circulation and defenses. But does it also increase the potency, as is often advertised? "Jen-Shen, " the Chinese say respectfully when they talk about ginseng. This means something like human roots, and not just because ginseng reminds with a lot of imagination of a human form. In Asia, where ginseng has been cultivated for over 2, 000 years, it is said that the ginseng root lies deep beneath the earth and waits for the right moment to show itself to man and offer her help.
Once Upon a time...
Once, according to a legend, a great spirit lived alone on a mountain that wanted to relieve people's worries and illnesses. So he sent to the man a boy who took the form of a root. This is the reason for the human-like form of the ginseng root. Those who ate lived a long, happy and healthy life.
Effects and side effects
Professor Reinhard Saller from the Department of Naturopathy and Complementary Medicine at the University of Zurich tried different natural remedies, including ginseng. He sees the ginseng root as a kind of light "doping agent for increasing physical and mental performance". He especially recommends it to patients in convalescence.
Professor Saller also points to recent studies related to cancer in animal experiments - with promising results: cancer cells have been reduced and the life of the animals extended.
Even against viral infections ginseng seems to work at least in animal experiments. Tests on athletes showed that maximum oxygen uptake, maximum oxygen pulse, maximum performance and regeneration speed were significantly increased by ginseng. The main active ingredients of ginseng are the ginsenosides: they belong chemically to the substance group of saponins.
Saponins, in turn, have a similar function to soaps because they "cleanse" the body from within. This is an important protection against infections for both plants and humans. In addition, there are vitamins and minerals that have a positive effect on human performance and the organism.
Ginseng finished preparations are very different in composition
An investigation by Stiftung Warentest revealed that most ginseng preparations contain only a small amount of ginsenosides. Their content of products offered in Germany is between 0.05 and 15 percent per 100 grams of dry root. However, if ginseng is to be used for medical purposes, the German Pharmacopoeia (DAB) prescribes a minimum active ingredient content of 1.5 percent ginsenosides per 100 grams of dry root. This value is set very low and is always exceeded by high-quality products, which are available mainly in pharmacies.
According to the DAB, 15-30 milligrams of ginsenosides are ideal daily. High-quality ginseng should be free of alcohol, colorings or flavorings. Added vitamins or minerals are superfluous.
The Stiftung Warentest recommends that you take no more than 400 milligrams of pure ginseng extract, as tea, dragees or juice, during the day, then you do not feel any side effects. At significantly higher doses, however, one can react nervously and overly excitable and threaten sleeping disorders. Combined with caffeine, ginseng even boosts blood pressure.
Ginseng in diabetes
So far, only the medical effectiveness of ginseng root has been known, but there are some interesting new findings: even her berries can help with diabetes and possibly even relieve excess weight. The magazine "Diabetes" reported in 2002 on experiments by American researchers from the University of Chicago on mice. They inject the animals that suffered from diabetes and obesity due to a genetic defect, an extract of ginseng berries.
The blood sugar level of the mice, which was elevated as in untreated diabetics, decreased to normal levels in the animals. At the same time, the mice were significantly more active and less hungry than untreated animals. The drug, which lowers blood sugar levels in diabetes but does not reduce obesity, has already been isolated. Further experiments on "ginsenoside Re" should be carried out.
In summary, only good things can be said about ginseng: it has a positive effect on the driving force, increases concentration and strengthens the immune system. Increases in potency, as often touted, have not yet been proven.