Ginseng is undoubtedly one of the most highly prized herbs in the world with incredible health benefits. In China, the herb has been employed for more than 8,000 years and most prized of all were 6-years-grown, fully-mature, Korean red ginseng roots, the best ginseng, world-renowned for its powerful strength, even in the days of Marco Polo, along the Silk Road. Even today, a single “perfectly shaped” root of Korean ginseng can be worth up to $50,000, and its extract is incredibly valuable for its medicinal properties, although typical harvest roots sell for approximately $1-2 per gram (with the typical functional serving size being 1g).
Among the various types of ginseng, three are used commonly: American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), Asian/Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), and Siberian/Russian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). American ginseng and Asian/Korean ginseng are considered to be “true” ginseng, with Korean being the most powerful variety (containing a wider variety of healthy saponin ginsenosides as core functional components), and the Siberian/Russian ginseng forms a lesser quality, distant relative.
Both of the Panax varieties come in white (dried, unprocessed root) and red (steamed, heat-dried root, considered as more active pharmacologically) types. The applications of all three ginsengs are based on the reputation of this herb as an “adaptogen”, which improves mental and physical performance and enhances immunity.
American Ginseng Vs. Asian/Korean Ginseng
Thinking which ginseng type is right for you? If you want to calm problems related to stress, Korean ginseng is considered the world’s strongest “adaptogenic” herb and usually considered the best ginseng, most recommended for both stress relief and calming. Although Korean “red” ginseng is sometimes considered “hot” because of its reddish color, in fact it doesn’t have any warming qualities. Rather, it is the same as white ginseng, but the functional components (ginseng saponins) have been locked into the root through a natural process of steaming and drying, which prevents those healthy molecules from degrading. Korean red ginseng is therefore superior to American white ginseng. Especially this is the case when Korean red ginseng is certified to 6-years-grown (the age at which ginseng fully matures), while most American ginseng roots are harvested prior to the 4th year of growth and uncertified for growth years, due to root rot and other issues with the North American soil and pests (by contrast, ginseng evolved in Korea and is most hardy when grown on the Korean peninsula).
The varying characteristics of the plants are accounted by variations in levels of the 8 major ginsenosides. For instance, Asian ginseng comprises similar amounts of ginsenosides Rb1 and Rg1. On the other hand, American ginseng contains a little amount of Rg1. Rg1 is considered a stimulant of the central nervous system (CNS), mental performance enhancer, and fatigue fighter. Rb1 has antipsychotic and tranquilizing properties and is CNS depressant. Asian ginseng, especially fully-mature 6-years-grown Korean red ginseng, contains a far wider variety of healthy ginsenoside components (with 30 to 40 identified), each supporting various health functions, giving Korean ginseng an advantage in breadth of health support.
Additionally, both ginseng species seem to have a promising potential for type 2 diabetes. Further study is needed in this area, although a fully mature Korean ginseng is certified by the Korean government to support healthy blood circulation.
Health Benefits of Korean Ginseng
Here are the health areas in which Asian/Korean ginseng is beneficial:
- Heart Health:
Ginseng has shown promise in protecting heart health, like protection from heart failure and offering anti-hypertensive effects. Especially Asian ginseng may offer protection against heart disease symptoms and help support healthy levels of cholesterol.
Heart health is also an area where effects of American and Asian ginseng require further exploration, since each herb may have generated different effects on heart.
According to some research, ginseng may raise blood pressure at the typical doses, but may reduce blood pressure at higher doses. So, in case you are highly affected by high blood pressure, taking diabetic medications, planning surgery, or on heart medications, it is always best to to seek the advice of your medical doctor before starting a new regime.
- Neurodegenerative Diseases:
More and more evidence is coming to the surface suggesting that Korean ginseng may contain neuroprotective properties, such as maintaining homeostasis and immune-stimulatory, anti-apoptotic, antioxidant, and anti-inflammatory activities.
The herbal medicine has great potential for multiple sclerosis, Huntington’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and other neurological issues.
The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of Korean ginseng seem to be helpful as an effective neuroprotective strategy in case of stroke. As per a study in Frontiers in Cellular Neuroscience, Asian ginseng can prevent neuronal death resulting from stroke, thereby reducing functional and anatomical stroke damage.
- Cold and Flu:
Korean ginseng stimulates the immune system like American ginseng. In a study, individuals who took 400 mg of Korean ginseng regularly for 4 months suffered from fewer colds, and the colds they had were for a shorter duration.
- Mental Performance:
Asian/Korean ginseng boosts learning and thinking as well as alertness. As per University of Maryland Medical Center, early research suggests that Korean ginseng may result in improvement of performance in things like concentration, memory, mental arithmetic and more.
- Erectile Dysfunction:
Korean ginseng is helpful in the treatment of erectile dysfunction. The herb improves sexual activity, sexual performance, and sperm count.
- Menopausal Symptoms:
Some evidence is there showing Korean ginseng may help in relieving certain menopausal symptoms, especially anxiety and depression. One of the key mechanisms here may be the same as its usefulness to men, which is by helping achieve blood flow to the sex organs, allowing for better hormonal balance, especially through micro-capillaries, where blood-flow often becomes more restricted as we age.
- Cancer-Related Fatigue (CRF):
CRF is a common symptom in cancer patients. Patients using high-dose Korean ginseng (oral intake of 800 mg regularly for 29 days) reported an improvement in sleep quality, appetite, quality of life, and fatigue.
As per research published in Alternative Medicine Review, the methods by which Asian ginseng is considered to have potential in preventing cancer and serving as a treatment agent, include immunomodulation, inhibiting cancer cell proliferation, apoptosis induction, antioxidant chemoprevention, anti-inflammatory carcinogenesis, and DNA damage mitigation.
In studies, ginseng’s capability has been shown in repairing as well as reversing cell differentiation in adenocarcinoma, melanoma, and hepatoma cells.
Asian/Korean ginseng has been shown to be promising in treatment of different cancer types, including melanoma, leukemia, and pulmonary, prostate, ovarian, kidney, hepatic, gastric, and colon cancers.
Although Panax ginseng is considered safe in general, the herb may cause interactions with blood thinner warfarin, antidepressants, and diabetes medications. It may also enhance flu vaccine effects. Adequate testing has not been done on ginseng’s effects during breastfeeding or pregnancy, so it is best to avoid the herb during these conditions or it should be used under the supervision of an authorized doctor only.
Even in general, if you are considering the use of ginseng, seek the advice of an authorized medical professional before taking it.
Korean red ginseng when grown for 6 years to full-maturity offers a host of health benefits for men and women. It can significantly improve your overall physical and mental health. When buying Korean ginseng, make sure you choose a reputed retail store or online shop, which assures you that the product is of high quality.
One of the most well-known brands of Korean red ginseng is “CheongKwanJang,” the oldest brand of ginseng, formed in 1899 with the specific intent to separate quality ginseng from forgeries, back when the Korean government held a monopoly on crop production. Today the brand is managed by Korea Ginseng Corp, a spin-off of the Korean government and is entrusted to maintain the quality of the brand. Although unusual by Western standards, CheongKwanJang branded products are notable, because they are commonly offered as national gifts by the President of South Korea, being delivered to notables such as the Chinese President and the Queen of English. A core difference is our quality control systems and $20M annual investment in R&D for QA, and our exclusive use of 6-years-grown fully mature roots. This being the case, you can generally expect a high-quality, functional product not normally found in other growers.