The use of herbs in North America has increased dramatically over the last decade and ginseng is one of the most widely-used ones. The name “ginseng” refers to American (Panax quinquefolius) as well as Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) — both belong to the genus Panax and have a similar chemical makeup. Both Asian and American ginsengs contain ginsenosides, which are the substances thought to give ginseng its medicinal properties.
Ginseng is considered an “adaptogen” in herbal medicine, meaning it is an herb that helps the body to deal with various kinds of stress. Most ginseng studies have used Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng). There are some evidences suggesting that Panax ginseng may:
- help boost the immune system
- reduce the risk of cancer
- improve mental performance and well being
Laboratory studies in animals have found that American ginseng is effective in boosting the immune system, and as an antioxidant. Other studies show that American ginseng might have therapeutic potential for inflammatory diseases. A recent study from the University of Toronto just added one more disease that Ginseng may fight against, diabetes.
The researchers from the University of Toronto have found that taking American ginseng before a meal reduces blood sugar in people both with and without diabetes. The study appears in the April 9 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, a publication of the Journal of the American Medical Association(JAMA).
In the clinical study conducted by the UT researchers, the participants, both diabetic (Type 2) and non-diabetic, consumed capsules containing three grams of ground American ginseng either 40 minutes before or during a glucose test meal. Among participants with Type 2 diabetes, those who took the ginseng capsules experienced a 20% reduction in blood sugar levels compared to when they took placebo capsules. Among non-diabetic participants, similar reductions were only seen when the ginseng capsules were taken before, not together, with the test meal, suggesting that the timing of administration may be important.
Ginseng is a common herb as well as a food item in Asia. My favorite dish when visiting Seoul is Ginseng Chicken soup. With all these wonderful properties that the herb possesses, you might want to add this herb into your dietary regime too.
Thanks for reading.
Dr. Connie Wan
Journal Reference: Vladimir Vuksan; John L. Sievenpiper; Vernon Y. Y. Koo, American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L) Reduces Postprandial Glycemia in Nondiabetic Subjects and Subjects With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus, JAMA Internal Medicine, Arch Intern Med. 2000; 160 (7):1009-1013. doi:10.1001/archinte.160.7.1009
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