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Ginseng (Siberian/Korean/American)

What is ginseng?

Ginseng is a perennial plant renowned for its medicinal properties and is widely used in traditional medicine. There are different varieties of ginseng, including Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), each with its own unique characteristics and potential health benefits.

What are the varieties of ginseng and what are the potential benefits of them?

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Siberian ginseng, despite being native to the same region as Korean ginseng, belongs to the Eleutherococcus family rather than the Panax family. It may also be named Eleuthero. The root is used medicinally. Ginseng of all kinds is considered an adaptogen as it provides a protection against the negative effect of stress on the body and can help to level moods and provide resilience to psychological anxiety. In herbal medicine it is also used as an antimicrobial and chemoprotectant [i].

Despite its name, it is completely different from American (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng). This variety of ginseng has different active chemical components. The active ingredients in Siberian ginseng, called eleutherosides, may stimulate the immune system. Eleuthero contains eleutherosides--eleutherosides B (syringin) and E (syringaresinol) that are used to identify Siberian ginseng.

The drug-like actions of Siberian ginseng, as per recent scientific research, are said to provide anti-fatigue, immune system enhancement, improved brain function and anti depressive effects. These pharmacological activities were mainly due to plant compounds such as lignans and iridoid glycosides [ii] [iii].

In terms of immune system regulation, studies have found Siberian ginseng to effect macrophages, a type of immune cell in the body, by improving signalling pathways involved in cell metabolism and the regulation of macrophage cell formation. Extracts of Siberian ginseng also lowered inflammation, which may explain the immune system regulation and point to potential wound healing promoting effects of this medicinal plant [iv].

One particular study found Siberian ginseng to reduce oedema (swelling) of the lower leg both in test tube investigations and in 50 female subjects. This improvement was attributed to the positive effect of Eleuthero on the lymphatic system [v].

Additionally, in animal studies, it has been suggested that Siberian ginseng may have a protective effect on the central nervous system by inhibiting inflammation and activation of immune cells of the brain (microglia) in strokes and brain haemorrhages [vi].

Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng)

Panax ginseng is also known as Korean ginseng, is a herb that has been used for various health purposes. It should not be confused with other forms of ginseng. Much alike Siberian ginseng, Korean ginseng is also considered an adaptogen, which are natural substances that are believed to stimulate the body's resistance to stressors [vii]. Panax ginseng is a plant that grows in Korea, China, and Siberia.

Results of clinical research studies demonstrate that Panax ginseng may improve psychologic function, immune function, and conditions associated with diabetes [viii].

Compounds in Panax are said to have high pharmacological (drug-like) activity and such principles act on numerous cell targets to achieve many different therapeutic effects. Recent research into the actions of Panax has been centred around particular effectiveness in specific diseases, such as dementia, diabetes mellitus, respiratory infections, and cancer [ix].

In skin disease, panic ginseng is said to be used the most out of the ginseng family for its supposed therapeutic benefits. In dermatology, ginseng has been investigated mechanistically for its therapeutic effects in ageing due to UV light exposure, wound and injury, dermatitis, hair loss, alopecia and cold hypersensitivity [x].

In the same fashion as Siberian ginseng, Korean ginseng is also said to affect macrophage function to improve the resilience of the immune system [xi].

Panax ginseng shows promising results for improving glucose metabolism and moderating the immune response. This may have implications for several diseases including type 2 diabetes and chronic respiratory conditions [xii].

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)

American ginseng is another type of ginseng commonly used as an herb in traditional Chinese medicine. It is native to eastern North America, though it is also cultivated in China.

People take American ginseng for many reasons such as for stress, to boost the immune system, for upper airway infections, diabetes and many other conditions. American ginseng also has adaptogenic properties alike the other types in the ginseng family [xiii].

American ginseng polysaccharide compounds have demonstrated a therapeutic activity in numerous studies, in which many of the activities involve regulation of the immune response. Involvement of the innate immune system in the binding of these compounds in American ginseng are considered to be the mechanisms of action relating to an increase in immune function.

All three ginseng species contain bioactive components which are said to work against pathogenic bacteria (Pseudomonas aeruginosa, Helicobacter pylori, Staphylococcus aureus, Escherichia coli, Propionibacterium acnes) and fungi such as candida ablicans, by compromising the structure and function of the cell of the microbe in question [xiv].


Overall, Panax ginseng appears to be well tolerated, although caution is advised about concomitant use with some pharmaceuticals, such as warfarin, oral hypoglycemic agents, insulin, and phenelzine [xv] (7).

Recommended For

Stress , Anxiety , Fatigue/ Exhaustion , Immunity , Brain Fog , Brain Health , Candida

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