6 amazing facts about ginseng

yesterday i put this rad ‘superhuman soap’ made with uber amounts of ginseng up in my shop (psst you can still probably grab a bar or two if you missed it), so i thought i’d follow that up with some info you might just not know about ginseng.

first, i love ginseng. i’ve said it before and i’ll say it again, ginseng is one of those ‘miracle’ plants that i recommend almost all of my patients take in my clinical practice. there are just so many fabulous reasons to incorporate it into your life, besides just in soap form (but shameless plug, you can buy it in soap form and it smells amazing, with subtle notes of chamomile and clove underlying it).

anyway, here are some things you might not know about ginseng:

its a really strong antioxidant

antioxidants are compounds in plants that scavenge free radicals. free radicals are things we don’t want, but are normally exposed to constantly, either through:

  • just regular cellular metabolism that generates free radicals as a type of ‘waste product’
  • to normal liver detoxification that generates free radicals as intermediate compounds in the process of detoxifying other things
  • or even in the form of various pollutants and toxicants, which are all over our modern homes, air, vehicles, food, cleaning products, skincare, etc etc.

antioxidants grab those free radicals and prevent them from binding to our cell membranes, our DNA, and even other nutrients we need to stay healthy.

it increases the lifespan of your cells (and maybe also you)

if you want to go down a really neat science rabbit hole someday, look into the subject of telomeres. there are the little tales on our chromosomes that, the more our cells divide as we age, these chromosome tails shorten and eventually, they are short the chromosome can no longer divide correctly, the cell either becomes cancerous and is destroyed by other cells (hopefully) or it just dies.

ginseng is one of only a handful of compounds (the actual compounds in ginseng are polyphenols called ‘gensinosides’) that are known to prevent telomere shortening, but also, in some cases, lengthening of telomeres.

a ton of studies have been done in certain populations, such as the blue zone in Okinawa where there are more than the average number of centenarians, and one of the factors attributed to their unusually long lifespan is greater consumption of ginseng, among other foods.

it enhances memory

ginseng, particularly the panax ginseng variety, is commonly prescribed for aging individuals who are experiencing declining cognitive function, including memory loss.

ginseng has been used in asian populations for centuries for its ability to enhance cognitive functions such as focus, memory, and even learning tasks. its been widely studied for its impacts on neurocognitive and neuroprotective mechanisms.

it increases alertness and focus

one of my favorite things about adding ginseng to tea i drink in the afternoon or evening is its subtle yet potent ability to keep me alert and wipe away the 5-o-clock sleepies, while not keeping me from falling asleep later at night, like caffeine later in the day tends to do for some people.

this may have to do with similar pathways in the brain that ginseng impacts in aging populations for tasks like memory and cognition, as it has the effect of increasing alertness and focus overall.

it may enhance sexual function

this is something it has been used for in traditional chinese medicine (TCM) for millennia, as it is thought to improve endocrine function in the sexual hormone cascade.

it restores deficient ‘qi’ or ‘chi’

this is also something pratitioners of TCM have used it for, as this herb is remarkable at restoring and balancing the vital life force of the human body when used regularly.

as you can see, the name Panax, the generic name of ginseng, may be truly accurate, as it stems from the roots ‘pan’ (all) and akos (cure), translating to literally ‘cure all’ or cures anything, which many practitioners of ancient chinese medicine believed.