One of ginseng’s most famous reputed abilities is its impact on mental function. The way we think, remember and process information. Can it be helpful for us as we grow older? In the last of this three-parter on ginseng, I address the evidence for this, as well as for its ability to thwart infections.
Strengthening the Mind
Ginseng has been studied for many years in terms of its effect on mental function. Let’s look at some recent studies.
1986: 16 healthy men were studied for three months. Korean ginseng, at 100 milligrams (mg), two times a day, improved mental abilities to perform arithmetic.
1996: 112 people over the age of 40 took 400 mg of Panax ginseng for two months. The herb improved their abstract thinking, and increased reaction time, but led to no changes in memory or concentration.
1999: 384 older women took Panax ginseng for four months. They had improved depression, well-being, and general health.
2004: 28 healthy young adults took 200 mg of Panax ginseng, some along with 75 mg of guarana. Their mental abilities were tested many times within six hours of the study. Ginseng itself improved performance, while the combination with guarana improved the speed of their memories.
2005: 30 adults took either 200 mg or 400 mg of Panax ginseng for one day. The herb reduced blood sugar levels, improved arithmetic performance, and lowered mental fatigue.
2005: 30 adults took 400 mg of Panax ginseng for one day. Tested immediately afterward, they had improved speed of attention — suggesting that ginseng works pretty fast.
2006: 27 healthy adults took 200 mg of Panax ginseng for one day. It reduced blood sugar levels, improved arithmetic performance, and lowered mental fatigue.
These preliminary results are very encouraging. In the future, larger well-designed studies involving individuals of different age groups using different doses of Panax ginseng studied over a longer period of time will be needed before ginseng could be routinely recommended to enhance cognitive function. But since there are little to no side effects when taken properly, you are free to use it for this purpose. Just make sure you consult your doctor on an appropriate dosage for you, as taking too much ginseng can cause side effects.
North American ginseng (200 mg twice a day) for four months in 323 adults (aged 18 to 65) reduced the risk of catching the common cold, the severity of symptoms, and the number of days cold symptoms were experienced.
Panax ginseng has also been seen to boost a person’s protection from the flu — combined with the flu shot, it was better than the shot alone. The ancient herb has also reduced the number of instances of flu and colds.
So fact or fiction? There are lot of great facts that support ginseng, but more evidence is needed for any final conclusion.