American ginseng is reported to have neurocognitive effects, and research has shown benefits in aging, central nervous system disorders, and neurodegenerative diseases. Putting it into food so we can get more of it carries challenges. Ginseng is very bitter. And food processing can eliminate its health benefits. But a new batch of scientists has created a low-lactose, functional milk that was found to maintain beneficial levels of ginseng after processing. And consumers reportedly liked it.
The low-lactose idea was so that older adults, who often experience digestive problems, can drink it to improve cognitive function. After the ginseng was added, the milk was sterilized at a ultra-high temperature (UHT) to prolong shelf life. To quell the bitter taste of ginseng, they used vanilla extract and sucralose ( a zero-calorie artificial sweetener).
In a study, 10 tasters with a good ability to discriminate between flavors compared low-lactose UHT milk without any additives (the control) to low-lactose milk with ginseng extract, vanilla aroma, and sucralose added before UHT treatment. They developed a list of 10 attributes that described the sample and then rated the intensity of each attribute for five samples.
In a second study, 100 participants were asked, on a scale of one to five, how willing they would be to consume highly digestible semi-skimmed milk and that same milk enriched with ginseng extract. Then, the participants tasted and rated, on a scale of one to nine, the overall acceptability of the milk.
Ginseng did lead to a more light brown color. The sweet odor was more intense in flavored samples. Bitterness was clearly perceived in the samples containing ginseng additives, but was lower in flavored samples. This showed that the sweet additives helped to mask the herb’s bitter nature.
Of the 32% of consumers who did express an interest in ginseng milk, the vast majority (75%) declared they would buy it.
The point is that 150 to 300 milliliters of ginseng-enriched milk would provide the amount indicated to be effective for improving cognitive functions. The researchers think adding more flavors, such as chocolate, citrus, or coffee, could be more effective in masking the bitterness. This is an important consideration, as things only come to fruition on the open market if people will buy them.
This could be a big step forward in helping prevent memory issues and dementia.