Herbal Supplements

Ginseng: Benefits, Side-Effects & Scientific Studies


The Story of Ginseng: Origins, History, and Uses

Ginseng is a plant that has been revered for centuries due to its numerous medicinal properties. This article delves into the origins, history, discovery, and uses of this remarkable plant.

What is Ginseng?

Ginseng refers to eleven different varieties of a short, slow-growing plant with fleshy roots. It is characterised by its light-coloured, forked-shaped root, and long stalk. Ginseng is known for its rich bioactive compounds, including ginsenosides and gintonin, which contribute to its health benefits.

Origins of Ginseng

The origins of ginseng can be traced back to the Far East, particularly China, Korea, and far-eastern Siberia. The plant thrives in cooler climates and is typically found in the mountainous regions of these areas.

Discovery of Ginseng

The discovery of ginseng dates back several millennia. Ancient Chinese texts, dating as far back as 5000 years ago, mention the use of ginseng for its therapeutic properties. The name ‘ginseng’ comes from the Chinese term ‘rénshēn’, where ‘rén’ means ‘man’ and ‘shēn’ means ‘plant root’. This is because the root of the ginseng plant often resembles the shape of a human.

Legend has it that the ancient emperors of China discovered ginseng while searching for plants and herbs with extraordinary powers or immortality. They believed that the more a ginseng root resembled a human form, the more potent its medicinal properties would be.

Historical Use of Ginseng

Historically, ginseng was highly valued in traditional medicine systems, especially in China and Korea. It was used as a panacea, meaning it was believed to cure all kinds of ailments.

In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), ginseng was used to replenish vital energy (Qi) and promote health and longevity. It was often used in tonics and teas for its restorative properties and was believed to bring balance to the body’s Yin and Yang.

In Korea, red ginseng was used as a preventative measure to ward off illness and disease. It was also used to boost energy, improve physical strength, and promote recovery from illness or injury.

Modern Uses of Ginseng

Today, the popularity of ginseng extends far beyond its traditional roots. It is used worldwide as a dietary supplement due to its potential health benefits. Research suggests that ginseng may improve mental function, boost energy levels, strengthen the immune system, and have potential benefits for managing blood sugar levels.

Moreover, ginseng is often used in skincare products due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. It is also used as an ingredient in energy drinks, teas, and other beverages.

Ginseng is a remarkable plant with a rich history and diverse range of uses. From its origins in the Far East to its widespread use globally, ginseng has remained a staple in traditional medicine and has found its place in modern dietary supplements and skincare products. Its unique combination of natural compounds makes it a plant of interest for ongoing research into its potential health benefits. As always, when considering taking any new supplement, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional.


Ginseng Health Benefits: A Dive into Scientific Studies

Ginseng is a widely used herbal supplement, renowned for its numerous potential health benefits. This article explores the scientific studies that shed light on these benefits.

Cognitive Function

Several studies suggest that ginseng may improve cognitive function. A study published in the Journal of Ginseng Research found that participants who took Panax ginseng for several weeks demonstrated improved mental performance in tasks like memory recall and reaction times.

Immune System Support

Ginseng is often touted for its immune-boosting properties. Research indicates that ginseng enhances the performance of cells playing a critical role in immunity. Ginseng has been found to boost the immune system, helping the body fight off infection and disease.

Energy Boost

Ginseng is commonly used to boost energy levels. A study in the Journal of Ethnopharmacology found that one of the main ginsenosides in ginseng, Rg1, has an energising effect on mice, which could potentially translate to humans.

Blood Sugar Control

Ginseng may also help control blood sugar levels. In a study published in the American Journal of Chinese Medicine, both American ginseng and Asian ginseng were found to lower blood sugar levels in people with and without diabetes.

Antioxidant Properties

Ginseng’s antioxidant properties are another area of interest. A study published in the journal Food Chemistry discovered that Korean red ginseng has high antioxidant activity, which can help reduce oxidative stress in the body.

Anti-Inflammatory Effects

Ginseng also exhibits anti-inflammatory effects. Research published in the Journal of Translational Medicine found that compounds in ginseng, specifically ginsenosides Rb1, Rg1, and Rg3, have potent anti-inflammatory effects.

Potential Cancer-Fighting Properties

Some research suggests that ginseng may have potential cancer-fighting properties. A study published in the Journal of Ginseng Research found that ginsenosides in ginseng can inhibit tumour growth.

Ginseng Health Side-Effects: A Review of Scientific Studies

Ginseng, while widely recognised for its health benefits, like any supplement, may also have side effects. This article explores scientific studies that have investigated these potential side effects.

Digestive Problems

Some individuals may experience digestive problems when taking ginseng. These can include nausea, diarrhoea, and stomach discomfort. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology found that some participants reported experiencing gastrointestinal problems when taking ginseng.

Sleep Problems and Nervousness

Ginseng can cause sleep problems in some individuals. This is possibly due to its stimulant effect, which can lead to nervousness and restlessness. A study in the Journal of Psychopharmacology found that high doses of ginseng led to sleep disturbances in participants.


Headaches are another potential side effect of ginseng use. While the exact reason for this isn’t clear, it’s thought that changes in blood pressure or reactions to ginsenosides might be responsible.

Allergic Reactions

Though rare, some people may experience allergic reactions to ginseng. Symptoms can include skin rashes, itching, and difficulty breathing. If you experience any signs of an allergic reaction after taking ginseng, it’s important to seek medical attention immediately.

Interactions with Medication

Ginseng can interact with certain medications, altering their effectiveness. For example, it can interfere with warfarin, a blood-thinning medication. A study published in the Annals of Pharmacotherapy reported a case where ginseng reduced the effectiveness of warfarin.

Hormonal Effects

Ginseng may have estrogen-like effects, which could affect individuals with hormone-sensitive conditions. A study published in Menopause found that ginseng could potentially stimulate the growth of breast cancer cells.

Is Ginseng Halal and Suitable for Muslims?

Ginseng is a popular herbal supplement known for its myriad health benefits. However, for many individuals, particularly those following a halal diet as part of their Muslim faith, it’s essential to know whether ginseng is halal and suitable for consumption. This article explores this topic in depth.

What Does Halal Mean?

‘Halal’ is an Arabic term which means ‘permissible’ in English. In the context of food and beverages, halal refers to what is permissible according to Islamic law, as defined in the Quran.

Is Ginseng Halal?

The root of the matter is that ginseng itself, being a plant, is naturally halal. Plants, fruits, vegetables, grains, and other plant-based foods are generally considered halal unless they have been processed or mixed with haram (forbidden) substances such as alcohol or pork.

However, when ginseng is processed or used as an ingredient in supplements or other products, its halal status may depend on several factors including the other ingredients used, the method of processing, and whether it has been certified halal by a reputable organisation.

For instance, if a ginseng supplement contains gelatine derived from a non-halal source such as pork, then it would not be suitable for Muslims. Similarly, if ginseng is used in an alcoholic beverage, this would also not be halal.

Halal Certification

To ensure that a ginseng product is halal, it’s advisable to look for products that have been certified halal by a reputable certification body. These organisations verify that a product meets the requirements of Islamic dietary laws.

For example, Cheong Kwan Jang, a famous Korean red ginseng brand, has received halal certification for its products. This means that their ginseng products are recognised as complying with Islamic rules and are appropriate for Muslim consumption.

Considerations When Buying Ginseng Products

When buying ginseng products, it’s crucial for Muslims to check whether the product has been certified halal. If it hasn’t, consider the ingredients and the manufacturing process.

Remember, even if the ginseng itself is halal, other ingredients in the product may not be. Always read labels carefully, and when in doubt, consult with a knowledgeable source or reach out to the manufacturer for clarification.

The numerous health benefits associated with ginseng, as evidenced by various scientific studies, make it a popular supplement worldwide. From boosting cognitive function and supporting the immune system to controlling blood sugar levels and exhibiting potential anti-cancer properties, ginseng indeed appears to be a powerhouse of health benefits.

However, while the research is promising, it’s important to remember that more extensive human trials are needed to fully understand the extent of ginseng’s health benefits and any potential side effects. As always, it’s advisable to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.