In keeping with its reputation as an adaptogen, or whole-body tonic, ginseng has been found to enhance both mental and physical performance, aid fertility and virility in men, reduce fatigue, and lower blood sugar in diabetics.
Intelligence. In a 1996 Danish study, 112 middle-aged adults were given cognitive-function tests before and after taking a placebo or 400 mg per day of ginseng for eight weeks. The placebo group showed no change in brainpower, while those who took ginseng demonstrated significant improvement. British researchers conducted a similar study in 2002 using the same dose of ginseng, which again seemed to enhance memory and attentiveness.
Stamina and fatigue. When Italian researchers tested 50 male gym teachers, ages 21 to 47, on a treadmill, those taking ginseng had greater stamina than did the placebo group; another Italian study found that ginseng improves reaction time. And a 1999 Japanese study in the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics showed that the herb helps relieve the fatigue some women experience during menopause.
Diabetes. In a 2000 study published in Archives of Internal Medicine, University of Toronto researchers gave ginseng (a relatively high dose of three grams) to diabetics before a meal. Blood sugar typically rises after eating, but 40 minutes after the meal, the ginseng takers showed a decrease in blood sugar levels.
Reproduction and sex. While an Italian study showed that ginseng boosts sperm count, two Korean studies--published in 2002 in the Journal of Urology and in 1995 in the International Journal of Impotence Research--confirmed the herb's reputed aphrodisiac effect. Apparently, ginseng increases production of nitric oxide, which plays a key role in sex-related blood flow into the genitals; taking 900 mg three times per day helped restore faltering erections.
With so many benefits, it's no wonder that ginseng users taking as little as 200 mg daily continually report improved quality of life, mental health, and social functioning. After University of Connecticut investigators reviewed research on the herb as it relates to quality of life, their 2003 report, published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacy & Therapeutics, found improvement in eight out of nine studies.
Those are darned good odds for a naturally healthier life.