Many people are aware of ginseng (Panax ginseng) for its apparent energizing effects, but this adaptogenic botanical has a lot of good things going for it. Aside from reducing stress by changing your physiological reactions to challenges through the day, it may also protect the delicate blood vessels in the brain and help brain cells fire more readily and efficiently.
Ginseng boosts nitric oxide production to keep blood flowing easily in the body and brain, adjusts hormone signaling to promote clear-mindedness, assists with neural cell regeneration (that is, creating new brain cells), and has anti-inflammatory actions that reduce threats to delicate brain wiring.
Other research has found that the very actions that protect the brain from damage may also reduce symptoms of depression. A Korean clinical study found that red ginseng significantly improved depression symptoms, including those somatic symptoms – the physical “drag” that people suffering from depression so often feel.
Red ginseng is Panax ginseng that has been steamed following harvest. This traditional steaming method helps the compounds in ginseng – known as ginsenosides – become more readily utilized by the body. Currently, there is also work underway with specialized growing techniques for ginseng that maximizes a special subset of these compounds called noble ginsensosides that are even more bioavailable and can potentially help people feel even more energized, clear-headed, and focused.
Ong WY, Farooqui T, Koh HL, Farooqui AA, Ling EA. Protective effects of ginseng on neurological disorders. Front Aging Neurosci. 2015 Jul 16;7:129.
Ginseng (Order: Apiales, Family: Araliaceae, Genus: Panax) has been used as a traditional herbal medicine for over 2000 years, and is recorded to have antianxiety, antidepressant and cognition enhancing properties. The protective effects of ginseng on neurological disorders are discussed in this review. Ginseng species and ginsenosides, and their intestinal metabolism and bioavailability are briefly introduced. This is followed by molecular mechanisms of effects of ginseng on the brain, including glutamatergic transmission, monoamine transmission, estrogen signaling, nitric oxide (NO) production, the Keap1/Nrf2 adaptive cellular stress pathway, neuronal survival, apoptosis, neural stem cells and neuroregeneration, microglia, astrocytes, oligodendrocytes and cerebral microvessels. The molecular mechanisms of the neuroprotective effects of ginseng in Alzheimer's disease (AD) including β-amyloid (Aβ) formation, tau hyperphosphorylation and oxidative stress, major depression, stroke, Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis are presented. It is hoped that this discussion will stimulate more studies on the use of ginseng in neurological disorders.
Jeong HG, Ko YH, Oh SY, Han C, Kim T, Joe SH. Effect of Korean Red Ginseng as an adjuvant treatment for women with residual symptoms of major depression. Asia Pac Psychiatry. 2015 Sep;7(3):330-6.
INTRODUCTION: Around 20% of patients with major depression experience residual symptoms. Ginseng has shown potential antidepressant effects in some animal studies and in patients with stress-related somatic symptoms. Therefore, we investigated the effectiveness and tolerability of Korean Red Ginseng adjuvant treatment in patients with residual symptoms of major depression.
METHODS: In this eight-week prospective study, 35 female outpatients aging from 18 to 65 years (45.1 ± 9.5), who were remitted from major depression with residual symptoms, were given Korean Red Ginseng at doses of 3 g/day. The Depression Residual Symptom Scale (DRSS) and Montgomery-Åsberg Depression Rating Scale (MADRS) were administrated to evaluate depressive symptoms. The general severity of symptoms was assessed by a clinician using the Clinical Global Impressions Scale for Severity (CGI-S). The Depression and Somatic Symptom Scale (DSSS) was also used to evaluate somatic symptoms in the subjects. This trial is registered at Clinical.gov, number NCT01496248.
RESULTS: Subjects reported significant decrease in depressive symptoms on the DRSS (P < 0.05) and MADRS (P < 0.01) decreased significantly over the eight-week period. The scores on the CGI-S, an objective measurement of symptoms, showed significant improvement in the severity of illness (P < 0.001). Somatic symptoms on the DSSS also attenuated significantly during the study period (P < 0.05).
DISCUSSION: These results suggest that Korean Red Ginseng is efficacious as an adjuvant treatment for patients experiencing residual symptoms of major depression. Future placebo-controlled research is required to confirm our results.
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