An adaptogenic medicinal herb of mythological potency for increasing stamina and a profound sense of well-being.
Literally means 'True Ginseng' and refers to the most potent varieties of red ginseng with a wide array of performance enhancing and preventative health effects.
'Ginseng' alone sometimes refers to a wider category of less proven herbs that purportedly improve vitality and prevent disease.
This reminds me of a scene in, I think an old Jackie Chan movie, where an old Chinese guy is complaining about being sold fake Ginseng and his wife being disappointed with his performance.
So when purchasing Ginseng you want to take a careful look at the packaging to make sure you are getting Panax or True Ginseng or just order with confidence from one of the recommended sources on this page.
Getting Legit Ginseng
So anytime you are consuming an organic product that must cross vast distances in a gigantic ship to reach you there should be some concern for quality and legitimacy, especially when it's coming from a culture where merchants believe that if you can get away with screwing the customer, it's irresponsible not too.
A few recommendations for getting the real thing:
You can buy the actual roots themselves, and determine the age of the roots by yourself pretty easily by counting the notches above the 'head' of the root.
Avoid getting your Ginseng from a multi-vitamin that combines it with 5-10 other ingredients. These products inevitably dilute the quality of the individual ingredients. I recommend purchasing Ginseng as a stand alone supplement from a supplier that specializes in Ginseng and has their reputation riding on it's quality, also check for legitimate 3rd party credibility. Try to get Ginseng that is above 3% Ginsenoside content, if the product you are considering doesn't list the Ginsenoside content it's not a great sign.
A brand that ticks all these boxes is Auragin: Authentic 6-Year Korean Red Ginseng, also the top rated Ginseng product on Amazon. It's a little more expensive but if you really want to maximize the purported benefits from Ginseng it's probably going to be a great investment.
A final option, if you don't mind waiting 4-6 years is to plant your own Ginseng, they will grow pretty much anywhere none tropical and do best in a shaded, woody area. It's a very low maintenance crop and the seeds are cheap. You could basically plant the seeds, forget about them, come back in about half a decade and you would have your own supply of quality Ginseng for personal consumption or that you could sell for as much as $1000 per pound.
Ginseng is one of the few Nootropics that has been the subject of double blind, placebo controlled studies looking for performance enhancing effects in healthy young adults. Which is probably what you are, at least according to my Youtube viewership analytics.
From a double blind University of Northumbria study:
"All three treatments were associated with improved secondary memory performance on the [Cognitive Drug Research] battery, with the ginseng condition evincing some improvement in the speed of performing memory tasks and in the accuracy of attentional tasks."
A 2010 human study found that 400 milligrams enhanced reaction time two and a half hours after ingestion while interestingly 200 milligrams had a retarding effect on reaction times. So this is one Nootropic that you don't want to start at a low dosage with a work your way up, start at 400 milligrams.
A handful of human studies have shown that Ginseng usage improved subjective well being, mood and even social functioning after 4 weeks, yet around the 8 week marker, the mental health scores were tantamount to that of the placebo, suggesting a tolerance curve. To quote the abstract of a University of Connecticut study:
"[Panax Ginseng] improves aspects of mental health and social functioning after 4 weeks of therapy, although these differences attenuate with continued use."
Maybe a good reason to cycle your usage of Ginseng in 4 week increments if your primary objective is to optimize mood.
A significant placebo controlled study of several hundred human subjects over 12 weeks, strongly suggested a quintessential cofactor relationship with Ginkgo Biloba, together they had an exponential effect on alertness, relaxation and appetite. From it's abstract:
"It was concluded that despite the fact that healthy, employed subjects were evaluated, treatment with the combination of active substances had significant advantages over placebo therapy."
A 2005 human study out of Northumbria University dosing participants on G115 (4% Ginsenosides) and requiring them to complete some brain training tasks concluded:
"Overall these data suggest that Panax ginseng can improve performance and subjective feelings of mental fatigue during sustained mental activity."
...Is an inevitable side effect of a life lived vigorously. A 2012 Korean study of healthy adults found the antioxidant mechanism of Ginseng did attenuate oxidative damage to DNA. Let me translate that for those watching who have not been in a science classroom for a long time:
Attenuate is kind of fancy word that just means to decrease the force or effect of something. Researching Nootropics or antiaging you are going to hear about oxidative damage a lot.
The famous Transhumanist Aubrey De Gray is fond of saying: "Breathing is bad for us."
Which sounds a little absurd but it's actually quiet easy to see that oxygen has a destructive effect:
- If you leave food out it goes bad.
- A piece of metal exposed to the air and elements will eventually rust.
The same slow destructive chemical effect of oxygen is at the core of the aging malfunction to which we are subjected.
From the the abstract of the Korean study:
"The reported health benefits of Korean red ginseng (KRG) include antioxidant, antitumor, antimutagenic, and immunomodulatory activities; however, the effects on oxidative stress have not yet been evaluated... Fifty-seven subjects completed the protocol. Plasma superoxide dismutase (SOD) activity after the 8-week [Korean red ginseng] supplementation was significantly higher in the low-and high-dose groups compared to baseline... [Korean red ginseng] supplementation may attenuate lymphocyte DNA damage and LDL oxidation by upregulating antioxidant enzyme activity."
There's a couple of promising animal studies in regards to it's anti-depressive effects. However, there's a lack of human studies showing a really clear beneficial effect. If you're struggling with Depression, there's a lot of other Nootropics I would experiment with first, like Vitamin B12.
A 2009 University of Tokushima study of 16 healthy young men suggested Fermented Ginseng could be quiet the sleep hack. From it's abstract:
"Furthermore, there was some evidence (using simple pairwise comparisons but not supported in the full ANOVA model) that administration of [fermented ginseng] tended to diminish decreases in total sleep time and sleep efficiency (seen as first night effects in the placebo group) without affecting sleep architecture... Our results suggest the administration of [fermented ginseng] could improve the [first-night effect] in humans. The improvement may be related to an anxiolytic effect of [fermented ginseng] which acts via GABAergic modification."
First-night effect is what it sounds like, and probably something you've experienced, the negative effect on sleep quality of sleeping somewhere brand new. This makes Fermented Ginseng something worth trying for...
- Business travelers
- Digital nomads
- And Skanks!
It's an adaptogen that will probably make you frisky! A 2009 Korean study of 143 men experiencing erectile dysfunction, concluded after 8 weeks of treatment at 2 grams daily:
"Erectile function and overall satisfaction scores after medication were significantly higher in the [mountain ginseng extract] group than in the placebo group..."
It's not just for guys, a 2010 Korean study of 32 menopausal woman using double blind, placebo controlled methodology concluded...
"Oral administration of [Korean red ginseng] extracts improved sexual arousal in menopausal women. Red ginseng extracts might be used as an alternative medicine in menopausal women to improve their sexual life."
Ginseng (along with Tyrosine) is a Nootropic that Edward Shackleton really would have appreciated having on his disastrous voyage, it's a stress response biohack that imbues resilience and an indomitable spirit.
Eleutherococcus senticosus, is another historical Nootropic known for "invigorating qi and strengthening the spleen, tonifying kidney to relieve mental strain" in traditional Chinese medicine. It's a classic adaptogen, that modulates our hormones and many subtleties of how our biology responds to internal and external stressors. Commonly just referred to as Eleuthero.
Not a 'true' Ginseng? Eleuthero is actually a totally different species of herb, it owes it's namesake to similarities of appearance with Panax Ginseng. While less known than True Ginseng, there are over 250 scientific articles published on Pubmed and 24 human clinical trials...
Interestingly an Australian study of endurance athletes found that it optimized the hormonal stress responses:
"This result suggested that contrary to initial expectation, [Siberian Ginseng] increased rather than decreased hormonal indices of stress, which may be consistent with animal research suggesting a threshold of stress below which [Siberian Ginseng] increases the stress response and above which [Siberian Ginseng] decreases the stress response."
An Italian study found 300 milligrams daily is something of a social smart drug for the elderly, it concluded:
"[Siberian Ginseng] safely improves some aspects of mental health and social functioning after 4 weeks of therapy, although these differences attenuate with continued use."
So again we see the 4 week tolerance curve show up...
A Fu Jen Catholic University 2010 study of 9 men over 8 weeks found that it boosts endurance capacity:
"This is the first well-conducted study that shows that 8-week [Eleutherococcus senticosus] supplementation enhances endurance capacity, elevates cardiovascular functions and alters the metabolism for sparing glycogen in recreationally trained males."
A couple of studies suggested that it can have a profound effect on those suffering from PTSD as it hacks Neuropeptide Y. From a 2012 Romanian study of 40 military personnel:
"Adaptogens could be an important factor in successful prevention protocols of chronic occupational stress dysfunctions involving [Neuropeptide Y] systems."
An American study of 11 combat veterans concurred:
"Plasma [Neuropeptide Y] levels may represent a biologic correlate of resilience to or recovery from the adverse effects of stress."
A 2012 Swedish paper goes on to explain some of the Adaptogenic mechanism:
"The beneficial stress-protective effect of adaptogens is related to the regulation of homeostasis via mechanisms of action associated with the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and the regulation of key mediators of the stress response... Taken together our studies suggest that the stimulation and release of the stress hormones, [Neuropeptide Y] and [heat shock protein], into systemic circulation is an innate defense response against mild stressors (ADAPT-232), which increase tolerance and adaptation to stress."
Siberian Ginseng is approximately 1/3 of Adapt-232, which is the adaptogenic-rich formula that the Soviet regime developed for it's extreme athletes, soldiers fighting in Afghanistan, supersonic aviators and cosmonaut program, that you can't buy. Google it. It's not for sale anywhere. I'm currently researching the formula and will be selling it in a few months, join our newsletter to be notified when it becomes available.
Mechanism of Action
Steroid-like Ginsenoside molecules are the active ingredients in Ginseng, in fact there are over 100 Ginsenosides found in Ginseng that fall generally into these 4 classes:
To quote a University of Chicago review of it's pharmacology:
"The major active components of ginseng are ginsenosides, a diverse group of steroidal saponins, which demonstrate the ability to target a myriad of tissues, producing an array of pharmacological responses. However, many mechanisms of ginsenoside activity still remain unknown. Since ginsenosides and other constituents of ginseng produce effects that are different from one another, and a single ginsenoside initiates multiple actions in the same tissue, the overall pharmacology of ginseng is complex."
However, just taking Ginsenosides extracts is not going to deliver the same benefits as consuming supplements derived from the whole root. Ginseng root is also rich in beneficial polysaccharides.
A double blind, placebo controlled UK study of 15 healthy young people examined the effects of Ginseng with the EEG monitoring of brain waves, it concluded:
"Both Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng exert a number of physiological effects and have been shown to modulate aspects of cognitive performance... These findings demonstrate for the first time that [Panax ginseng] can directly modulate cerebroelectrical activity, and that these effects are more pronounced than those following [Ginkgo biloba]."
Itself is a bit of a drama queen as far as plants go; if there's too much sound the plant will hide and shrink it's blossom, while at night older plants are supposedly bioluminescent, they emit a slight glow.
It's not an overnight herb, Ginseng must grow for at least 4 years to be harvested for medicinal properties. In farming operations, after the Ginseng crop is harvested the soil is unable to support Ginseng again and the land must be re-purposed.
Ginseng leaf and stem have pharmacological properties that some debate are as potent and a better value than the historically prized root. From a 2009 University of Chicago review:
"Ginseng leaf-stem extract contains numerous active ingredients, such as ginsenosides, polysaccharides, triterpenoids, flavonoids, volatile oils, polyacetylenic alcohols, peptides, amino acids and fatty acids. The extract contains larger amounts of the same active ingredients than the root. These active ingredients produce multifaceted pharmacological effects on the central nervous system, as well as on the cardiovascular, reproductive and metabolic systems. Ginseng leaf-stem extract also has anti-fatigue, anti-hyperglycemic, anti-obesity, anti-cancer, anti-oxidant and anti-aging properties."
Truly an ancient Biohack, Ginseng was first mentioned in as late as 9000 years ago. A lot of mythology and superstition surrounds it.
Usual Ginseng that you will consume is 4-6 years old, however it gets steeply more expensive as it ages...
- 300 year old wild Ginseng root was sold for $400,000 in Jilin, China
- A thousand year old root was sold in auction for over $250,000 in China
It's age is easy to determine by the rings on the Ginseng root. Supposedly as the plants age they absorb more nutrients from the soil around them and develop even more profound medicinal benefits, however I was unable to find any human studies proving this. There's so many anecdotal reports praising the potency of aged Panax Ginseng that it's probably a combination of superstition, placebo effect and reality.
So if you are an Asian millionaire considering investing heavily in an ancient Ginseng root - like let's say the Ginseng salesman is telling you something like "Genghis Khan himself took a shit next to a battlefield and this very Ginseng root actually grew out of it and if you consume it you will be imbued with the virility of a 22 year old pornstar able to satisfy women like Sybian vibrator..." - that would be a purchasing decision more motivated by superstition than science and the benefits you experience will be more placebo effect than anything else. You should really do a consultation with me before you spend a million Yuan on the 'Genghis Ginseng'.
Together they had an exponential effect on alertness, relaxation and appetite. From a Bulgarian study:
"The favorable effects on learning and memory of the combination of [Panax Ginseng] plus [Ginkgo Biloba] and the other pharmacological activities inherent in the extracts characterize this combination, offered as Gincosan as a particularly promising drug in geriatric practice."
Another excellent adaptogenic herb, debatably it has a powerful synergy with Ginseng.
Kai Xin San
Kai Xin San, is the delivering servant of Panax Ginseng in folk medicine annals, which a handful of Beijing studies agree with. A 2012 review out of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University emphasized the relative safety of taking Rhodiola as part of a smart drug stack:
"Being an adaptogen, Rhodiola rosea bears various pharmacological effects. It is particularly useful in that it does not interfere with other drugs nor have any adverse effects in the course of clinical trials..."
"Moreover, long -term use of the herb— especially in doses exceeding 3 grams a day— is cause for concern. Some adolescent boys and others who have taken megadoses of Panax ginseng to build strength and endurance have experienced estrogen-like effects, such as painful swelling of the breasts."