Ginseng has long been a prominent herb in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), a holistic folk medicine system with roots going back at least 2,500 years. The species of ginseng most commonly used for medicine is Panax ginseng, which is also known as “true” ginseng or Korean ginseng. This is the species that is usually referred to when speaking simply of “ginseng.” You may also come across other ginseng species like American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), Vietnamese ginseng (Panax vietnamensis), notoginseng and pseudo ginseng. Although they are all members of the ivy family, the medicinal properties of these other ginseng species are distinct from those of Panax ginseng.
The Chinese discovered Panax ginseng over 5,000 years ago. The plant was native to the mountains of Manchuria, a region of Northeast China. People quickly discovered its medicinal properties, and by the third century A.D. the herb was traded internationally. Throughout the early years of its use, all ginseng used was wild ginseng collected from the mountains. By the 1900s, the high demand for ginseng trade had decimated the supply of ginseng growing in the wild. Today, all ginseng sold is cultivated rather than gathered from nature. In many jurisdictions, the gathering of wild ginseng has been outlawed in order to prevent species extinction.
Ginseng contains various natural antioxidant compounds known as ginsenosides. These chemicals are responsible for the benefits of ginseng.
The Sexual Benefits of Ginseng For Men
Panax ginseng’s main use in Traditional Chinese Medicine was to enhance sexual function. Modern medical science confirms the effectiveness of this use. In fact, ginseng has several different benefits for sexuality. Though women can also enjoy many benefits of ginseng, the sexual health benefits may be more noticeable in men.
According to recent statistics, there are approximately 48.5 million couples worldwide who want to conceive a child but are suffering from infertility. Almost half the time, infertility between a couple is at least partially due to physical problems on the male’s side. There are several distinct causes of male infertility, but low sperm quality is a very prominent one. There is solid research, stretching back to the 1970s, showing that Panax ginseng promotes optimal sperm quality. Taking ginseng can also support healthy sperm count, i.e. the concentration of sperm cells in your semen; it can also increase sperm motility, or the sperm cells’ ability to travel through your female partner’s reproductive tract.
Erectile dysfunction greatly diminishes sexual satisfaction. Ginseng has also shown benefits in this area. In one study, 45 men who suffered from moderate to severe erectile dysfunction showed improvement after taking Panax ginseng for eight weeks. Another similar study involving 60 participants found that men had better erections after taking the herb for 12 weeks. Ginseng may provide these benefits because its active ingredients increase your body’s levels of nitric oxide, a chemical that helps blood vessels to expand. Ginseng relaxes the muscles and opens the blood vessels inside the penis, making it easier for blood to fill the corpus cavernosum.
Libido is another important component of male sexual function. Studies done on rodents have found that ginseng increases sex drive. This is due to its testosterone-boosting effects; researchers speculate that ginsenosides act like testosterone in the body because their molecules are structurally similar to steroid hormones. The effects of ginseng on libido are also partially due to the herb’s influence on neurotransmitters. There is also a small amount of research done on humans that confirms you can use ginseng to increase your sex drive.
Other Ways Ginseng Can Benefit Your Health
Taking a supplement containing ginseng to improve your sex life or fertility will also come with a range of other benefits. Ginseng promotes a healthy immune response in your body as well as a healthy response to stress. It also boost energy levels. Herbs with these properties are collectively known as adaptogens. Regularly taking an adaptogen supplement like ginseng can help you avoid the common cold and other illnesses. Long-term use may help you avoid inflammatory health conditions like diabetes, asthma and rheumatoid arthritis. Research even suggests that taking ginseng can help prevent anxiety and depression, two stress-related mental health problems.
Ginseng’s benefits for circulation are by no means limited to the genital region. Your whole cardiovascular system can benefit from ginseng. The antioxidant effects of ginsenosides can also reduce stress on the cells of your blood vessels and heart. Though more research is needed, this implies that taking ginseng could possibly decrease your risk of cardiovascular health problems.
Due to its effects on hormones, ginseng could help prevent osteoporosis, a disease that lowers your bone density, making bones very fragile.
Research shows that ginseng also promotes cognitive health. In one study, researchers gave 97 volunteers either Panax ginseng powder or a placebo for a period of 12 weeks. The scientists tested the participants’ cognitive function during and after the 12-week course. The group that received real ginseng powder showed improvements in cognition after taking the herb for 12 weeks. These cognitive improvements are probably due to the way ginsenosides promote neurogenesis.
However, the cognitive benefits of Panax ginseng only showed up after the study volunteers took the herb for 12 weeks. The benefits also slowly went away after they discontinued the supplement. Most other studies on Panax ginseng also involve taking it for at least 8-12 weeks. This means that ginseng is best used as a long-term supplement; with a short-term course of ginseng, you may not be able to enjoy the benefits.