Super foods

Ginseng Tea: The definitive guide

Have you heard about Ginseng? - The natural 'viagra'

Story Highlights

  • Ginseng tea is a popular beverage that is considered to have many health benefits.
  • American ginseng and Korean ginseng are the two commonly used Ginseng varieties.
  • The use of Ginseng for health is documented as far back as 5000 years.
  • Ginseng Tea's healing power attributes to its anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties.
  • Buy Authentic American Ginseng tea.
Ginseng is a deciduous plant of the genus Panax. There are two well-known, commonly used species of ginseng: American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) and Korean ginseng, also known as Asian ginseng. 12 Both species of the plant are a fleshy root that grows in cooler climates. 3 These are not to be confused with Siberian ginseng, which does come from the same family Araliaceae, but is not actually ginseng. 4

The name Ginseng translates to a Chinese term meaning “man root“. This is due to the fact that Ginseng root sometimes resembles a human body in appearance and it was even thought that a closer resemblance of the root to a human body meant more potency.

History of Ginseng

The root itself has a very long and interesting history, spreading across variety of cultures that all seem to hold its medicinal properties in high esteem. 5 Ginseng first became popular in ancient China. 6 Consumption of the root for improved health was documented as far back as 5,000 years ago. Ginseng was also popular in ancient India, where it was praised in the religious texts of the Vedas. 78 Conversely, American settlers discovered ginseng in the early 1900s. 9 10 Following the discovery of American ginseng by settlers, popularity of the root led to an exponential increase in trade with Asia. It should be noted that American ginseng was used by Native Americans for hundreds of years prior. Initially, both species of ginseng root were gathered in the wild.

Unfortunately, popular demand and naturally occurring shortages of wild ginseng have reduced wild populations considerably. As a result, there has been a boom of cultivation techniques 11 12 13 and astronomic price increases (i.e. $500 per pound of dried root) for wild ginseng. 14 15

Composition of Ginseng Root

ginseng-root

The growing global demand for ginseng and potential health benefits have prompted researchers to study its basic constituents. As a result of decades of research, ginseng is currently known to have up to 200 substances (e.g., ginsenosides, peptides, polysaccharides, amino acids).

The primary and active constituents in both Asian and American ginseng are saponins (groups of naturally occurring glycosides). 16 17 Ginsenosides are a particular glycoside saponin (one of thirteen identified thus far) that is of particular interest. 18 There are approximately 40 different ginsenoside compounds in ginseng and American ginseng has more gensinoside compounds than Asian ginseng.

Ginsenosides are known to be ginseng’s most pharmacologically active constituents, and therefore garner the most attention. 19 It should be noted that Asian ginseng also contains polysaccharide fraction DPG-3-2, maltol, B vitamins, glycans (panaxans), flavonoids, peptides and volatile oil. 20 Furthermore, steaming of Asian ginseng (referred to as red ginseng) produces additional, unique ginsenosides. 21 Both ginseng supplements and ginseng tea are typically made from the root and the long, thin offshoots called root hairs, 22 but ginseng researchers today are attempting to examine isolated ginsenosides as opposed to the effects of the root as a whole. 23

There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea.
– Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady

Ginseng Tea and its Preparation

While ginseng root may be consumed in a variety of ways, more common methods of consumption include supplements in capsule form and drinking ginseng tea. Many drinkers of ginseng tea speak of its energy enhancing effects. However, it is important to note that ginseng does not actually contain caffeine 24. In fact, these are two very different substances. Therefore, it is likely any ginseng tea products listing caffeine on the packaging have added a caffeinated ingredient to the tea.

Ginseng tea may lack caffeine, but it is a very popular and widely consumed drink. Preparation of ginseng tea begins with the selection of a species (American or Asian). Some believe Asian ginseng is best consumed during cooler seasons due to its unique warming characteristics. Conversely, American ginseng is preferred as a warm season tea for its cooling effects. 25 Once you have selected a species, search for a means of procuring fresh roots. Fresh ginseng root is often touted as the only way to prepare quality ginseng tea. 26

Preparing Ginseng Tea from Fresh Roots

• Wash the roots in warm water.
• Dice or shave fresh roots into the smallest pieces possible.
• Place a heaping tablespoon of the prepared root into a tea ball. Check out these awesome Holiday themed tea balls.
• Bring 8 ounces of water to a boil and then shut off the heat. Do not add roots to boiling water, it can destroy beneficial chemicals. Allow the water to cool for approximately 1-2 minutes.
• Pour into a tea cup and add the tea ball.
• Steep for 5-10 minutes depending on your preferences.
• Remove the tea ball and enjoy the Ginseng tea alone or with honey.
• Don’t forget you can still eat the shavings in the tea ball for additional benefits.

Preparing Ginseng Tea from Dried Roots

Unfortunately, it is often difficult to obtain fresh ginseng root, thus the dried and powdered versions of the root are also frequently used when making tea. 27 Should it be problematic to procure this funny looking root in its freshest form, follow these steps to make ginseng tea with dried root: 28

• Using a grinder, coarsely chop the dried ginseng roots.
• Place a heaping teaspoon of the ground root into a tea ball infuser and tightly seal.
• Bring 16 ounces of water to a boil.
• Add the infuser to the water, and reduce to a simmer for approximately 10 minutes.
• Remove infuser and pour into a mug to enjoy.

Flavor Profile of Ginseng Tea

Dried ginseng will taste somewhat bitter compared to fresh roots, which more closely resemble the flavor profile of ginger root. A quality cup of ginseng tea will taste earthy, but should not be overwhelmingly bitter. Many lovers of ginseng tea would protest to adding sweeteners and advocate the drinker to appreciate the unique flavor of the tea. 29 But it may take time to become accustomed to this distinctive flavor, so feel free to use sweeteners such as honey and enjoy. Once you become accustomed to the flavor of ginseng tea, consider reducing or slowly eliminating sweeteners altogether.

Recommended Dosage of Ginseng Tea

While one to two cups of ginseng tea each day may be safe, please consider some important caveats of ingesting ginseng tea and ginseng supplements. The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that ginseng, in any dose, is not recommended for consumption by children. 30 Additionally, regular, long-term consumption of ginseng tea/supplements should be discussed in detail with your personal physician. Here are some general dosage recommendations for ginseng intake in adults: 31

Form of Ginseng Dosage Frequency Max Safe Dosage
Raw Fluid Extract ¼ - ½ Tsp. 1 - 3 Times Daily 1¾ - 10½ Tsp. in 7 Day Period
Tincture (1:5 ratio) 1 - 2 Tsp. 1 - 3 Times Daily 7 - 42 Tsp. in 7 Day Period
Tea (Fresh/Dried) 2 gm 1 Time Daily 14gm in 7 Day Period

Some individuals consuming ginseng tea/supplements for prolonged periods should discuss the need for a 2-week ginseng-free period (implemented every two-three weeks) with their physician. 32

Ginseng Tea’s 10 potential health benefits

While many studies have studies safe dosages of ginseng, there are many more attempting to understand the effects ginseng may have on your health. When reading these studies, consider that several meta-analysis and reviews of ginseng research proclaim the vast majority of studies lacks validity. 33 34 35 Studies can often contradict each other because it is difficult to extract a standardized amount of compounds from roots. Additionally, concentration levels of compounds in the roots (e.g., ginsenosides) can vary naturally from plant to plant and across species. 36 Lack of validity is particularly true regarding studies assessing ginseng’s effects on arbitrary constructs like energy levels. Concepts like ‘energy’ are difficult to define and standardize across participants. For example, what one participant reports as low-energy may in fact be a very different feeling for another participant. 37

Finally, consider that the majority of ginseng studies are likely conducted with concentrated extracts and frequently given in the form of capsules or powders. 38 39 40 Method of consumption and dosage concentration should not necessarily preclude generalizations of the findings for extracts to ginseng tea. However, it should provide some perspective about the kinds of generalizations that can be made. For instance, the effects of concentrated supplements on health will likely be greater than the effects of a cup of ginseng tea (which is expected to have a weaker concentration of pharmacologically active ingredients). Continuing, there are very few publications directly assessing effects of ginseng tea. As a result, the studies referenced in this article are typically designed with concentrated extracts in the form of powders or capsules. Ultimately, it seems prudent to entertain a healthy level of skepticism when reviewing published findings.

Ginseng Tea for fighting chronic and degenerative diseases

Both Asian ginseng and American ginseng appear to have antioxidant properties. 41 42 43 44 Antioxidants are compounds that counteract oxidative stress caused by a buildup of free radicals (i.e., toxins) in the body. When your body becomes bogged down with an abnormal accumulation of free radicals, oxidative stress may occur and contribute to the development of chronic, inflammatory, and degenerative diseases such as autoimmunity (e.g., lupus, rheumatoid arthritis), cancers, aging, and cardiovascular disease. 45

A study published in 2000, in the Journal of Molecular and Cellular Biology, found that North American ginseng extract exhibited effective antioxidant activity in aged rats. 46 A more recent study in 2015, published in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition, also found that one cup of a freshly prepared American ginseng tea infusion protected human participant cellular DNA from oxidative stress within two hours of consumption. 47

If ginseng has antioxidant properties, it should follow that consumption of ginseng may fight oxidative stress related to chronic and degenerative diseases such as heart disease. However, a publication from 2011 reviewed a large number of studies assessing the effects of ginseng on cardiovascular health found a paucity of clinical research on the subject, and a lack of validity with existing research warranting more studies. 48

diabetesSimilarly, there are preliminary studies that suggest ginseng may help with the regulation of insulin levels and reduce blood sugar in individuals with well-controlled type 2 diabetes. 49 But the University of Maryland Medical Center warns, until this relationship is better understood, people with type 2 diabetes should consult their physician prior to consuming ginseng. 50

Antioxidant activity should also suggest ginseng can help with inflammation and inflammatory diseases. 51 Some studies have found that Asian ginseng provides relief for ulcerative colitis, 52 human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) 53 and rheumatoid arthritis 54 but these findings are just as preliminary and lacking in replication as with the research on heart disease.

Ginseng Tea for boosting the immune system: cold and flu prevention

It has been suggested that American ginseng may curb immune responses. 55 Additionally, it is offered as a well-known immune stimulant. 56 However, a systematic review published in the Journal of Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine found studies with both American and Asian ginseng did not support the use of ginseng to reduce the occurrence or intensity of the common cold. 57 The same study conceded that American ginseng, taken as a preventative, may be effective in reducing the duration of colds and acute respiratory infections in otherwise healthy adults.

Ginseng Tea for relieving alcohol hangover

Interestingly, many symptoms of the common cold may be experienced when consuming too much alcohol (e.g., headache, nausea, inflammation). These similarities are often referred to as “bottle flu” or a hangover. 58 A study conducted in 2014, published in the Journal of Food and Function, found that red ginseng relieved symptoms of alcohol hangover in otherwise healthy male participants. 59

Ginseng Tea for mental and cognitive health and performance

Hundreds of studies have assessed the effect of ginseng on mental performance and mental health. 60 Unfortunately, mental and cognitive constructs are often no more objective or easy to measure than energy levels. As reported in a 2013 meta-analysis, the vast majority of Korean publications on ginseng and mental performance are generally of poor quality. The selection process for valid studies to include in the meta-analysis resulted in the exclusion of 1,385 of the 1,415 identified studies. 61 Only 30 studies qualified! Furthermore, a meta-analysis evaluating the efficacy of ginseng for improvement of cognitive performance across nine separate studies reported a lack of evidence, particularly with dementia patients. 62 It was conceded in the same study that some evidence may exist for improvements with a few aspects of cognitive function, behavior, and quality of life. Similarly, one study found no evidence for working memory performance improvement following ingestion of ginseng. 63

Ginseng Tea for treatment of ADHD

While cognitive performance may not benefit significantly from the consumption of ginseng. Several studies are finding improved symptoms for children with ADHD. One Korean study found children between six and fourteen years of age benefited from a 1,000 mg dosage of red ginseng twice daily over a period of eight weeks. It should be noted that all 18 participants received the treatment, and it is entirely possible improvements were the result of the passage of time. 64

Ginseng Tea for treatment of depression

depressionDepression is another mental health pandemic that has been reportedly dissuaded with the use of ginseng. In 2009, anti-depressant effects were recorded in animals when ginseng was administered in doses of 50 and 100mg/kg over a seven-day treatment period. 65 In contrast, a review of eight studies that assessed the effects of ginseng on quality of life found no consistent evidence of improvement in human participants. While the individual studies reviewed did have positive results, overall improvement in health-related quality of life was not supported. 66 Continuing, it is possible that ginseng as an adjuvant treatment may modulate somatic and depressive symptoms as reported in one study with 35 females suffering from residual symptoms of major depression. 67 Much like other areas of research with ginseng, effects on somatic and depressive symptoms should be further evaluated.

Ginseng Tea for women’s health

Several studies have demonstrated that estrogen receptors in the body are activated by both American and Korean Red ginseng. 68 69 Estrogen is a hormone vital to female reproductive health, the nervous systems, cardiovascular health, and immune health. 70 Both menstruation and menopause are processes related to estrogen. In 2014, a study in the Journal of the International Society for Complementary Medicine Research assessed changes in gynecologic complaints in young women that consumed 2.7 grams of Korean Red ginseng per day for a two-week period. Participants reported reductions in menstrual irregularity, menstrual pain, and constipation. 71 In addition, a review of four studies assessing the effect of ginseng on symptoms of menopause found limited preliminary support for management of menopausal symptoms. 72 Considering almost half the population may benefit from additional treatments for gynecologic complaints, including menopause, more research is warranted.

Ginseng Tea for sex drive, fertility and erectile dysfunction

As mentioned previously, ginseng has been known to affect human sex hormones. However, more research is needed before suggesting ginseng be used to effect hormone-dependent bodily functions. 73 There is very little actual research assessing ginseng and its potential effects on female fertility. We do know that it is relevant to uterine health which may play a role in prevention of infertility, but more research is needed. 74 There is a more substantial body of work looking at ginseng and its potential to address erectile dysfunction. 75 One study evaluated 90 participants for changes in frequency of intercourse, premature ejaculation, and morning erections. Participants that received the ginseng supplement reported increased libido and satisfaction, while participants on placebos did not. 76

Ginseng Tea for cancer and chemotherapy

Quite a few studies exist evaluating the efficacy of ginseng in the prevention and treatment of cancer and related symptoms. Chronic inflammation is associated with high cancer risk. 77 It should therefore follow that antioxidant properties of ginsenosides may have a positive impact on cancer and related diseases. One publication reviewed ginseng’s anti-inflammatory molecular properties and suggested it may target many key components of the inflammation-to-cancer sequence (i.e., it may play a preventative role). 78 A correlational publication in the journal Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers and Prevention found cancer risk was significantly less for people that consumed ginseng compared with those that did not. Additionally, they found participants that consumed fresh extracts, or white and red ginseng powders, were the ones to see the most benefit. Fresh slices of ginseng root, ginseng juice, and ginseng tea did not show these effects. Cancer patients that must go through chemotherapy may benefit from consuming ginseng as well. A 2012 study of 340 chemotherapy patients saw significant improvements in fatigue symptoms following eight weeks of treatment with high doses (i.e., 2000mg) of pure ground American ginseng. 79

Ginseng Tea for weight loss

baking-soda-bath-weight-lossBeing a natural appetite suppressant, Ginseng tea helps maintain a healthy weight and may in fact help you loose a few pounds. Ginseng also helps boost metabolism helping the body burn more calories faster. There are studies that showed Ginseng promotes weight loss and anti-obesity effects in mice. 80 81

Precautions and Potential Side Effects of Ginseng Tea

While the sheer number of health benefits that ginseng may provide are enough to entice even the pickiest of tea drinkers to take a sip, there are many side effects that must also be considered prior to beginning any formal dosage or regimen. Remember that many of the claims made about the properties of ginseng are still being evaluated by researchers, and one or two studies on a particular topic is never enough to assume the findings to be correct or true.

It is currently believed that the short-term use of ginseng is safe for most people (e.g., extracts, powders, supplements). Should you require long-term consumption of ginseng, it may be wise to discuss a two-week ginseng-free period every month with your doctor. Should you experience headache, sleep problems, or digestive problems, immediately stop consuming ginseng until you discuss these symptoms with your personal physician. 82

Precautions for Individuals with Specific Health Concerns

As mentioned previously, there is some evidence that ginseng may affect blood sugar and blood pressure. If you are diabetic or have hypertension, do not take ginseng without prior discussions with a healthcare professional. Ginseng consumption is also documented to cause or aggravate insomnia, restlessness, anxiety, euphoria, diarrhea, vomiting, nose bleed, breast pain and vaginal bleeding. 83 If you experience any of these symptoms while taking ginseng, immediately report them to your doctor and cease consumption of ginseng. Be particularly careful with the use of Warfarin, an anticoagulant used in the prevention of heart attack, stroke, and blood clot as a recent study found taking both Warfarin and ginseng may lead to excessive bleeding. 84

Precautions for Pregnant or nursing women

Additional precautions should be taken with ginseng during pregnancy, this is especially true during the first trimester and when nursing. 85 If you are currently taking any other medications, do not start a ginseng regimen until potential medication interactions are discussed with your doctor or pharmacist.

Summary

Ginseng root and its extracts and teas may be a viable option for many to address a variety of health concerns. While the relative safety of ginseng is documented in several research studies, it is always best to consult your physician prior to beginning the regular consumption of ginseng in any form. Of all the forms of consumption available, ginseng tea may be a more inexpensive and easier means of reaping the potential benefits of ginsenosides. Regardless of whether ginseng root provides any health benefits, enjoying a hot cup of ginseng tea is in its own right a beneficial and enjoyable experience.

References


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Krista Saksena

Krista received her Master’s Degree in Applied Behavior Analysis from California State University, Sacramento in 2016. In practice, Krista provides feeding and nutrition therapy services to children diagnosed with developmental disabilities. However, her Masters training provided a litany of opportunities to write for publications in peer-reviewed journal articles where she developed her appreciation for comprehensive literature reviews. Krista has contributed to text-book chapters, academic manuscripts, and a variety of online publications covering diverse topics.

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