There are a lot of supplements and herbal remedies out there that are being marketed as hugely beneficial for men, and it can be hard to figure out which ones are worth the money and which ones are the modern versions of “snake oil.” Men’s health is a complex topic, and men face a lot of challenges that are unique to their gender.1 Ginseng promises to tackle some of those issues, including reproductive health, but does it really work?
What Is Ginseng?
Ginseng is the name given to a group of plants with fleshy roots. There are several varieties of ginseng and two that are often discussed as having medicinal properties are Panax (American) ginseng and Asian ginseng.2 Advocates say that the plants can help boost energy, maintain healthy cholesterol levels, maintain healthy blood pressure, and promote relaxation.
Of course, many plants are promoted as having medicinal properties, and modern medicine does not operate on old wive’s tales alone. Before anything can be marketed as being useful medicinally, it must show effectiveness in clinical trials. Evidence for the effectiveness of ginseng is limited. There have been some studies looking into the use of ginseng for various health issues, but so far, the quality of those studies has been low. More research is required before any definitive claims can be made.3 That’s not to say ginseng doesn’t work, however. If you like the taste of it and would eat it anyway, then you could be doing yourself a lot of good by incorporating it into your daily routine simply because you enjoy consuming it.
Benefits of Ginseng
Acts as a Stimulant
Ginseng has a mild stimulant effect which can be helpful for reducing fatigue and improving cognitive function.4,5 If you would like to take something that is milder than caffeine but that can still give you a bit of a mental boost, then ginseng is worth trying out.
Improves Metabolic Health
One area of health that men should pay good attention to is their metabolic health. It is important that men pay attention to their cholesterol levels and also to their weight. Type 2 diabetes is becoming increasingly common in both men and women, and those who are overweight are at an increased risk of developing the condition.
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There have been numerous studies into the effectiveness of ginseng as a way of reducing LDL cholesterol, improving lipid profiles, and managing total cholesterol, and these studies have presented promising results.6,7,8
There have also been a number of studies into the effectiveness of ginseng-related therapies for people who have type 2 diabetes or impaired glucose tolerance, with studies being conducted both on animals and humans.9,10
It appears that ginseng can help improve blood sugar stability, thereby helping people maintain long-term glycemic control. This is particularly important for people who are at risk of developing serious complications as a result of their diabetes. Untreated diabetes can lead to peripheral neuropathy, for example, which can necessitate amputations if it is allowed to become serious. It is thought that the glycans in ginseng are what gives it the hypoglycemic effect.11
Maintains Healthy Sexual Function
Ginseng has historically been thought of as a sexual enhancer, and it was used for this purpose in traditional Chinese medicine. There are several studies which back up the idea that ginseng can improve libido.12
Is Ginseng Safe?
Ginseng is considered to be possibly safe for topical use, but it may be unsafe to take it orally, in large quantities, over a prolonged period of time.13 That’s not to say that ginseng is toxic, however. Consuming it in the amounts that are used in cooking or taking it occasionally should not cause issues. The problems arise when it is taken on a regular basis for more than six months. This is because some of the compounds found in ginseng have hormone-like effects which could be problematic if the root is consumed on a regular basis.
It is not recommended that children or babies consume Panax ginseng at all. Indeed there have been some cases of serious poisoning when younger children or babies have consumed the root. It is also not a good idea to take it if you have a heart condition, a bleeding condition, or are taking medications to control your blood sugar. Ginseng can interfere with your sleep, especially in large doses, so tread carefully if you have any sleep disorders.
As a general rule, you should not take any herbal remedies without consulting your doctor first if you are taking prescription medications or have a pre-existing medical condition. This applies not just to ginseng, but also to other herbs. The effects of herbal remedies can be quite varied, and they can often make medications either stronger or weaker, both of which could have serious implications for your health.
Once you’ve gotten the all-clear from your doctor, try out ginseng from time to time, whether it’s for the flavor or for the potential health benefits that it has been shown to provide.
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