If you’re like us, you spend oodles of time looking for your next big beauty investment - the miracle ingredient that smoothes away your wrinkles and erases dark circles underneath your eyes. Who knew that the latest beauty secret - cropping up in everything from pills to under eye cream - is actually centuries old?
Non-Western medicine has embraced ginseng for thousands of years, and, for a root that looks an awful lot like ginger, it’s supposed to accomplish a laundry list of health and beauty musts:
Blast away wrinkles? Check.
Prevent the common cold? Yup.
Increase energy? Better than caffeine.
No wonder Americans have flipped for ginseng, which sits at the top of the “most popular” list of herbal supplements on the market today. Is there anything ginseng do?
Since it’s easy to get caught up in the buzz, we decided to conduct a little research of our own about this fascinating - and mysterious - supplement. Before you rush out and fill your cart with ginseng capsules, here’s what you need to know:
Boost Collagen Production and Blast Away Wrinkles
If you’re in a personal war against wrinkles and fine lines, ginseng sounds like it may be the answer to your prayers.
According to a 2011 study, ginseng contains antioxidant properties that can help lessen the effects of aging and improve dry, damaged skin. Who wouldn’t want to look a few years younger, especially if the time machine was an all-natural supplement like ginseng?
Annet King of the International Dermal Institute, confirmed ginseng’s antioxidant properties in a recent article from the health and beauty aficionados at Refinery29: "Ginseng is an antioxidant and stimulant, so it's great for brightening dull, aging skin,” King told the blog.
What’s more, it’s possible the root even encourages collagen production when used in a topical cream or moisturizer - which may explain why ginseng’s starting to show up in so many anti-aging campaigns!
Packed full of phytonutrients, the Ginseng Collagen Boost Mask increases collagen production for firmer, more elastic skin, giving you that elusive, youthful glow.
We’re feeling younger already.
More Than A Trend
We’re sure you’re already dreaming about saying goodbye to wrinkles forever - but ginseng is more than just a beauty trend.
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center (UMM), some studies show that ginseng may help you fight off a cold, increase heart health, beat the negative effects of stress, and reduce the risk of cancer.
“In one observational study,” reports the UMM, “researchers followed 4,634 people for 5 years. They found that those who took ginseng had lower risks of lung, liver, pancreatic, ovarian, and stomach cancers. But the study could not be sure that other things, including healthy eating habits, were responsible for the lower risk of cancer.”
Ginseng’s natural anti-inflammatory properties may contribute to some of these effects. But because the root is usually consumed along with other herbs, it’s difficult to assess whether ginseng is an effective cure-all, cautions the UMM’s website.
Similarly, some studies show a correlation between ginseng intake and better, more restful sleep. According to an article in Prevention, study participants who took red ginseng three times per day, “logged more REM sleep and spent less time awake in bed.”
Other studies have shown that ginseng has the opposite effect, making some people extra fidgety and nervous - especially if they regularly consume caffeine. Beware coffee drinkers!
And if you’re considering a slightly more new-age approach to health and beauty, the resurgence in herbal tinctures - including mixtures that use ginseng to correct an energy or “hormonal imbalance” - might be right up your alley.
As with most buzz surrounding the next “miracle” ingredient, we recommend taking reports about ginseng’s magical properties with a grain of salt - and a degree of optimism.
We’re Still Learning
Even though there are plenty of positives to using ginseng, we’d like to note that - as far as scientists are concerned - the jury’s still out on this particular supplement.
Few long-term studies in the West have verified claims about the root’s ability to improve cognitive function or prevent the common cold, even though non-Western countries have used ginseng to treat illnesses for centuries.
Take this recent study about using ginseng to treat fatigue in cancer patients as an example. Conducted by the Mayo Clinic Cancer Center, this trial followed 340 cancer patients over the course of eight weeks, studying whether 2,000 milligrams of ginseng would improve patient fatigue.
Scientists hoped to put the “natural energy booster” from traditional Chinese medicine to the test. According to the Mayo Clinic, ginseng “had not been tested extensively against the debilitating fatigue” experienced by the majority of cancer patients until the beginning of this 2011 trial.
At the study’s conclusion, the authors discovered that eight weeks of ginseng consumption led to “a 20-point improvement in fatigue in cancer patients, measured on a 100-point, standardized fatigue scale.”
Since cancer patients have to fight off the draining effects of chemo and other treatment, a little pep in their step is probably just what the doctor ordered.
As scientists learn more about the long-term effects of ginseng on cancer patients, it’s possible the root might become more widely accepted and studied in Western medicine. We’re sure the high-profile endorsement of the Mayo Clinic doesn’t hurt!
All in all, more trials - with more rigorous controls - need to be completed before the scientific community jumps on board with ginseng.
Despite initial reservations in the scientific community, millions of people turn to ginseng to increase their energy levels and overall health.
So, how often should you take it and what should you know about the supplement’s side effects?
As long as you communicate with your doctor about your use of ginseng - especially if you have diabetes or a heart condition - this supplement is relatively safe to take for short periods of time.
Most medical professionals recommend taking ginseng in cycles. For example, the University of Maryland Medical Center suggests taking ginseng supplements for three weeks, then abstaining from the supplement altogether for up to three weeks before beginning the cycle over again.
Keep an eye out for possible side effects, including anxiety, diarrhea, vomiting, and insomnia - and avoid taking ginseng if you’re on medications that stabilize high blood pressure or depression.
As with all supplements, you should use ginseng in moderation and only after consulting a doctor to make sure this powerful root won’t interact with any existing medications or conditions.
Whether you decide to turn to ginseng for an energy boost or as the latest addition to your anti-aging arsenal, this powerful supplement has plenty to offer those who are curious about one of the primary ingredients in traditional Chinese medicine.
We could all benefit from treating our bodies with a little more TLC - and if you can’t make the time to log lots of sleep or your job is zapping your strength, a little boost from ginseng might just do the trick.
Have you incorporated ginseng into your health or beauty routine? Share your success stories in the comments below: