Supplement Smarts: Asian Ginseng

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If taken correctly, this type of ginseng may help to restore your mental and physical energy.

With a Starbucks on every corner, it’s obvious that caffeine is America’s first response to its personal energy crisis. But the caffeine in coffee and other products can backfire, leading to restlessness and insomnia. An alternative to caffeine’s quick fix is Panax ginseng, an adaptogenic (stabilizing) herb that may help the body cope long-term with fatigue, stress, immune-system dysfunction, and numerous other health conditions. The World Health Organization finds clinical support for ginseng’s use as a “restorative agent for enhancement of mental and physical capacities in cases of weakness, exhaustion, tiredness, and loss of concentration.”

Power Source 
There are three types of ginseng. The first two—Panax ginseng, also called Korean or Asian ginseng; Panax quinquefolius, also called American ginseng—contain active ingredients known as ginsenosides. Meanwhile, Siberian ginseng, which is a different plant, does not contain ginsenosides. In Chinese medicine, Panax quinquefolius is considered the cooling yin to the warming yang of Panax ginseng. And a study published in Acta Pharmacologica Sinica confirmed that Panax ginseng stimulates the central nervous system, while Panax quinquefolius calms it.

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A clinical study published in The Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine found that for healthy adults, Panax ginseng is safe and tolerated up to 2 grams per day for four weeks. However, the herb can negatively interact with a long list of medications; check with your health care practitioner before using. Also, women who are pregnant or nursing should avoid ginseng.

Use Asian Ginseng Right 
For health maintenance and improved energy, the University of Maryland Medical Center advises taking ginseng in cycles, e.g., three weeks on and two or three weeks off. Suggested daily supplementation usually ranges from 100 to 600 milligrams, standardized to at least 4 percent ginsenosides, in divided doses.

Two Asian Ginseng Supplements to Try

Paradise Herbs Panax Red Ginseng
$14/60 vegetarian capsules (200 mg extract standardized to 20 percent ginsenosides, with 50 mg licorice root, red date, and tangerine rind);

Solgar Korean Ginseng 
$20/60 vegetarian capsules (250 mg extract standardized to 8 percent ginsenosides, plus 200 mg raw ginseng powder);