Panax ginseng is a nootropic of many names and mysteries. Native to traditional Chinese medicine, it is also called Korean ginseng, true ginseng, and Asian ginseng (though some vary the processing method). The plant has been a natural source of cognitive enhancement for thousands of years and modern science has finally started to validate the claims.
The panax ginseng plant is commonly used as a powerful cognition booster, which helps features like reaction time and accuracy . Many of the cognitive benefits of panax ginseng are related to reducing mental fatigue. By reducing or alleviating the fatigue, mental performance increases.
The other major benefit of panax ginseng is mood and wellbeing. Users report feeling less anxiety, depression, and studies show an increase in wellbeing and happiness . Because panax ginseng is so widely used (for both the brain and body), there are hundreds of studies on the topic. This has translated into many studies on panax ginseng safety and confirmation of efficacy.
Also Known As
True Ginseng, Ginseng, Panax, Mountain Ginseng, Wild Ginseng
History of Panax Ginseng
Ginseng is native to Asia and has been cultivated for use in Traditional Chinese Medicine for thousands of years. Throughout the cultivation, Chinese scholars and early scientists experimented and found many uses for panax ginseng and methods of creating cognitive and physical enhancement.
Similar to the process of tea, over time the Chinese learned how to use the same plant and process it in different ways. For example, Korean red ginseng is the same plant as panax ginseng, but is processed slightly different. The Korean red ginseng was steamed and dried while panax ginseng had a slightly different process .
Ginseng cultivated in Korea is classified into three types, depending on how it’s processed:
- Fresh ginseng is less than four years old.
- White ginseng is between four and six years old and is dried after peeling.
- Red ginseng is harvested, steamed and dried when it’s six years old.
American ginseng isn’t ready for use until it’s grown for about six years; it’s endangered in the wild, so now it’s grown on farms to protect it from over-harvesting.
In choosing ginseng, fermented ginseng may provide faster, more consistent absorption compared to non-fermented varieties. And if you choose Asian ginseng, look for the unpeeled variety, as it will retain more of its bioactive compounds.
These slight variations in the ginseng plant created wide changes in their interactions with the human brain. The Chinese living and using ginseng thousands of years ago were no dummies. They produced and innovated on the production methods of ginseng for many centuries and their legacy we can benefit from today.
Benefits of Panax Ginseng
While there are many touted benefits of panax ginseng, a few of them are specifically for cognitive abilities and the brain. Specifically, general “Cognition” is a panax ginseng benefit that is characterized by a host of features. One study showed that 400 mg of panax ginseng extract could improve arithmetic (math) skills .
Reducing fatigue is another great benefit of panax ginseng, which is one of the primary sources of improved cognition. By reducing fatigue, the ginseng is able to support reaction time and accuracy for mental performance. One study showed immediate word recall was improved after a dose of 400 mg of panax ginseng .
The final panax ginseng benefit is for relaxation. This translates into better sleep quality (at least the first night in a new location) , which is useful for frequent travelers. The relaxation also helps to support subjective well-being and happiness in people who are both healthy and diseased. Panax ginseng (unlike many other natural nootropics) supports acute stress rather than chronic problems (which adaptogens support) .
How Does Panax Ginseng Work?
Like other herbal or plant-based nootropic compounds, panax ginseng works by providing a psychoactive ingredient. In this case, “ginsenosides” of which there are many types with differing effects on the brain. In fact, there are over 100 ginsenosides in existence  and many of them influence brain function.
One example is anti-fatigue, which is one of panax ginseng’s primary benefits. Ginseng is able to reduce fatigue because of the polysaccharide content that is within the plant itself . For cognition and happiness, there are other factors that involve these ginsenosides.
Side Effects of Panax Ginseng
Short-term use of ginseng is considered to be safe among adults. Asian ginseng is best taken in cycles, such as every day for two to three weeks, then taking a break for two to three weeks. Long-term use of red ginseng can produce gastrointestinal problems, including nausea and vomiting. Even in studies that use high ranges of ginseng (such as 2 grams or 4.5 grams), there is little issue of toxicity .
As with any herbal supplement, there are possible side effects that are important to be aware of. While generally safe, if taken in high doses, ginseng can lead to nervousness or insomnia. The most common side effects are anxiousness, headache, and restlessness.
It may seem obvious, but it’s worth noting that people who smoke and/or drink coffee in combination with ginseng have been shown to have an increased risk of an irregular and fast heartbeat. People taking blood pressure medications for high blood pressure are not advised to take red ginseng.
Ginseng has been shown to have an effect on blood sugar by significantly lowering it. Those with diabetes should use extra caution if taking ginseng, especially if they are using blood sugar-lowering medications or similar herbs.
Because of it’s ability to cause bleeding, care should be taken when using it while taking medications that thin the blood. Examples include aspirin, Heparin and other blood thinners, anti-platelet drugs, and NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and or naproxen.
As always, use caution using ginseng if you're pregnant or breastfeeding. Do not give ginseng to infants because it may cause harm. Ginseng is not recommended for use in children.
If taken at high doses or combined with caffeine likely side effects may include:
- High blood pressure
- Nose bleed
- Breast pain
- Vaginal bleeding
It is not recommended for people with bipolar disorder, because it may increase the risk of mania.
People with an autoimmune disease, such as rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, or Crohn disease, should ask their doctors before taking Asian ginseng. Theoretically, Asian ginseng may boost an already overactive immune system.
It is recommended to stop taking Asian ginseng at least 7 days prior to any surgery, as it may act as a blood thinner, increasing the risk of bleeding during or after a procedure.
To avoid side effects from ginseng, some experts suggest that ginseng shouldn’t be used for more than three months at a time.
Possible Drug Interactions**
If you are currently taking any of the following medications, you should not use Asian ginseng without first talking to your health care provider:
ACE inhibitors (blood pressure medications): Asian ginseng may interact with angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors used to lower high blood pressure. These medications include:
Lisinopril (Prinivil, Zestril)
Calcium channel blockers (heart and blood pressure medications): Asian ginseng may make certain heart medications, including calcium channel blockers, work differently than intended. These medications include:
Blood-thinners (anticoagulants and antiplatelets): Asian ginseng may increase the risk of bleeding, especially if you already take blood thinners, such as aspirin, warfarin (Coumadin), or clopidogrel (Plavix).
Caffeine: Ginseng may make the effect of caffeine stronger, possibly causing nervousness, sweating, insomnia, or irregular heartbeat.
Diabetes medications, including insulin: Ginseng may lower blood sugar levels, increasing the risk of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar.
Drugs that suppress the immune system: Asian ginseng may boost the immune system and may interact with drugs taken to treat an autoimmune disease or drugs taken after organ transplant.
Stimulants: Ginseng may increase the stimulant effect and side effects of some medications taken for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), including amphetamine and dextroamphetamine (Adderall) and methylphenidate (Concerta, Ritalin).
MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors): Ginseng may increase the risk of mania when taken with MAOIs, a kind of antidepressant. There have been reports of interaction between ginseng and phenelzine (Nardil) causing headaches, tremors, and mania. MAOIs include:
Morphine: Asian ginseng may block the painkilling effects of morphine.
Furosemide (Lasix): Some researchers think Asian ginseng may interfere with Lasix, a diuretic (water pill) that helps the body get rid of excess fluid.
- References (Click to Expand)
Panax Ginseng Dosage
Even though panax ginseng is well-tolerated at dose up to 2 or even 4.5 grams, the normal dose is less than that. Traditional suggestions record doses of 2 – 400 mg daily for general “preventative” medicine purposes. The dose of 400 mg is used in many studies and is probably the best starting point if you are beginning with nootropics (or panax ginseng specifically).
There is evidence of higher dosing, but almost all studies and data refer to libido enhancement and erectile health issues rather than cognition / brain health.
How and Where to Buy Panax Ginseng
Panax ginseng is widely available and affordable both online and in local brick and mortar stores. Unlike some Ayurvedic medicine, panax ginseng for sale usually does not have heavy metals so there is less to worry about in that regard.
However, there are many kinds of panax ginseng and many ways to consume it. It is important you buy ginseng online, which has information about the vendor so you can research beforehand. You can also purchase ginseng with information regarding the psychoactive ingredients, the percentages, and other data that helps you to have a precise and informed decision.
Because there is so much variation in the panax ginseng extract, it is often imperative to be clear on what exactly you are buying and what dosage you will need as a result. If you end up buying a product that is very powerful and then take a dosage recommendation from some other product, it could lead to worse gastrointestinal problems.
This is why we recommend Nootropics Depot panax ginseng if you are searching for a reliable option.
Selected Community Experiences
“From my experience, Panax ginseng helps you like coffee does on a day to day basis rather than longterm. It is arguable whether drinking coffee or tea everyday will solidify certain neural networks in the brain. I think same sort of thing applies to ginseng as well. However, I am positively sure it does have an effect on your immune system in the longterm, as I started taking it, I wasn't as sensitive to feeling susceptible to colds and viruses as before. One thing it helps is it physically gives you a certain kind of clarity and edge, kind of what I imagine ancient Chinese soldiers and martial artists would seek.”  – throwsofaraway123456
Author's Thoughts on Panax Ginseng
Korean ginseng, true ginseng, red panax ginseng – whatever you want to call it, has less of a “feeling” than most other nootropics I have used. The evidence around panax ginseng is pretty convincing as a whole, but the only use I would see is for mood and general wellbeing.
It is subtle, but I could definitely feel the benefits. For someone who is just getting started, this and bacopa monnieri are probably great beginner nootropics to use together. They have a lot of evidence, they’re safe, and they have a track record of success.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Contributor
- References (Click to Expand)
- Other Scientific Resources (Click to Expand)