Last updated: January 13, 2017
Although panax ginseng gets all the glory, there are multiple plants that colloquially carry that name. Treated like the ugly stepchild of the ginseng family, southern ginseng (also known as gynostemma) has an array of benefits for the brain and the body.
For many years, traditional cultures have used southern ginseng for adaptogenic purposes, but only recently are scientific studies showing the benefits of this compound for purposes, such as removing free radicals (antioxidant) and neuroprotection .
This obviously has downstream effects, such as increasing memory  and can even help to protect against degenerative diseases like Parkinson’s disease .
Also Known As
Southern Ginseng, Cheap Ginseng, Jiao Gu-lan, Giao-Co-Lam (Tea), jiaogulan, ActivAMP gynostemma (unique extract)
Editors’ Thoughts on Southern Ginseng
Except in the form of Qualia, I have never consumed southern ginseng and don’t know that I ever will choose to use it by itself. It seems to be a well-researched adaptogen with plenty of benefits (including reducing blood glucose and insulin resistance), however.
If someone was just getting into nootropics and they wanted something to improve their brain, but were also overweight, it might be a good suggestion (along with a better diet) to help them knock out two birds with one stone.
Mansal Denton, Nootropedia Editor
Benefits of Southern Ginseng
The most promising benefit of southern ginseng is as an antioxidant. It is such a powerful antioxidant with specific mechanisms that can help aid in protecting neurons involved with Parkinson’s disease. Increases of cell survival went from 40.1% to between 67 – 75.8% with the use of gynostemma .
While this is a very specific example of southern ginseng’s benefits, it is indicative of the adaptogenic herb as a whole. Another study in Behavioral Pharmacology suggested that southern ginseng could increase glutathione (by 20%) and other antioxidant compounds in the body .
This may be one of the causes for the adaptogenic effects of southern ginseng. According to a 2015 study, southern ginseng helped reduce stress in mice. The study showed reductions in compounds related to stress (such as cortisol) and increases in others (such as dopamine and serotonin) related to wellbeing .
Finally, for anyone who struggles with insulin resistance or has metabolic disorder (in the form of high fasting blood glucose levels), this has a variety of downstream effects that southern ginseng can help ameliorate . This obviously must come as supplemental help with a healthier diet and exercise plan, but can be useful for these purposes nonetheless.
Many of the benefits of southern ginseng and purported to help people lose fat or weight, but these claims aren’t well-studied or necessarily important for our purposes of cognitive enhancement.
ActivAMP Gynostemma Benefits
Like most adaptogens or plant extracts, there are patented methods for the safest (and most accurate) doses. With gynostemma, the ActivAMP extract is considered to be the best (or at least most well known). It is produced by Gencor and is found in many products that utilize gynostemma.
If you are going to purchase gynostemma, it would be best to get the ActivAMP brand because they have a specific, patented extract of the plant as opposed to other companies who might not use safe extraction methods. See our natural nootropics guide for more information on the risks associated with poor extraction methods.
Side Effects of Southern Ginseng
Given many cultures have used southern ginseng for hundreds of years (if not more), it is safe to say gynostemma is a relatively safe compound. For most people, the only side effects of southern ginseng may be added gastrointestinal distress.
However, most of the existing toxicity research (which is scarce) suggests that gynostemma is safe even at the moderate to higher doses .
Southern Ginseng Dosage
There is not a lot of research on southern ginseng dosage in humans, but what exists suggests 6 grams of dried leaves helps with blood glucose specifically. The leaves are filled with the bioactive gypenosides and other flavonoids that are valuable as antioxidants.
For the southern ginseng extract, estimates range from 100 – 500 mg though there is no standard dosage. The Qualia product has 300 mg of the ActivAMP extract for reference.
How and Where to Buy Southern Ginseng
Most normal grocery stores are not going to have southern ginseng for sale unless they are promoting fat burning or weight loss effects. If you are trying to buy southern ginseng, it is probably best to either go to a health food or Asian market, but call in advance. Gynostemma is not the most well-researched or used adaptogenic herb so you may not have many options.
Obviously, the next best place to go would be online where there are numerous southern ginseng products for sale. If you want to get the leaves, you can find dried options, but there are also extracts that can help as well. Here is an extract you can buy.
Of course, you can always get the southern ginseng from specific nootropic stacks. Here is Qualia, which has 300 mg of ActivAMP gynostemma.
Selected Community Experiences
“A single rodent study is insufficient evidence for efficacy of any kind in humans. Moreover, the way the dopaminergic system was disrupted in the study is (very probably) not the same as the way it is disrupted during amphetamine withdrawal. So there’s really no reasonable argument that jiaogulan will do anything to ameliorate your symptoms.”  – lakobos
- References (Click to Expand)