Panax Ginseng is an ancient Chinese herb that has been used for hundreds of years. It is an evergreen perennial herb that grows in the sub-tropical climates of north and south America and Asia. It is a member of the Prickly Ash family and has a long history of use as both an aphrodisiac and a stimulant. In Chinese medical terminology, it is called either ‘Fancy Flag’ or ‘West Winds’. The name Panax Ginseng is from the name of the town in which it grows, Panax, in Wyoming.
Panax Ginseng is taken in high doses of up to 400mg a day for preventative medicine, but some research suggests that doses as low as 20mg may be beneficial in improving the functioning of the immune system. Some research even suggests that Panax Ginseng may help to improve the mental performance of people with poor memory. It also appears to help to lower blood sugar levels. The research is unclear on whether this improvement in blood sugar levels translates into better health or just better health at the cost of feeling more tired (panax ginseng does cause drowsiness).
There have been very few rigorous studies on Panax Ginseng and health. One study, however, did conclude that Panax Ginseng increased the blood sugar levels of a group of AIDS patients who used it in conjunction with a special drug to treat their pancreatic cancer. Another study suggested that Panax Ginseng might have some effect in lowering blood sugar levels in HIV patients. No other research directly supports or refutes these claims. It is not clear why Panax Ginseng and/or its products would have any benefit in improving the health of people with diabetes or HIV/AIDS.
Panax Ginseng and diabetes There is some evidence that Panax Ginseng and diabetes are a synergistic relationship: As the body’s circulation becomes clogged with cholesterol, the blood sugar levels drop, which can cause further health problems if they are too high. One study did find that diabetic individuals had greater improvement when taking panax ginseng combined with l-carnitine, an antioxidant that is also known to have anti-diabetic activity. Yet another study found that Panax Ginseng decreased the blood sugar levels only in people with type 2 diabetes who were already insulin resistant. It did not, however, have any effect on normal weight people. There are no studies that directly challenge these claims.
There are, however, more recent studies showing that there may be some positive effect of Panax Ginseng and diabetes on the cardiovascular system. In one study, arteries that had been blocked by the presence of atherosclerotic plaques showed less plaque buildup in those who took ginsenosides. There was also a significant decrease in blood pressure in those patients. These preliminary studies seem to indicate that there might be some benefit of Panax Ginseng and diabetes for those at risk for developing cardiovascular disease.
As with all supplements, it is impossible to say with certainty that there will be no harmful effects from Panax Ginseng and diabetes. In some cases, the combination of ginsenosides and l-carnitine has been known to lead to a problem in some diabetics. Yet, all of the studies that have so far shown a link between Panax Ginseng and diabetes seem to indicate that it might have little impact on those who do not have this condition. For others, especially those with higher blood sugar levels, it might be of some benefit, but there is still much more research to be done.