Panax Ginseng: The Ancient Chinese Secret?

When it comes to medicine, there are three schools of thought. Some of us swear by Western medicines, insisting that pharmaceutical companies hold the answers to all of our ailments and illnesses. Others refute the methods of the West and turn to Eastern medicine for their health care needs. Then there are those of us who appreciate the best that both worlds have to offer, acknowledging that East and West can sometimes meet in perfect balance.

One of the most popular health supplements brought to us by Eastern medicine is Panax Ginseng. Records of this miracle root date back as early as 33 BC. The plant has been used for thousands of years as a “cure all” in Eastern medicine. In fact, the word “panax” translates to “cure all” in Greek, and it is evident that the root has been used to treat a variety of human ailments throughout history [1].

What, exactly, can Panax Ginseng do? Panax Ginseng has been used to treat everything from memory loss to diabetes. Millions swear by its ability to improve brain function and alleviate memory loss. The question is, does Panax Ginseng really work, and what can it do for you?

Where Did I Put My Keys?

Memory loss... We all go through it at some point in our lives. It starts out simple enough. One day we can recite everything we've done for the past ten years without batting an eye. The next day we have no idea what we ate for breakfast the previous morning. Then, at some point, we find ourselves desperately searching for our car keys for twenty minutes, only to find that they were in our hand the entire time. Doesn't sound familiar? Trust me, some day it will.

But what if we could prevent memory loss? Better yet, what if we could improve memory after the signs of memory loss had already become apparent? If the research is any indication, it's not a case of what-if. It's a case of knowing where to turn.

The Key to Memory

Studies have shown that Panax Ginseng can indeed help with memory loss, especially when combined with Ginkgo Biloba. A double blind study was performed in 2000 in the UK. Two-hundred and fifty-six healthy, middle-aged volunteers underwent a controlled placebo study. Those not in the placebo group were given a ginkgo biloba/ginseng combination.

The results of the study were promising. The combination of ginseng and ginkgo biloba was found to produce an improvement of about 7.5 percent in a variety of memory aspects, including long-term memory, when taking the supplement [2].

Panax Ginseng has also been proven to help alleviate the memory loss associated with Alzheimer's Disease. In a twelve-week clinical study of Panax Ginseng, Alzheimer's patients were randomly assigned to two groups. The first group was treated with a Panax Ginseng powder. The second group was given a placebo.

Those who were treated with the Panax Ginseng began showing improvements in their memory function. Those in the control group did not. When the Alzheimer's patients taking the Panax Ginseng discontinued the use, memory once again began to decline [3].

Hold on to Your Memories

Memory may not have to be an inevitable part of life. While Western medicines may currently be limited in their ability to prevent and treat memory loss, we just might have a cure from the East. If research is any indication, Panax Ginseng may very well be the answer we've been looking for to improve long-term memory.

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[1] Shergill, Amandeep. Ginseng and Memory. Nutrition Bytes. 1998. 4(2).
[2] Wesnes KA, Ward T, McGinty A, Petrino O: The memory enhancing effects of a Ginkgo biloba/Panax Ginseng combination in healthy middle-aged volunteers. Psychopharmacology (Berl.). 2000 Nov;152(4):353-61).
[3] Lee ST, Chu K, Sim JY, Heo JH, Kim M. Panax Ginseng enhances cognitive performance in Alzheimer disease. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord. 2008 Jul-Sep. 22(3):222-6.