Rhoda El Khoury, Scientific Marketing Manager at SIRIO Europe, explores the growing body of evidence that supports ginseng health and well-being claims
A health ingredient used globally for millennia, ginseng is perhaps only now reaching its “cultural zenith” as we continue to discover further benefits that are meeting the demands of stressed out, overworked and anxious consumers.
It is now common knowledge that the pandemic has been driving many consumer trends during the last couple of years, such as the resurgence in “body and mind” approaches to wellness. This has translated into a surge in ingredient and supplement use — particularly those focused on mental well-being and mind boosting properties … as well as immunity.
Beyond the virus, we’re also seeing people struggling for energy/focus and seeking out natural ways to combat the stresses of life and counteract their mental and physical fatigue.1
At the same time, environmental concerns remain the biggest challenge of our age; consumers are looking at both big and small ways to save the planet. In terms of the products they buy, we see this reflected in the continual rise of natural ingredients and herbal supplements.
Consumers are not only looking for proven efficacy, they’re also interested in sustainable sources and associate natural products with cleaner and healthier lifestyle choices. As such, ginseng is perhaps at the very top of the list in terms of adaptogens that are gaining popularity as consumers trend toward naturals and sustainable living.2
Ginseng has, of course, been used for thousands of years … and not just for traditional medicine; modern-day clinical trials have proven its potent energy giving properties. In fact, the global market for ginseng dietary supplements reached $2.4 billion 2021 with an expected CAGR of 5%.3
Historically, ginseng root has been used as a nutritional tonic, particularly in East Asia since its discovery in the mountains of Manchuria, China, more than 5000 years ago.4 In fact, emphasising its broad array of benefits, the genus name of Panax originates from the word “panacea” — meaning a cure for all diseases.
More recently, ginseng has been described as an “adaptogen” because of its non-specific and tonic effects. Fast forward to the recent past and ginseng has been widely consumed for immunity or brain boosting properties’ yet, this ingredient boasts a multitude of benefits, such as enhancing physical performance, promoting vitality and helping to resist stress and ageing. It is quite literally the root of vitality and rejuvenation.4
Many studies show ginseng’s ability to boost cognition, especially when it comes to quality of memory, working and long-term memory. Ginseng has also been shown to decrease latency when the brain is processing information.5 Perhaps making this ingredient even more interesting to modern consumers, these brain-boosting effects also take place in situations of stress when it is hard to concentrate.
Ginseng has been shown to prevent stress symptoms that affect cognition such as fatigue, impaired memory, difficulty in concentration and attention deficit related to the daily work situation.6 In fact, we even see beneficial effects in terms of mental health, as it has been shown to improve mood as well as social behaviour in healthy individuals, as well as helping women to counteract the effects that menopause has on their mental well-being.7
Looking deeper at ginseng’s beneficial effects, we can explore a number of the actives it contains, including ginsenosides, phenolic compounds, alkaloids, peptides, polysaccharides and polyacetylene.4 Ginsenosides possess potent antioxidant potential, protecting cells from the oxidative damage linked in many cases to disease and ageing.
These ginsenosides, as well as ginseng polysaccharides, also have immune boosting properties.8 In fact, numerous clinical studies have elicited a role for ginseng in fostering a balanced immune system and helping the body to counteract illness and microbial invasions.
Ginseng acts by improving innate immunity, which is the first line of defence against pathogens, by modulating cellular components such as macrophages, dendritic cells and natural killer cells.
It also modulates adaptive immunity and helps the body to recognise pathogens and produce antibodies faster for a more efficient immune response.4
In fact, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects of ginseng might be the mechanisms behind its ability to alleviate physical fatigue — with the adaptogen shown to prevent normal physical tiredness as well as fatigue-related muscle damage after strenuous exercise. Moreover, ginseng’s antioxidant potential also plays a significant role in energy management as oxidation, especially occurring in the liver, affects energy production.9
Finally, there’s the beauty aspect; we need to talk about ginseng’s effect on the skin. It doesn’t just protect the skin against photodamage owing to its renowned antioxidant effects, it also helps the skin to look younger.10 In fact, studies have shown that ginseng reduces wrinkle formation and increases skin hydration, thus providing the skin with a soft youthful look.10,11
Considering the multitude of bodily health benefits that ginseng provides, it makes sense that it is one of the most popular ingredients during this pandemic and would certainly be useful in getting our bodies “back on track” in post-pandemic times.
Yet, what is so often overlooked is that to ensure that all of these benefits are maximised, it’s essential to use a supplement made with a high-quality extract. So often, brands simply look at the ingredient and its cost rather than exploring how the product is manufactured to ensure enough bioavailability and stability can be achieved for an effective dosage.
For example, at SIRIO, we constantly strive to support our customers with innovative and health-promoting products; our testing policies ensure clinically effective dosages throughout the product’s entire shelf-life.
Our ginseng formulations are tailored to bespoke needs and can, for example, include vitamin C and zinc, enabling a cornucopia of EFSA-approved health claims related to immunity, oxidative stress, cognitive function, energy and the reduction of tiredness and fatigue.
Moreover, such formulations can be encapsulated in either plant or fish oils such as evening primrose oil, which is rich in omega-6s (linoleic acid and gamma-linolenic acid) for more refreshed looking skin, or in organic walnut oil, which is rich in omega-3s for an additional brain boost. It’s this kind of flexibility that helps nutraceutical brands to develop products that can adapted to meet a wide range of consumer needs.