The root of American ginseng is light tan and gnarled, sometimes resembles the human body. Panax means all illness, and ginseng has been used across the ages in many different cultures as a "cure-all."
Many studies on ginseng have been performed using Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng). There have been positive reports of using Asian ginseng to treat cancer, heart disease, respiratory problems, fatigue, as well as to boost energy and mental performance and to improve quality of life. However, both American and Asian ginsengs contain ginsenosides, and research does exist on this component. Laboratory studies in animals have reported that American ginseng was effective in boosting the immune system, as an antioxidant, protection against heart attacks and protection against kidney damage caused by methamphetamine use. Research on American ginseng has focused on a number of conditions, some of which are described below.
Attend deficit hyperactivity disorder
An early study suggests that American ginseng, in combination with ginkgo (Ginkgo biloba), may prove to be of value in helping to treat ADHD. More research in this area is needed.
Individual reports and animal studies indicate that a component of American ginseng and Asian ginseng, the ginsenosides, may slow the progression of Alzheimer's and improve memory and behavior. Studies of large groups of people are needed to best understand this possible use of American ginseng for slowing Alzheimer's or senility.
Studies suggests that regular intake of ginseng may reduce one's chances of getting various types of cancer, especially lung, liver, stomach, pancreatic and ovarian. A laboratory study found that American ginseng may also enhance the effects of medications used to treat breast cancer, potentially allowing the doctor to use less chemotherapy.
While both Asian and American ginsengs appear to lower blood sugar (glucose) levels, American ginseng has been the more studied in scientific trials. Several human studies report a blood sugar lowering effect using American ginseng in patients with type 2 diabetes, both on fasting blood sugar and on postprandial (after eating) glucose levels. One study found that people with type 2 diabetes who took American ginseng before or together with a high sugar load experienced less of an increase in blood glucose levels.
Several studies using laboratory animals report positive effects of using American ginseng and ginsenosides for high blood sugar levels. One recent study using mice found that the American ginseng berry was more effective at lowering blood sugar levels than the root.
More research is needed.
Immune system enhancement
American ginseng is believed to enhance the immune system, which could, in theory, help the body fight off infection and disease. In several clinical studies, American ginseng improved the function of cells playing a role in immunity.