Korean red ginseng is part of the Asian Ginseng family, which has been used for over 2,000 years in China. It contains the same active ingredient--ginsenoside--that is found in American ginseng. However it is very different from Siberian gingseng, which does not contain ginenoside.
Ginseng has been touted for 44 different uses. The National Institute of Health (NIH) indicates that scientific study is good for three of these uses and more research needs to be completed on the others. Ginseng is well tolerated by adults and side effects appear to be rare. There is currently not enough scientific study on children to recommend it for them. Additionally, pregnant women and nursing mothers should avoid it.
The National Institute of Health believes that there is good scientific evidence to support that ginseng offers antioxidant effects that may benefit patients with heart disorders. They point out that some studies suggest that it reduces the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL cholesterol). A study in South Korea in 2008 with Korean red ginseng using mice found a variety of beneficial results including reducing triglycerides in plasma, heart and liver tissues, and increasing plasma HDL levels (good cholesterol).
Lower Blood Sugar
There is good scientific evidence that ginseng may lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes before and after meals, according to the NIH. This is extremely positive, because ginseng doesn’t seem to lower the blood sugar to dangerous levels. A study in 2006 in Toronto, Canada found that Korean red ginseng improved glucose and insulin regulation in well-controlled type 2 diabetes. It is not clear what the long-term effects are for patients with type 2 diabetes and more research needs to be done to determine safe and effective dosages. NIH cautions that people with tType 2 diabetes should work with a health care professional and not use ginseng instead of more proven therapies. More studies are needed on the effects of ginseng with type 1 diabetes.
Immune System Support
According to the NIH, ginseng may boost the immune system, although more research is needed. Studies have demonstrated that it may improve the effectiveness of antibiotics in people with acute bronchitis and it may enhance the body’s response to flu vaccines. A study of Korean red ginseng in 2005 published jointly by universities in both South Korea and the U.S. using HIV infected people concluded, “Considering the extreme difficulties involved in developing HIV vaccines and the limitations of HAART chemotherapy, Korean red ginseng (KRG) provides an alternative and effective way of treatment for HIV infected patients”.