Caffeine and ginseng extract are two ingredients that commonly appear in energy drinks. While both compounds have been linked to increased sensations of alertness and mental acuity, the manner in which each one affects the body is considerably different. Talk to your doctor about the possible benefits and contraindications of taking ginseng or caffeine.
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According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, panax ginseng is an Asian plant that has been scientifically linked to improved thinking and learning ability. Naturopaths and alternative doctors typically recommend ginseng root in a liquid extract, tincture or tea form. Panax ginseng has been linked with improved performance in concentration, memory and other mental functions, as well as conditions as diverse as immune deficiencies, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and type 2 diabetes.
Caffeine is a central nervous system stimulant found in a variety of products, such as candy, chocolate, soft drinks, coffee and tea. Caffeine delays fatigue by blocking certain neurotransmitters in the brain called adenosine suggests a study published in "Nutrition Reviews" in 2002. As a result, feelings of tiredness are quickly replaced by sensations of alertness and mental energy as neurons begin firing at a quicker rate. Unlike ginseng, caffeine creates a fight or flight response from the pituitary gland, which in turn leads to a number of stress hormones being released from the adrenal glands.
While caffeine is considered an addictive substance and can cause dependency in quantities as small as 100 milligrams a day, panax ginseng can be regularly consumed without negative effects in most people. The University of Maryland Medical Center recommends a maximum of 1.5 teaspoon of panax ginseng fluid extract or 2 gram of dried root a day. Comparatively, individuals who consume 500 milligrams of caffeine or more a day are susceptible to a number of negative health effects: nausea, diarrhea, nervousness, increased heart rate, irritability and dizziness. Individuals who consume panax ginseng and caffeine together have an increased risk of symptoms such as nervousness, insomnia, high blood pressure and nosebleeds.
Both ginseng and caffeine are stimulant products that may have negative effects on individuals with certain sensitivities. Talk to your doctor if you are concerned about your body's ability to withstand regular doses of caffeine or ginseng and avoid combining them.
Ginseng may interfere with the action of certain medications such as blood pressure medications, blood thinners, diabetes medications and some anti-depressants, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Caffeine may interact with muscle relaxing medications, causing an unsafe drop in blood pressure, according to Drugs.com.
- The University of Maryland Medical Center: Asian Ginseng
- American Journal of Physiology: Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology: Central Nervous System Effects of Caffeine and Adenosine on Fatigue
- University of Iowa Health Care: Caffeine -- How Much Is Too Much?
- Nutrition Reviews: The Effects of Ginseng, Ephedrine, and Caffeine on Cognitive Performance, Mood and Energy
- Journal of Young Investigators: Caffeine: Understanding the World’s Most Popular Psychoactive Drug
- Drugs.com: Caffeine and Zanaflex -- Tizanidine