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August 2013

Ginseng Evaluated For Enhancing Cognition

Strong evidence may be lacking in support of ginseng for enhancing cognition in healthy people or those with dementia, a study reports.

The term ginseng refers to several species of the genus Panax of the Araliaceae family. The two most commonly used ginseng species are Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A.Mey.) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.). Panax species should not be confused with Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), which is from a different botanical family. The word "ginseng" is derived from ren-shen, the Chinese word for the plant, which means "essence of the earth in the form of a man" or "man-root," referring to the root's human-like shape. Panax ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for more than 2,000 years. Its diverse uses include increasing appetite and strength, enhancing memory and physical performance, reducing fatigue and stress, and improving overall quality of life. Shengmai (also called shenmai) is a combination of Panax ginseng, Schisandra fruit, and Ophiopogon japonicusthat has also been used in TCM to treat conditions such as coronary heart disease and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

It has been suggested that ginseng may have cognitive-enhancing benefits. In the current study, the researchers looked at the effectiveness of ginseng on improving cognitive performance in healthy people and those with cognitive impairment. The team conducted a review of nine trials that enrolled both healthy and memory-impaired subjects. The majority of the studies looked at the effects of ginseng extract, with one trial investigating a ginseng compound called HT008-1.

The results of the analysis suggested that ginseng may help improve some aspects of cognitive function, quality of life, and behavior. Serious side effects of ginseng were lacking in the studies that were reviewed.

The authors concluded that strong, convincing evidence that is high-quality is still needed to show a cognitive-enhancing effect of ginseng. Further study conducted in larger groups of people is needed to better understand the potential impact of ginseng on cognition in different populations, including subjects with dementia.

For more information about ginseng, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Geng J, Dong J, Ni H, et al. Ginseng for cognition. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, 2010, Issue 12. Art. No.: CD007769. DOI: 10.1002/14651858.CD007769.pub2.
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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