August 2013

Red Ginseng May Improve Sleep Quality

A new study suggests that ginseng supplementation may improve sleep quality.

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) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). Panax species should not be confused with Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), which is from a different plant family.

Panax ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for more than 2,000 years. Its 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 ginsengSchisandra fruit, and Ophiopogon japonicus that has also been used in TCM to treat heart and respiratory diseases.

In a recent study, 15 healthy male participants 15-37 years-old were given 1500 milligrams of red ginseng by mouth three times daily for seven days to assess the potential effects of ginseng on sleep quality. Sleep quality was evaluated through overnight polysomnography given one day before and seven days after ginseng supplementation was administered. Various outcome measures, including sleep efficacy, total sleep time, proportion of sleep stages and wakefulness after falling sleep, were evaluated.

The researchers found that sleep efficacy was significantly increased and total wake time was significantly reduced following ginseng supplementation. Slow wave sleep stage was significantly reduced and REM sleep was significantly increased.

The authors concluded that ginseng supplementation may improve sleep quality. Larger-scale, well-designed clinical trials are needed to confirm these findings.

In addition to ginseng, several human studies have reported that melatonin taken by mouth before bedtime decreases sleep latency (the time it takes to fall asleep) in elderly individuals with insomnia. Improved sleep quality and morning alertness has also been reported. However, most studies have not been of high quality in their designs, and some research has found limited or no benefits. The majority of trials have been brief in duration (several days long), and long-term effects are unclear.

For more information about integrative therapies to improve sleep quality, please visit Natural Standard's Comparative Effectiveness Database

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

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  1. Jeong Han H, Yun Kim H, Joon Choi J, et al. Effects of red ginseng extract on sleeping behaviors in human volunteers. J Ethnopharmacol. 2013 Jul 16. pii: S0378-8741(13)00494-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jep.2013.07.005. 
  2. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 

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