Panax Ginseng Traditional Chinese MedicineTraditional medicines often seem like panaceas for modern health problems. This is certainly the case with ginseng, whose scientific name (Panax ginseng), derives from the word panacea.

You can bet that, as its name implies, this herb is bound to have some health benefits. Indeed, it has been used for centuries in Traditional Chinese Medicine. One of its many traditional uses entails mental health.

In specifically addressing mental health, panax ginseng has been listed in Chinese medical books for at least 1800 years for its ability to, “…sharpen the wits.” The question is, what does this mean in modern terms?

Modern scientists, never at a loss for words, have a sharp, if scary, answer to that question. Ginseng targets a disorder called vascular contributions to cognitive impairment and dementia (VCID). If you have never heard of VCID, it simply refers to mental dysfunction caused by cerebrovascular deficiency.

All that is just a fancy way of saying that your mental capabilities depend on good, oxygen-rich blood flow to your brain. Now let’s take a look at what ginseng can do about it.

Ginseng vs. VCID

The accumulated research on ginseng is extensive. Nearly 2,400 journal articles about Panax ginseng are currently listed on PubMed, the online medical database at the U.S. National Institutes of Health. One topic, Panax ginseng and mental health, has attracted so much attention that it has been reviewed in three recent summary articles.

Drug discovery from Chinese medicine against neurodegeneration in Alzheimer’s and vascular dementia. (2011)

Effects of Panax ginseng in Neurodegenerative Diseases. (2012)

Ginseng: a promising neuroprotective strategy in stroke. (2014)

The bottom line from all of this information is that the ancients were right. Ginseng clearly “sharpens the wits.” In modern terms, this means that ginseng helps to:

  • Improves mood
  • Reduces emotional stress
  • Enhances cognitive performance, even in patients with Alzheimer’s disease
  • Alleviates stress-related depression and anxiety
  • Boosts memory
  • Prevents neuronal death as a result of stroke

All of these benefits of ginseng rely on improving cerebrovascular function, especially regarding VCID.

How Does Panax Ginseng Work?

A process called neurovascular coupling refers to the relationship between neural activity and cerebral blood flow. Certain ingredients from ginseng roots, called ginsenosides, zero in on this process. Specifically, they reverse the loss of anti-inflammatory factors that undermine neurovascular coupling.

The normal balance of such factors is the key to healthy brain activity. Chronic inflammation that is associated with aging destroys that balance. Ginsenosides work to restore the balance that you depend on for good mental health.

Scientific research has discovered how ginsenosides boost neurovascular coupling in the face of aging. Ongoing research in this area continues to explain the complicated interactions between the various substances in ginseng and how they influence mental health.

Ultimately, all the laboratory investigations so far have simply revealed the biochemical details behind what we have known since ancient times….

Ginseng sharpens the wits.