• Ginseng has many advantages for your brain, blood sugar, immune system and more.
  • The root can help fight fatigue by fighting inflammation and balancing your cortisol levels.
  • It can also help treat erectile dysfunction because it can help relax the muscles in the penis.

Ginseng is a root that has been used for thousands of years as a remedy to treat a wide range of conditions from fatigue to erectile dysfunction. There are actually two types of ginseng – Asian and American – but both contain compounds called ginsenosides that offer health advantages.

Here are five scientific uses of ginseng root.

1. Helps fight colds and flu

Ginseng can boost your immune system, helping your body fight off infections like colds or the flu.

“Ginseng root extract has been shown to have strong antiviral activity,” says Keri Gans, MS, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist in private practice. However, most existing research studies have been conducted on animals or human cells in the laboratory.

A 2020 human study, albeit small, found that people who took two capsules of ginseng extract daily were almost 50% less likely to catch a cold or flu, compared to people who took a placebo .

And if you’re already sick, taking ginseng can still help – the same study found ginseng extract shortened illness from an average of 13 days to six.

2. Increase energy levels

Ginseng can help fight fatigue and maintain your energy levels because it contains compounds called ginsenosides, which work in three important ways:

  • Keep your central nervous system in balance, so it doesn’t become over-excited and drain your energy levels.
  • Fight inflammation in your body that can make fatigue worse.
  • Balance your levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that can affect your energy levels.

A 2018 review of 10 studies found that ginseng works as a remedy for fatigue, although the authors say more research is still needed.

3. Improve brain performance

“Ginseng has been shown to have a neuroprotective effect, which may contribute to cognitive decline and degenerative brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease,” says Abbie Gellman, MS, chef and registered dietitian in private practice.

In a small 2008 study, patients with Alzheimer’s disease took 4.5 grams of ginseng powder every day for 12 weeks. Patients were tested regularly for symptoms of Alzheimer’s disease, and those who took ginseng had significantly improved cognitive symptoms, compared to people who received a placebo pill.

And ginseng may also have cognitive benefits for healthy people. In a small 2015 study, researchers gave middle-aged adults 200 mg of ginseng extract and then tested their short-term memory. The results showed that adults who took ginseng had significantly better test scores than those who took a placebo pill.

However, other studies show no significant benefit. A very small 2016 study found that taking 500mg or 1000mg of ginseng did not improve scores on various cognitive tests.

“Research on ginseng and cognition shows potential, but isn’t 100% proven right now,” says Gans.

4. Treat erectile dysfunction

According to recent research, “ginseng may be an effective treatment for erectile dysfunction (ED),” says Gans.

Indeed, ginseng can help stimulate sexual arousal and relax the smooth muscles of the penis, triggering an erection.

A 2018 review of 24 studies showed that taking ginseng supplements can significantly improve symptoms of erectile dysfunction.

Ginseng berry, another part of the plant, can also help treat erectile dysfunction. A 2013 study found that patients with erectile dysfunction who took 1,400 mg of ginseng berry extract daily for 8 weeks had significantly improved sexual functioning, compared to those who took a placebo pill.

5. Helps Control Blood Sugar

Recent studies suggest that the ginsenoside compounds in ginseng may help normalize blood sugar, Gans says.

“Ginseng may help improve glucose metabolism, which helps control blood sugar” and may help treat type 2 diabetes, Gellman says.

Ginseng also helps reduce inflammation, which is important because inflammation can put you at an increased risk of developing diabetes or worsening diabetes symptoms.

A 2019 review of eight studies found that taking ginseng supplements can help improve blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity, two key factors in the treatment of diabetes.

Insider’s Takeaways

If you want to try ginseng supplements, you should talk to your doctor to make sure it won’t cause problems with current medications or medical conditions.

“Before beginning to take a supplement for a medical reason, a person should consult with a dietitian and/or their doctor,” says Gans.

More research is still needed, but studies suggest that ginseng may provide many important health benefits, such as helping fight infections and boosting energy levels.