Ginseng: Dosage, dangers, and benefits for the brain

Ginseng is a plant known for thousands of years. Its root can be used for medicinal purposes and is part of traditional pharmacopeia.

Today, research has confirmed the properties of ginseng to fight against stress, stimulate brain performance, and help get back in shape in periods of intense demand.

In this article, we propose you take stock of this legendary plant, whose root is one of the main remedies of the traditional Asian medicines, and that for more than 2000 years. 

Ginseng, or Panax ginseng, does not act directly against diseases, but it contributes to the mobilization of the body’s self-healing powers. 

What is ginseng ?

Panax ginseng is an ancient medicinal plant cultivated in cool or mild areas of China and Korea. Panax ginseng belongs to the Araliaceae family. There is so-called Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus, Eleutherococcus), which is very popular in Russia to boost physical and mental performance

General information on ginseng

Korean ginseng or true ginseng (Panax ginseng) is native to East Asia. There are also several plants with similar properties:

  • Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). 
  • Chinese ginseng (Panax pseudoginseng). 
  • American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). 

The most famous is Panax ginseng, which is also the most powerful.

Ginseng is a perennial herbaceous plant that can grow up to 80 centimeters high and has four long-stalked, five-fingered leaves in a terminal loop. The flowers are small, greenish-white, and arranged in umbels. The spindle-shaped root with a split-tip resembling a human form is used in medicine.

The medicines available in Europe are mainly imported from Korea and China. The cultivation of the roots requires a lot of time and care, which explains the high price. 

Both white and red ginseng are available. The white one is washed after harvesting and dried immediately, hence it’s color. The second type is made from roots that are scalded for several hours after harvesting. Once dried, the roots take on a reddish color. 

No difference in effect between white and red ginseng is known to date. Nevertheless, some manufacturers or traders claim that red ginseng is superior. This is mainly an advertising argument.

What are the active ingredients in ginseng ?

Ginsenosides, triterpene saponins, are among the secondary plant substances that contribute to the beneficial effects of this food supplement on the nervous system and on mental and physical performance. They are mainly found in the root of the plant. 

While ginseng is sometimes consumed as a tonic soup in Asia, it is considered a medicine in the West. The herbal extract is produced from washed and dried ginseng roots, as fresh ginseng goes moldy within a few days.

In addition, other constituents such as polyacetylenes, sesquiterpenes, and other substances are present in ginseng and contribute to its beneficial effects on the brain and the whole body.

What are the traditionally recognized effects of ginseng ?

The effects attributed to Ginseng by traditional Asian pharmacopeia are numerous. Thus, the roots of Korean ginseng or Panax are known to strengthen various metabolic systems, which helps fight against fatigue or against the feeling of weakness in periods of stress or overwork.

Ginseng is also indicated during the recovery or convalescence phase, after an infectious disease. The plant powder has indeed an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant action. It helps eliminate free radicals and supports the detoxification of the body attacked by chemical pollutants.

In Asian folk medicine, Panax ginseng root is used for many other ailments than those mentioned above and has many other virtues. For example, ginseng is said to strengthen the immune system and slow down the aging process. 

In addition, the herb is said to be effective for various health problems, such as respiratory diseases, cardiovascular diseases, depression, anxiety, erectile dysfunction, and hot flashes during menopause. The effectiveness of ginseng in these cases has not yet been sufficiently studied and proven.

Why take ginseng-based dietary supplements ?

Ginseng is an Adaptogen

Adaptogens are a group of substances that allow an organism to better resist stressful situations. This is the case of Panax ginseng and Siberian ginseng or Eleutherococcus.

Studies seem to corroborate the effectiveness of ginseng in cases of fatigue and stress. The root seems to influence physiological properties at both the cellular and brain levels, which can have a positive effect on various physical and psychological parameters in cases of fatigue, weakness, and exhaustion.

Virtues of ginseng on performance

Many pharmacological and clinical studies have been published on the effectiveness of ginseng extracts in improving performance. Regarding the improvement of physical performance, clinical studies seem to provide contradictory results. 

However, with regard to the increase or improvement of mental performance, the data seems to be clearly positive. 

Glucose metabolism

Several studies have analyzed the effect of ginseng on glucose metabolism. They show that ginseng has a positive effect and can reduce the concentration of glucose in the blood.

For example, the 2005 study by Reay showed a decrease in blood glucose levels and an increase in cognitive abilities. In this double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, 30 young volunteers performed a 10-minute test at baseline and then again for 6 days, 60 minutes after taking a single dose of 200 mg or 400 mg of ginseng G115 extract. 

These were a 2-minute subtraction test, in which subjects had to count backward from 100 in sets of 7, and a 5-minute “Rapid Visual Information Processing” task, in which a series of numbers had to be correctly recognized. 

Subjects indicated their mental fatigue on a visual scale. Blood glucose was measured before each daily dose and before, during, and after the tests. Both doses of ginseng, i.e., 200 mg and 400 mg, resulted in a significant reduction in blood glucose concentration in all three post-treatment measurements (p < 0.005).

This study demonstrated that ginseng extract can increase cognitive performance as well as decrease subjectively perceived mental fatigue after mental endurance activity.

Increase in psychomotor abilities

The majority of studies on psychomotor abilities have found a positive result: ginseng improves performance.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled crossover study, 21 healthy young volunteers received 200, 400, or 600 mg of ginseng extract or a placebo. At 1, 2.5, 4, and 6 hours after ingestion, four different tests were performed to evaluate the subjects’ cognitive endurance (memory quality, attention quality, recall). 

Then, the results were compared to reference values. The most convincing result was a significant improvement in memory quality after the administration of 400 mg of plant root powder.

Panax ginseng and the brain

The brain, in particular, seems to benefit from ginseng. Certain cognitive functions can be improved by taking plant root powder: especially memory, but also general concentration and the ability to learn. When ginseng is combined with ginkgo, the effect is even greater. 

Other effects attributed to ginseng root

Respiratory diseases

Canadian scientists have found that ginseng makes colds shorter and milder, in addition to relieving the symptoms of asthma and hay fever.

Cancer therapies

U.S. studies have shown that ginseng can help cancer patients cope better with their therapies. Ginseng relieves fatigue and stimulates the production of happy hormones, which increase the feeling of well-being.

Chronic inflammatory diseases

Ginsenosides have antibacterial and antiviral effects. If ginseng preparations contain at least 1.5% ginsenosides, they can provide significant relief from chronic inflammatory diseases such as rhumatism.


Ginsenosides contribute to the better production of energy in the brain. It is thus easier to concentrate on the tasks, including in the duration.

Posology : How to use this treatment ?

In the form of tea

For one cup of ginseng tea, pour two grams of dried and finely chopped root with about 150 milliliters of boiling water. After five to ten minutes of steeping, strain the tea and drink it. You can drink a cup several times a day for three to four weeks (daily dose: three to six grams of medicine).

In capsule, capsule, or tablet form

The most commonly used preparations consist of extracts with a guaranteed content of active ingredients. For good efficacy and tolerance, you should always use high-quality preparations. 

Some known side effects of ginseng have been observed, mainly related to the poor pharmaceutical quality of the preparations used. 

In addition, the ginsenosides present in cheap preparations are usually underdosed or are counterfeits that do not contain ginseng at all. Therefore, use only high-quality preparations. For use and dosage, please read the instructions or ask your doctor or pharmacist.

Risks and dangers of ginseng

Side effects

Side effects are sometimes reported when taking ginseng preparations. In the case of Panax ginseng, these side effects mainly concern the digestive tract. Gastric problems, nausea, and diarrhea have been reported.

Sleep disturbances, headaches, chest pain, and diarrhea are also sometimes noted. However, these side effects are rare.

Duration of treatment : Cautionary note

Due to the lack of studies on long-term effects, you should not use ginseng root for more than three months. After a break of at least two months, you can resume the preparations of herbal medicine.


During pregnancy and breastfeeding as well as in children, the use of the medicinal plant should be avoided. No scientific study has been done on the safety of ginseng under 12 years old, or during pregnancy.

Ginseng root has been shown to affect blood sugar levels and blood pressure. If you have diabetes or high blood pressure, you should consult your doctor before using the herb.

Drug Interactions

Ginseng may interact with various medications such as blood thinners. In general, if you are taking any medications, you should consult your doctor before using the herb powder.


Ginseng is well tolerated when taken in the doses recommended by the manufacturers. In case of overdose, the plant can cause:

  • high blood pressure.
  • insomnia.
  • diarrhea.

Opinion on ginseng

As is often the case with dietary supplements, consumer opinions tend to vary widely. Variations can also be explained by the quality (or lack of quality) of the product used by the manufacturer. 

Buying guide

Where to buy ?

With ginseng, as with all dietary supplements, it is best to buy the product from a reliable supplier. In a pharmacy, you will also be able to benefit from the advice of the dispensary and you can express your concerns if you encounter problems with the preparation. For example, if it does not provide you with all the energy you want!

However, you can also buy your food supplement on the Internet, it is sometimes cheaper. It is then advisable to go to a reliable online pharmacy. You can also find Panax ginseng preparations on Amazon and on the pages of online health food stores, such as Onatera or Nature et Forme.

Cautionary note

Ginseng has long been one of the most sought-after products of the Asian pharmacopeia. This is why there are many counterfeits. It is important to get quality ginseng, otherwise, the product will not give you the benefits of this legendary plant.

For an even greater health effect, opt for organic Panax ginseng. You will avoid pesticides.

In what form should ginseng be consumed ?

  • in capsules.
  • in the liquid extract.
  • in ampoules.
  • in tea.

It should be noted that many preparations available in France offer a combination of active ingredients:

  • ginseng + royal jelly.
  • ginseng + matcha.
  • ginseng + propolis.


Ginseng, a fabulous plant from the traditional Asian pharmacopeia, can help reduce stress and increase our memory capacity. Ginseng contains ginsenosides, which have many beneficial effects on the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, as well as the metabolism of sugars. Moreover, ginseng has a strong antioxidant effect.

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