Red Ginseng Good for Arteries and High Blood Sugar
Korean Red Ginseng (panax ginseng) has been renowned for centuries for increasing lifespan and boosting energy levels. Now we find scientific research is confirming these traits.
As explained with more detail here, red ginseng is Panex ginseng that has been steamed at 212 F (98-100 C) for 2-3 hours. This processing makes available higher levels of phytocompounds, which have been found to be anti-cancer and anti-aging among others.
Red ginseng improves vasodilation
A clinical study from St. Michael’s Hospital and the University of Toronto has found that red ginseng boosts vasodilation – increasing the health and longevity of blood vessels.
The researchers gave three grams of powdered red ginseng to 16 healthy adults on four different occasions. They were tested for blood pressure and blood vessel vasodilation – which is the ability of the blood vessels to expand and contract. Another way of stating this is flexibility. Better vasodilation relates to better blood vessel wall flexibility.
This was a placebo-controlled, double-blind study with crossover design.
The researchers tested the subjects for vasodilation at the brachial artery 90 minutes and 180 minutes after receiving the red ginseng.
The research found that the red ginseng significantly changed the flow-mediated vasodilatation compared to the placebo.
The researchers then tested two fractions of the constituents to see what were the active constituents. They found that a ginsenosides extract produced a similar vasodilation effect, but not a polysaccharide extract.
The researchers concluded:
“Korean red ginseng acutely improved endothelial function in healthy individuals, which appears to be attributable to its ginsenoside containing fraction. Our data confirm preclinical data and support the potential for these compounds as targets for therapeutic strategies in disorders involving endothelial dysfunction.”
Red ginseng improves glucose control
Another clinical study, from the Republic of Korea’s Yonsei University, found that red ginseng significantly improves glucose control among newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes patients.
The researchers studied 41 recently diagnosed diabetes patients. Half were given a placebo and half were given five grams of Korean red ginseng in tablet form for twelve weeks.
The researchers tested their blood levels of insulin, glucose and C-peptides using two-hour glucose tolerance testing.
The patients given the Korean red ginseng showed a significant decrease in glucose levels at 30 minutes – by 22.24 mg/dL (serum) and 17.5 mg/dL (whole blood).
The red ginseng group also had lower glucose levels at zero minutes and lower glucose area-under-the-curve levels.
The placebo group showed little or no change in glucose parameters.
The red ginseng group also showed lower C-peptide concentrations compared with the placebo group.
What the heck are C-peptides?
C-peptides provide linkages for insulin chains, as well as help insulin bind to cell receptors.
Lower C-peptide levels in a type 2 diabetes patient are a good thing because higher levels indicate greater insulin resistance. In type 2 diabetes the person is still producing insulin but the cells have become more resistant to it so there will be more C-peptide in the blood along with insulin.
Lower C-peptide levels in type 1 diabetes are not good, because this indicates that the pancreas is not producing much insulin. C-peptide is a better measurement of insulin production in a type 1 diabetes patient because of injected insulin.
Other studies have reported red ginseng’s ability to help control blood glucose.
Research from the University of Toronto conducted a study of 19 type 2 diabetes patients. They gave the patients either a placebo or two grams of red ginseng three times a day with meals – six grams per day total – for three months.
The red ginseng group saw an 8-11% reduction in glucose tolerance tests and fasting plasma insulin levels went down by 33-38% compared to the placebo group. The red ginseng group also had a reduction of insulin sensitivity by 33% compared to the placebo group.
And we discussed research showing how American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) is able to control blood sugar here.
Safety and choice
All of these studies and others have shown red ginseng to be safe, without side effects. Korean red ginseng is the standard product used because Korean producers have a long traditional history of ginseng production and steaming.
Most supplements are in capsule or tablet form, as the whole powder is crushed. However, standardized extracts will provide a more reliable dose. The studies above utilized whole red ginseng in tablets that were standardized to ginsenosides.
Red ginseng can also be taken in a tea.
Red ginseng is not advised if you are taking any medications for blood pressure or insulin. In fact, taking any herb while taking medications can be problematic.
Jovanovski E, Peeva V, Sievenpiper JL, Jenkins AL, Desouza L, Rahelic D, Sung MK, Vuksan V. Modulation of endothelial function by korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng c.a. Meyer) and its components in healthy individuals: a randomized controlled trial. Cardiovasc Ther. 2014 Apr 23. doi: 10.1111/1755-5922.12077.
Bang H, Kwak JH, Ahn HY, Shin DY, Lee JH. Korean red ginseng improves glucose control in subjects with impaired fasting glucose, impaired glucose tolerance, or newly diagnosed type 2 diabetes mellitus. J Med Food. 2014 Jan;17(1):128-34. doi: 10.1089/jmf.2013.2889.
Vuksan V, Sung MK, Sievenpiper JL, Stavro PM, Jenkins AL, Di Buono M, Lee KS, Leiter LA, Nam KY, Arnason JT, Choi M, Naeem A. Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) improves glucose and insulin regulation in well-controlled, type 2 diabetes: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study of efficacy and safety. Nutr Metab Cardiovasc Dis. 2008 Jan;18(1):46-56.