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Korean Ginseng Helps to Enhance Cognitive performance

April 2012


Korean Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) is an adaptogenic herb that has been used as potent energy tonic for thousands of years in Traditional Chinese Medicine. Modern clinical study has provided scientific evidence on its benefit in enhancing cognitive performance.

Although we do not yet fully understand the mechanism for many of Ginseng’s medicinal benefits, modern science using controlled clinical trials began to unravel scientific evidence on the health benefits of Ginseng supplementation.  Single doses of the traditional herbal treatment Panax ginseng have recently been shown to lower blood glucose levels and elicit cognitive improvements in healthy, overnight-fasted volunteers.

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial, 27 healthy young adults completed a 10 minute “cognitive demand” test battery at baseline.  The 10 minute “cognitive demand” battery comprised a Serial Threes subtraction task (2 min); a Serial Sevens subtraction task (2 min); a Rapid Visual Information Processing task (5 min); and a “mental fatigue” visual analogue scale.

These young adults then consumed capsules containing either a Panax ginseng extract or a placebo, and 30 minutes later a drink containing glucose or placebo. A further 30 minutes later (i.e. 60 minutes post-baseline/capsules) they completed the “cognitive demand” battery six times in immediate succession.  The participants were divided into four groups: Placebo (0mg Ginseng/0 mg glucose); Ginseng (200mg Ginseng/0 mg glucose); Glucose (0 mg Ginseng/25 g glucose); or Ginseng/Glucose (200 mg Ginseng/25 g glucose).  Blood glucose levels were measured prior to the day’s treatment, and before and after the post-dose completions of the battery.

The results showed that both Panax ginseng and glucose enhanced performance of a mental arithmetic task, and ameliorated the increase in subjective feelings of mental fatigue experienced by participants during the later stages of the sustained, cognitively demanding task performance.  Accuracy of performing the Rapid Visual Information Processing task (RVIP) was also improved following the glucose load.  Panax ginseng caused a reduction in blood glucose levels 1 hour following consumption when ingested without glucose.

These results confirm that Panax ginseng may possess glucoregulatory properties and can enhance cognitive performance.

Reay JL etal; Journal of Psychopharmacology 2006; 20(6):771-81

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