Ginseng, also known as panax, is one of the most widespread herbal enhancers in the Western world, often added to products like juices, teas, energy tonics and vitamin supplements. It has antioxidant properties and is said to reduce fatigue, improve digestion, increase mental stamina and lower blood cholesterol.
Concentrated in the root of the ginseng plant are chemicals called ginsenosides, which can boost the immune system, stimulate the central nervous system and protect against the effects of stress. It is thought that the herb balances the stress hormones released from the pituitary and adrenal glands and may also help the brain produce more endorphins, which provide a sense of calm and well-being.
Some athletes claim ginseng increases their endurance. Other studies suggest ginseng powders may prevent the growth of certain kinds of cancer cells. Ancient Chinese healers used ginseng as an aphrodisiac, and clinical studies have shown it may well increase testosterone levels and sperm production.
Panax ginseng, also known as Asian, Chinese or Korean ginseng, is not to be confused with its loosely related cousin, Siberian ginseng.