Ginseng, yes or no?

Ginseng, yes or no?

Ginseng, yes or no?
Ginseng, yes or no?

Ergogenic aids (from the Greek: "ergón", meaning work and "genesis", referring to "origin") theoretically allow the individual to work more physically than he could without them, and they are a resource that has become popular with many athletes in response to the desire to improve in competition. For centuries, Eastern cultures have used Panax ginseng  root  to reduce fatigue, relieve pain, headaches, and improve mental function, but in the United States, for example, it has no recognized medical use except as a painkiller in skin ointments. The preparations can be marketed in powder, liquid, tablets or capsules. 

Chemical composition of ginseng

Since it is not necessary for food supplements to meet the same quality control as medicines, we can observe  large variations in the concentrations of ginseng compounds  , including levels of potentially harmful impurities (pesticides, lead, cadmium, mercury ...).

Products containing ginseng and other additives are not evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) or government quality agencies. The chemical composition  of commercially available products  is highly variable  due to differences in the genetic nature of the plants, the variation of the active ingredients according to the culture and season, the differences in the methods of drying and curing and the differences in the processes of preparation of additives.

A study of 50 commercial components concluded that  44 of them had gingenoside concentrations  (the active principle of ginseng at the root)  that ranged from 1.9 to 9%, while another 6 showed no detectable levels.  . All this is one of the main problems in ginseng research. Therefore, there may be some studies that show that ginseng can improve performance during sports practice, but  athletes will not be able to be sure that they are getting the right doses.and the type of active components of all possible preparations. It is also important to note that herbal preparations are considered to be highly likely to contain contaminants, as mentioned above. In addition, some may contain ephedrine, a stimulant banned by anti-doping codes.

Benefits of ginseng

Reports of the gergogenic capacity of ginseng appear frequently in the non-scientific literature, but there is  little evidence to support its efficacy for the aforementioned purposes  . For example, in a double-blind study protocol, volunteers were asked to consume 200 or 400 mg of standardized ginseng concentrate every day for 8 weeks. Neither treatment affected submaximal or maximal performance, subjective perception of exertion, heart rate, oxygen consumption, or blood lactate levels.

An article published in the  Journal Sport Sciences  conducted a study on the  effects of ginseng on sprint sets and endurance exercises  . Two studies were conducted on male university students. 90 minutes after ginseng or placebo consumption, study participants (n = 19) completed three maximum 30-second sprints on the ergometer, separated by three minutes of recovery. While participants in Study 2 (n = 16) performed a submaximal exercise bike test until exhaustion. Average power decreased with the Wingate tests, while the fatigue rate and lactate concentration increased after the third Wingate test.

There were no detectable differences in any of the measurements with or without ginseng  , nor the effect of ginseng in time to exhaustion, rating of perceived effort, or heart rate during submaximal exercise. The results of this study show that ginseng has failed to improve its physical performance during repeated sprint exercises or submaximal exercises to exhaustion. However, they stipulate that chronic effects or actions in other populations cannot be ruled out (4). Similarly, no ergogenic effects were identified on various physiological and functional variables after one week of treatment with saponin and ginseng extract administered in two doses of 8 or 16 mg per kg body weight.

In studies demonstrating its efficacy, the protocols were erroneous  with respect to the use of control groups, placebo, or double-blind design. There is currently no strong scientific evidence that ginseng supplements can offer ergogenic benefits for physiological function or athletic performance. There do not appear to be any adverse effects when used for short periods of time, but more studies are needed to confirm this. Similarly, more research is needed to address the possible ergogenic potential of ginseng, as, as already mentioned, there is currently no scientific evidence to support it and no improvement in athletic performance should be recommended (5). .


It must be borne in mind that in many cases the results of  obvious research are directed and oriented towards strictly commercial objectives  . In fact, many of these substances are fraudulent or their effect is questionable due to the lack of coherence and objectivity in their study, as it is only a commercial trick. More research needs to be done due to lack of scientific evidence. Ginseng is and will continue to be one of the supplements consumed by athletes, despite little or no scientific evidence to support its ergogenicity. For all of the above, we can conclude  that the use of  ergogenic aids  should always be controlled by experts in the field. and, in any case, aimed at improving the health and skills of the athlete, always taking into account their physical and mental condition.