Whether you are a diabetic or just trying to lose weight, research is beginning to show just how important it is to maintain healthy levels of blood sugar. Diets high in processed carbohydrates are wreaking havoc on our bodies, and many are turning to ginseng for help.
In clinical trials conducted across the globe involving both human and animal subjects, Panax ginseng has consistently been shown to significantly help control blood glucose levels.
One way in which Panax ginseng blunts the insulin response to carbohydrates is by affecting the ability of the body to absorb sugars.
Study 1: In vitro and in vivo antihyperglycemic effect of 2 amadori rearrangement compounds, arginyl-fructose and arginyl-fructosyl-glucose. When Panax ginseng is fermented, various compounds form that inhibit carbohydrate digesting enzymes, intestinal glucosidases, and pancreatic alpha-amylase. This was tested in vivo by supplementing 100mg/kg of Panax ginseng along with 1.5g/kg starch or 2g/kg sucrose. This study demonstrated that the addition of fermented varieties of Panax ginseng results in a decrease in circulating carbohydrates by 10-14% for fructose and 6-20% for glucose in healthy adults.
Study 2: Korean red ginseng rootlets decrease acute postprandial glycemia: results from sequential preparation- and dose-finding studies. In another study carried out at the Korea University College of Medicine, human subjects who consumed 6 grams of fermented Panax ginseng extract saw a 29% reduction in their glucose AUC. In other words, their glycemic response after consuming a meal was reduced by almost 1/3rd. This is a huge response, and can be of great benefit to anybody looking to get control over their blood sugar.
This ability to block the absorption of carbohydrates appears to be unique to only fermented varieties of ginseng, with red Panax ginseng being the variety studied most frequently.
However, it is not just these inhibitory compounds found in fermented ginseng that effect blood sugar regulation. Both fermented and unfermented varieties of Panax ginseng contain natural steroid glycosides and triterpene saponins known as Ginsenosides, which appear to have a pronounced effect on baseline levels of blood sugar as well.
Study 3: Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity. One study carried out at Northumbria University showed that healthy humans who were given between 200mg and 400mg of Panax ginseng saw their baseline blood glucose level drop by an astounding 11% within one hour.
Study 4: 20(S)-ginsenoside Rg3 enhances glucose-stimulated insulin secretion and activates AMPK. While the underlying mechanisms of this response are not fully understood, a study conducted on mice showed that a unique compound found in Panax ginseng known as 20(S)ginsenoside Rg3 reduced glucose exposure by 6-9%.
Study 6: Ginseng berry reduces blood glucose and body weight in db/db mice. The medicinal properties of Panax ginseng are not limited to the plant’s roots. Berries of the Panax ginseng plant are a rich source of the Ginsenoside Re, which appears to be more effective than the root extract in bringing about hypoglycemia in mice. Clearly, there is something very unique about ginseng supplementation that can be of great benefit to anyone looking to improve their health. However, these benefits are not limited to only healthy individuals. New research is beginning to show that ginseng supplementation can be used to help those battling both Type I and Type II diabetes.
Ginseng and Diabetes Research
Type 1 diabetes is tied to one’s genetics rather than diet and lifestyle choices, making it very hard to effectively manage in the long term. However, many sufferers of Type I diabetes are benefiting from Panax ginseng consumption.
Study 1: Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) ameliorates type 1 diabetes and restores immune cell compartments. A 2012 study carried out in South Korea showed that mice suffering from Type I diabetes that were treated with ginseng for two weeks saw improvements in their resting blood glucose levels. The researchers who carried out this study went on to hypothesize that these benefits come from ginseng’s protective effects on the pancreas, which helps to normalize insulin levels.
Animal studies involving Panax Ginseng have also shown promise in the management of the diet-induced Type II diabetes.
Study 2: Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) improves insulin sensitivity in high fat fed Sprague-Dawley rats. A 2011 study conducted out of Yonsei University demonstrated that Panax ginseng appears to be effective in raising the insulin sensitivity of muscle tissue when fed at 200mg/kg bodyweight. Their findings led the researchers to conclude that Red Panax ginseng “may have antidiabetic and antiobesity effects due to partly increased insulin sensitivity by increased adipokine and partly enhanced insulin signaling.”
Study 3: Effect of ginsam, a vinegar extract from Panax ginseng, on body weight and glucose homeostasis in an obese insulin-resistant rat model. A polysaccharide found in Panax ginseng known as ginsam even seems to modify the expression of the genes related to the metabolism of glucose and fatty acids in the body. The modification of these genes resulting from oral ginsam supplementation have been shown in studies to help control the body weight of insulin resistant mice. While these studies were done using diabetic mice rather than humans, it does correlate with the larger body of evidence that ginseng can be a phenomenal tool in the quest to manage the symptoms of high blood sugar resulting from diabetes.
We still have a long way to go to fully understand exactly how ginseng interacts with our bodies to control blood sugar levels, but the evidence is growing every year, giving hope to those who wish to find natural ways to control their health.
On the nutrition front there is nothing to restrict but you're better to eat certain foods in moderation. Ensure you keep yor diet varied, including fruits, vegetables, starch and fiber. Eat regularly and try not to skip meals. Sugar, fat and salt intake to be limited.
On the exercise front aim for 2.5 hours of activity per week. It doesn't matter what exactly you do, just make sure you get out of breath: swimming, pace walking, playing sports, climbing stairs can all contribute to this.