While Panax ginseng is primarily known for its reported cognitive benefits like improved concentration and energy levels, very few women know that ginseng has a long history of use for the treatment of the symptoms of menopause. Panax ginseng has, in fact, been used for centuries in an effort to treat women’s health issues.
Ginseng is rich in both Ginsenosides and phytoestrogens, potentially making it a powerful tool in the fight against menopausal symptoms.
Below, we’ll examine four studies that have shown demonstrable positive effects of Panax ginseng supplementation for women experiencing the physical and psychological symptoms of menopause.
Ginseng and Menopause Research
Study 1. Effects of a standardized ginseng extract on quality of life and physiological parameters in symptomatic postmenopausal women: a double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Swedish Alternative Medicine Group. A team out of the University of Bergen in Norway conducted a double-blind, randomized study analyzing the effects Panax ginseng supplementation has on post-menopausal women. After 12 weeks of study, where 191 women were administered a placebo and 193 women were administered a standardized Panax ginseng supplement, study participants were evaluated using questionnaires covering such areas as well-being, subjective post-menopausal symptoms, and sexual dysfunction. In addition, physiological parameters were also analyzed, including estrogen levels, endometrial thickness, and vaginal pH.
The results of the study showed that the ginseng group experienced an overall improvement in subjective wellbeing scores compared to the placebo group. At the same time, there was no statistically significant difference regarding the physiological symptoms of post-menopausal symptoms between the two groups.
It appears that, according to this study, ginseng may potentially improve the psychological symptoms of post-menopausal syndrome without producing any estrogen replacement-like effects, as the physiological indicators were unaffected.
Study 2. Effects of Korean red ginseng on sexual arousal in menopausal women: placebo-controlled, double-blind crossover clinical study. In women, menopause is often associated with impaired sexual function. A research group based out of Chonnam National University Medical School tested the anecdotal reports of ginseng consumption alleviating these symptoms.
32 women experiencing menopause took part in a placebo-controlled, double-blind, crossover clinical study where they either received a placebo or three 1g capsules of Panax ginseng daily. At the end of the study period, both groups were to answer two questionnaires (the Female Sexual Function Index and the Global Assessment Questionnaire) in order to quantify any changes in menopausal symptoms.
Study 3.Effects of red ginseng supplementation on menopausal symptoms and cardiovascular risk factors in postmenopausal women: a double-blind randomized controlled trial. Post-menopausal women have an elevated risk of developing cardiovascular disease. 72 women took part in a randomized, placebo-controlled study to determine whether Panax ginseng has a mediating effect on this risk. While half of these women were given a placebo, the other half supplemented with 3g of ginseng root daily for 12 weeks.
After the 12-week administration period, both groups completed a physical exam where researchers measured lipid profiles, high-sensitivity C-reactive protein, and carotid intima-media thickness. In addition, both groups answered questionnaires to measure changes in their subjective menopausal symptoms.
Upon analysis of the study’s results, it was shown that there was an improvement on every measured metric with the ginseng group when compared to the placebo group, demonstrating ginseng’s ability to alleviate both post-menopausal symptoms and the biological markers that contribute to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.
Study 4. Beneficial estrogen-like effects of ginsenoside Rb1, an active component of Panax ginseng, on neural 5-HT disposition and behavioral tasks in ovariectomized mice. Research as shown that decreased 5-HT concentration in the brain are linked to central nervous system disorders, especially in women experiencing menopause.
At the same time, there is a growing body of research showing the Rb1, a Ginsenoside found in the Panax ginseng root, can improve central nervous system dysfunction comparable to estrogen treatment therapy.
In a study carried out at the China Pharmaceutical University in Nanjing, China, Researchers measured the concentration of 5-HT in the frontal cortex and striatum of ovariectomized mice treated with oral Rb1 supplementation.
The results of the study indicated that the consumption of the Ginsenoside Rb1 resulted in elevated 5-HT concentrations in the brain. In addition, Rb1 also improved object recognition and decreased immobility time in a forced swimming test. The researchers then repeated their test, but began by administering an estrogen receptor antagonist. The inclusion of the estrogen receptor antagonist effectively blocked the beneficial effects of the Rb1, indicating that the benefits derived from Rb1 are estrogen receptor-dependent.
There is a conflict in the data as to whether ginseng has an effect on the estrogen receptors of menopausal women. Some studies, such as the one conducted in Norway, indicate that the beneficial effects of ginseng are not derived from its interaction with estrogen receptors. Recent Chinese studies, however, seem to show that these benefits are estrogen dependent.
More research on the topic is needed before a firm conclusion can be reached, making Panax ginseng supplementation potentially problematic for women seeking treatments that leave estrogen levels unaffected. Conclusion While the research on the topic of Panax ginseng’s application as a treatment for menopausal and post-menopausal symptoms remains limited, the findings presented in the previously discussed studies are intriguing indicators that Panax ginseng may be useful to women seeking a non-pharmaceutical alternative for the treatment of menopause.
What the Doctor Recommends
How to deal with menopause symptoms? The menopause can make you feel as if you're not in control of your own body, but there are ways to ease menopause symptoms:
1. Keep cool To ease hot flushes and night sweats:
wear lighter clothing
keep your bedroom cool at night
do more exercise
try to reduce your stress levels
avoid potential "hot flush" triggers, such as spicy food, caffeine, smoking and alcohol
2. Try to relax Psychological symptoms associated with the hormonal changes brought about by the menopause can include feeling down, anxiety, irritability, mood swings, tiredness and lack of energy. The following tactics can help improve your mood:
getting plenty of rest
relaxation exercises, such as yoga and tai chi
3. Sleep well Restful sleep will help you cope with night sweats and other menopausal symptoms. Improve your sleep by:
avoiding exercise within two hours of bedtime
going to bed at the same time every night
wearing lighter clothing and keeping your room cool
4) Get regular exercise There's evidence that women who are more active tend to suffer less from the symptoms of the menopause. Exercise is important not only for the relief of short-term symptoms, but also to protect your body from heart disease and osteoporosis.
The benefits of exercise in preventing bone loss and fractures are well known. It is thought that the best kind of activities are aerobic, sustained and regular. Brisk walking about three times a week is a cheap, easy and great way to start exercising.
5) Stop smoking Women who smoke have an earlier menopause than non-smokers, have worse flushes and often don't respond as well to tablet forms of HRT. It’s never too late to stop smoking.