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Study Documents Ginseng Effectiveness For Exercise Recovery

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Ginseng, most commonly sold as Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) or American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), is a time-tested herbal remedy that has been used for thousands of years. In Traditional Chinese Medicine, it was used to increase longevity, improve visual acuity, relieve pain in the abdomen or chest, cure diarrhea and vomiting, enhance cognitive function, and improve blood circulation.

Modern science credits ginseng with having antioxidant and anti-inflammatory effects, which may help explain its wide range of uses. As a supplement, ginseng is used today to strengthen immunity, decrease inflammation, and reduce fatigue.

It’s that last use that scientists from Open University of Catalonia in Barcelona, Spain, were most interested in—specifically, ginseng’s reported ability to speed up recovery from exercise and reduce muscle fatigue. The results of their research were published in the journal Nutrients.


The Study

To weigh the effectiveness of ginseng as an exercise recovery aid, the researchers reviewed a total of 766 studies culled from the SCOPUS database, and narrowed those down to 12 that were published between 2005 and 2021 and were all described as “randomized” and “double-blind.” The reviewed research was global in scope, with eight of the studies conducted in Asia, two in the United States, one in Brazil, and one in Australia. The reviewed studies also used eight different types of ginseng preparations or extracts, including Korean ginseng, American ginseng, red ginseng, Panax ginseng, and wild ginseng extract.

Upon analyzing the results of the selected studies, the researchers found convincing evidence that ginseng can significantly reduce post-exercise muscle damage in healthy adults, and that it improves muscle regeneration and helps the body recover from both muscle fatigue and damage. Specifically, taking ginseng systematically for a long time can mitigate the response of the biological markers, mainly creatine kinase (CK) and interleukin 6 (IL-6), responsible for exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation. Furthermore, it reduces and mitigates the appearance of lactate—a chemical compound produced by the body when muscles have insufficient oxygen due to overexertion—in the blood.

The researchers noted that the damage created by exercise is mainly inflammatory in nature, which points to ginseng’s mechanism of activity. The active ingredients of the compounds contained in ginseng stimulate the central nervous system, the researchers said, and have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. They also regulate cortisol, the stress hormone, benefiting many of the body’s metabolic functions and helping the immune system perform as it should.



The researchers also noted that, by reducing fatigue, ginseng may also reduce the risk of injury, particularly in the case of muscles or ligaments, which can, in turn, improve athletic performance.

“Although recovery times vary based on the nature of the injury and between individuals, the damaged structures share the same physiological processes. This is where ginseng comes in, as it can play a significant role in recovering from injuries,” said Borja Muñoz, a fitness coach and one of the study’s lead authors.

The results of this review could pave the way for future research to study the benefits of ginseng in greater depth and to assess how using it as a supplement might improve athletic performance. “There’s still a significant amount of work to do, said Muñoz, “as ginseng has the potential to increase athletes’ physical performance and help prevent certain injuries, particularly muscle injuries.”




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