Welcome to the second installment of Herb VS Herb, where we pair a single herb with multiple worthy rivals, then scour through the scientific literature to find out which herb is more medicinally beneficial. This is a long post. I encourage you to use the table of contents below!
What is Ginseng?
The Simple Version: Ginseng is a prized root that has been in use as a cash crop and nutritional supplement for thousands of years.
Complicated Version: Ginseng is a term that refers to any root of a plant that is in the genus Panax.
There are many non-Panax roots that are mislabeled and sold as Ginseng. A good example is Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) – a woody shrub in the Araliaceae family.
Chinese emperors use to literally kill for this stuff, and it’s not very difficult to see why:
And that power can be harnessed to varying degrees through certain cultivation and preparation methods.
Red Ginseng VS White Ginseng
The Red vs White conversation is a controversial one within gardening and herbal circles. One thing to keep in mind is that Red and White Ginseng are both Panax ginseng – the color difference is simply a result of how the Ginseng is prepared.
Let’s start with the basics…
Red ginseng is produced by using the normal, milky-white Panax Ginseng root then chopping it up with a giant blade and steaming it.
The ginsenosides – powerful antioxidant enabling chemical compounds unique to Ginseng – become more active during long steaming sessions. This is largely why Red Ginseng is considered more valuable than other preparation methods.
White Ginseng is created by simply drying fresh Ginseng root in the sun. There is no steaming process, nor any tricky boiling methods. It’s very straightforward!
Red Vs White Ginseng Studies
In 2014, White and Red Ginseng were matched up in what could only be described as the medicinal duel of the century.
Researchers took an extensive look at which method of preparation reaped the most benefits for mice with asthma. They used extracts of White and Red Ginseng and found that both preparations significantly lowered the overall amount of inflammatory cells in the bronchoalveolar regions while significantly increasing airway responsiveness and making the inflammatory cell infiltration in the mice less severe.
The study also showed that the administered Red Ginseng extract was more effective in all tests.
Ginseng has a long and extensive history of being a medicinal powerhouse in parts of Asia and even Canada and the United States.
1.) A 2006 study found that Ginseng’s Ginsenosides (Ginsenosides are Ginseng’s most powerful adaptogenic chemicals) lead to a significant anti-stress and neuroprotective effect in a stressed mouse population.
2.) A 2003 study published in the Journal of Pharmacological Studies found that Panax ginseng significantly reduces chronic stress in rats.
1.) In combination with Ginkgo biloba, Panax Ginseng was found to significantly improve an index of memory quality in healthy middle-aged volunteers (this is further explained in the Ginkgo biloba section).
2.) A 2007 study found that Ginsenoside Rg2 in Panax Ginseng improves neurological performance and recall ability in rats.
1.) A medical review paper found that Ginseng possesses a wide range of pharmacological benefits for the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and endocrine secretion system, as well as strengthening vital immune functions.
Although on the pricier side, Auragin’s Korean Red Ginseng is by far our favorite selection. In fact, I’d go so far as to say that Auragin’s Ginseng is the only brand that I’ve been blown away by. After taking 4 tablets a day for roughly a week, I felt considerably more energetic and focused.
Similar to Auragin, NutraChamps is a high-quality brand with high-potency products. Although we found this selection to be somewhat underwhelming compared to our top selection, you’ll definitely find it useful for the price point.
It’s worth noting that many suppliers ‘cut’ their Ginseng with lower quality herbs or completely faux Ginseng altogether; this is definitely not the case with NutraChamps. Take one 100 mg capsule and you’ll find yourself in a fairly relaxed and focused mental state.
Ginseng Vs Ginger
Two worthy contenders. Similiar to Ginseng, aristocrats in ancient China consumed Ginger invariably. Imagine an herb that helps with digestion, soothes nausea and is loaded with potent anti-oxidants. That’s the power of Ginger!
Luckily for us, researchers have been studying Ginger for quite some time. We now know from decades of research the following medicinal benefits of this healthful herb:
1.) A review of the literature surrounding Ginger was published in 2000. Researchers found that Ginger is better than placebo for nausea and vomiting prevention.
2.) A 2012 study found that Ginger reduces acute chemotherapy-induced nausea.
3.) Researchers found that Ginger is effective for postoperative nausea and vomiting in this 2005 study.
4.) In this extremely thorough, double-blind placebo-controlled trial, researchers found that when administered to women who have been experiencing morning sickness daily, Ginger is considerably more effective than placebo.
We can conclude with strong confidence that Ginger has powerful anti-nausea effects.
1.) Researchers looked at the anti-oxidant and total phenolic content in 21 common Asian vegetables in this 2002 study. They found that Ginger has amongst the highest phenolic contents of all the vegetables, as well as high levels of various antioxidant compounds.
2.) A 2010 study found that Ginger accelerates neuro-antioxidant mechanisms in diabetic rats. This actually aided in neuroprotection.
1.) In a 2005 review of the literature, two researchers concluded that Ginger “inhibits the induction of several genes involved in the inflammatory response”.
2.) Researchers in 2008 found that Ginger extract has anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory effects on ethionine-induced hepatoma rats in this study.
3.) Researchers looked at the most active constituents of Ginger – -gingerol, -gingerol, -gingerol and -shogaol – and found that they exhibit extremely substantial free radical scavenging activities in this 2009 study.
I strongly suggest that you take a look at a few of these studies; they’re truly remarkable and really show how potent Ginger is as a medicinal plant.
1.) This 2001 double-blind study caught my attention. Researchers looked at two hundred and sixty-one patients with moderate to severe knee pain and found that the percentage of responders with reduced pain that were given Ginger extract was far superior compared to the control group – 63% to 50%.
2.) In a similar study, researchers gave massage sessions with ginger and orange oil to a group of elderly people. The placebo control group received olive oil massages, and the control received no massage. The results show that the Ginger aroma massage therapy was the best method for short-term knee pain.
Ginger Chemical Constituents
Although Ginger has a complex chemical constituency, there are four potent compounds in particular that cause most of the herb’s medicinal benefits:
Gingerols are some of the most pharmacologically interesting chemicals compounds I’ve come across. Along with producing all of the major medicinal benefits listed above, they’re currently being studied for their effects on cancerous tumors within the bowels.
Ginseng or Ginger?
The literature shows Ginger to be a much better anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory herb. On the other hand, Ginseng is the more potent nootropic.
Our Top Ginger Selection
Compared to the other five brands that we’ve tried, Anthony’s ground ginger tastes especially fresh and pure.
A few other good selections…
(Ginger and Turmeric are an especially great combination!)
Ginseng VS Rhodiola Rosea
We detailed the pros and cons of Rhodiola rosea compared to Ashwagandha in our last HERB VS HERB post.
A few quick things to note:
- Similiar to Ginger and Ginseng, Rhodiola has been used for centuries – mostly in ancient Russia – where peasants and farmers would consume the herb to combat a stressful and dreary life.
- Rhodiola is oftentimes lumped into a long list of ‘trendy’ herbs that include Kava Kava, Kratom, Ashwagandha and many others. As you can see from the image below, a sudden spike of Rhodiola rosea search queries in early 2008 and late 2004 came after a bevy of deceitful vendors selling low quality, unpure supplements branded under the name Rhodiola rosea made headlines. We’ll get into brand recommendations later, but it’s worth reiterating: high quality well sourced herbal supplements are crucial. Don’t buy from cheap, substandard vendors!
Rhodiola Rosea Benefits
1.) A remarkable study published in 2000 showed that Rhodiola was extremely effective in reducing fatigue in a group of students during an exam period.
2.) After 5 days of Rhodiola supplementation, military cadets working night duties reported significantly reduced symptoms of fatigue in this 2003 study.
3.) A 2011 review of the literature found that Rhodiola rosea may have beneficial effects on physical and mental performance.
1.) A 2009 study found that two 340 mg tablets of Rhodiola rosea a day cause overall levels of depression and insomnia to decrease dramatically.
2.) A 2015 study found that Rhodiola rosea could be a beneficial, non-harmful, herb for those who suffer with mild to moderate depression.
1.) After 5 days of Rhodiola supplementation, military cadets working night duties reported significantly reduced symptoms of fatigue and enhanced cognitive abilities in this 2003 study.
2.) A review of the literature published in 2005 found that Rhodiola increases mental performance.
Rhodiola Chemical Constituents
All three of these chemicals are extremely interesting in and of themselves, but it’s worth emphasizing how fascinating Salidroside is.
In this study, researchers found that ADAPT-232 – which is a combination of Salidroside and Schisandra Chinensis (Five-Flavor berry) – improved focus, attention, and accuracy during stressful cognitive tasks.
Ginseng or Rhodiola Rosea?
The literature shows Rhodiola to be a much more impressive nootropic and anti-oxidant herb, while Ginseng takes the cake as a better neuroprotective agent.
Our Favorite Rhodiola Rosea Selection
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Gaia Herbs is one of the best herbal-supplement brands out there. This Rhodiola extract, in particular, is impressive in potency and quality – two tablets once a day and you’ll find yourself more focused and relaxed in just a matter of days.
A few other good selections…
Ginseng VS Caffeine
Make no mistakes about it, Caffeine is by far the most Consumed drug on earth. As society strives for hyper-productivity, we seek out chemicals that keep us energetic and motivated with as little side-effects as possible; Caffeine fits the bill.
1.) A study published in 1978 found that caffeine significantly increased the performance of competitive cyclists who exercised until exhaustion.
2.) A 2008 review of the literature found that a moderate amount of caffeine is effective across sports.
1.) Caffeine was shown to provide short-term performance and alertness during sleep loss in this 2005 study.
2.) Tasks that require working memory can benefit from moderate caffeine consumption according to this 2010 essay.
1.) Recent epidemiological studies show that caffeine has a protective effect on the brain when administered to patients with Alzheimer disease.
[Caffeine is the most studied drug on planet earth, I highly encourage you to look over the literature yourself. You’ll find a deluge of fascinating facts about this beloved crystalline compound.]
Ginseng or Caffeine?
Remember, caffeine will worsen anxiety. Even modest amounts (like a single cup of coffee) could exacerbate your symptoms. If you’re new to caffeine start with a small amount, then perhaps work your way up. Also, remember that caffeine is seriously habit forming and long-term use will create a tolerance (like any other neuroactive drug).
But as far as being a pure nootropic, no other chemical is quite as good for focus, energy and handling sleep deprivation.
Our Top Caffeine Pick
Caffeine + L-Theanine is perhaps the best-known nootropic stack. In fact, even if you’re not a supplement enthusiast you’ve probably had it before; L-Theanine and Caffeine happen to be the main neuroactive chemicals in tea. L-Theanine, in particular, is a potent relaxant that has been shown to enhance alpha brain waves. This is a great product for those of us who work night shifts and seek a quick boost of energy and focus.
Some Other Great Selections…
Ginseng VS Maca
Maca has been used in Peru for thousands of years. Sometimes referred to as Amazon Ginseng, this nutritious biennial plant has a variety of uses and methods of consumption:
Like Gelatinized Maca Root Power, which is boiled in water until most of the plant’s starch is removed. Overall, this is a better method for those of us with sensitive stomachs.
Or, Raw Organic Black Maca Powder, the rarest of all Maca varieties. These darker varieties have been shown in studies to increase male libido.
Or perhaps you could settle for the Maca Supplement Caps, which are an easy way to digest the rather unpleasant tasting root (although, you’ll find much better quality from raw Maca powders).
1.) A 2008 study found that three grams of daily Maca consumption cause significant improvements in sexual function.
2.) Hexanic Maca extract was found to improve sexual-performance in rats (what a great metric) in this 2002 study.
1.) This 2014 study found that extracted polysaccharides from Maca root have powerful anti-oxidant activities.
2.) Another study published in 2004 found that phytochemicals in Maca have anti-oxidant activities.
Maca root is still, unfortunately, under-studied. Researchers aren’t even sure what the plant’s main neuro-active chemicals are. With that being said, we do know that Maca roots are loaded with amino-acids, fatty-acids, and various other beneficial compounds.
Ginseng or Maca?
Maca seems to be fairly non-effective as a neuroprotective and anti-inflammatory agent. But as a sexual enhancer and anti-oxidant (and potentially a physical stimulant) this bountiful beauty has you covered.
Our Top Maca Pick
There are three main types of Maca:
Cream Colored Maca – The most common variety. Loaded with various vitamins and minerals, including Magnesium, Zinc and Calcium. This variety has been said to boost overall levels of energy and mental focus.
Red Maca – Identical in nutrients to Cream Colored Maca (frankly, I don’t think there are any differences worth diving into).
Black Maca – As I mentioned above, this is the best variety for libido and fertility enhancement along with reported improvements in memory and concentration (based off of personal testimony).
The Maca Team (the team who sells our top pick above) is perhaps the best Maca supplier on the market. Their product is sourced from Peru, organic, and seems to have been extracted perfectly.
Other Worthy Products…
Ginseng VS Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo biloba has a history that spans for many thousands of years; all the way back to ancient China where it was used for the treatment of bronchitis and asthma. It’s a large tree with fan-shaped leaves:
The leaves are really the main point of interest. Ancients would either consume them individually or brew a ‘Ginkgo-tea’ for medicinal benefits.
Ginkgo Biloba Benefits
1.) A study published in 2004 found that Ginkgo Biloba is significantly effective for those who suffer from generalized anxiety disorder.
1.) Ginkgo biloba and Ginseng together were found to significantly improve an index of memory quality in healthy adults.
2.) A 1990 study found that Ginkgo has a beneficial effect on elderly patients with mild to moderate memory impairment.
3.) Another 1991 study found a correlation between increased memory and Ginkgo biloba when administered to mice
1.) A 1996 study found that Ginkgo is effective for patients suffering from mild to moderate degenerative dementia.
2.) Researchers found that administering Ginkgo biloba for 3 – 6 months to patients with Alzheimer disease improved overall cognitive functioning in this 1998 study.
1.) Ginkgo biloba was found to be a scavenger of nitric oxide in this 1994 study.
Kaempferol is one of the primary anti-oxidant and anti-cancer chemical compounds found within Ginkgo biloba.
Ginseng and Ginkgo Biloba
Put Ginseng and Ginkgo together and you have yourself a perfect pairing; this study shows that higher doses of the couple lead to less generalized anxiety over-time.
[EGB 761 is a Ginseng & Ginkgo biloba extract. HAMA stands for Hamilton Anxiety Rating Scale. The lower the score, the less reported anxiety.]
Ginseng or Ginkgo Biloba?
Ginkgo biloba is a gold standard medicinal herb. Not only is it an extremely effective anti-anxiety and neuroprotective substance, but it’s also a potent anti-oxidant with anti-inflammatory properties.
I can say from personal experience that Ginkgo Biloba is the most effective herb that I’ve ever tried. Not only does it help with anxiety, but also with self-confidence and mood-regulation.
Our Top Ginkgo Biloba Pick
Nature’s Bounty always has safe, reliable products. I won’t say that this selection is especially incredible, but it works! Shoot us an e-mail if you find a better one, we simply couldn’t locate many high-quality Ginkgo vendors.
Some Other Selections That We Recommend…
As always, thanks for reading. If you have any questions feel free to @herbexaminer us on Twitter or E-mail us through our contact page. Installment #3 of Herb VS Herb is coming soon – stay tuned!