The Fatigue Fighting Benefits of Ginseng for Fibromyalgia

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According to Dr. Dharmananda, the use of ginseng in China, and throughout Asia, is based largely on the description in the ancient text, Shennong Bencao Jing (Classic Herbal of Shennong) written around 100 A.D. This text mentions ginseng, also known by its two other names, renxian and guigai, and it describes in detail its nature, its sweet and cold taste, and its healing effects, but it never outlines a description of how to take the herb.

Ginseng has been used as a traditional herbal remedy for thousands of years, and the many proposed health benefits of ginseng are impressive. The herb works as an adaptogen to protect the body against stress and fatigue, and several different variations of the plant have been discovered in different regions of the world. 

It may improve energy levels and physical performance

In their study, Breda and colleagues have highlighted that female patients with fibromyalgia have physical activity levels similar to that of women without fibromyalgia but their physical performance is worse. Increased fatigue, muscle damage, muscle pain, reduced antioxidant defenses and reduced capacity to recover from physical exertion are few of the processes that may impair physical performance in fibromyalgia.

A recent review study published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine, 2018 confirmed that both types of ginseng: American and Asian are a promising treatment for fatigue. Red ginseng serves as an ergogenic aid i.e. it boosts the energy level and enhances physical performance.

Ginseng reduces depressive symptoms by a multimodal therapeutic action

Studies in animal models have confirmed that ginsenosides, active compounds mediate antidepressant property by interacting with multiple neurotransmitter systems such as serotonergic, noradrenergic and dopaminergic systems. 20(S)-protopanaxadiol, an active metabolite derived from ginsenosides, also exerts antidepressant action but not by regulating brain chemistry.

 

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Further research has highlighted that these compounds possibly activate BDNF system in the brain to relieve depressive symptoms. BDNF or Brain-Derived Neurotrophic Factor is a protein that supports growth and development of neurons. Patients with depression have low serum BDNF levels than healthy individuals and serve as an effective biomarker for mood disorders.

Red Panax Ginseng is the Most Potent

Korean ginseng, or Red Panax ginseng, is considered the most potent and the most popular due to it being harvested after six years and undergoing steam harvesting before drying, thereby preserving its health benefiting ginsenosides.

This variety contains vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, B-sisterol, panaxic acid, ginsenosides (0.7 -3%), and essential oils, which help in numerous areas including anemia, memory loss, depression, blood sugar and uric levels, promoting biosynthesis of RNA, cancer and influenza prevention, helping erectile dysfunction, enhancing sports performance, and aiding stress reduction by producing more endorphins in the brain.

Ginseng for fatigue    

All three types of ginseng can be effective at fighting fatigue to varying degrees, and, to date, panax ginseng is the best studied. A randomised, double blind trial in Brazil found that panax ginseng works quicker than the prescription drug amitriptyline at relieving fatigue in fibromyalgia patients. For 12 weeks, 38 women were given 100mg of ginseng, 25mg per day of amitriptyline, or a placebo daily (the panax ginseng root used was standardised to 27% ginsenosides).

Those taking ginseng reported a 31.7% reduction in pain after six weeks, which increased to 39.4% after twelve weeks. They also reported a 25.9% improvement in fatigue after three weeks, which increased to 46.5% after twelve weeks. Sleep improved by 44.3% in total and anxiety reduced by 55.5%. However, those taking the amitriptyline drug and placebo also reported improvements in pain, fatigue, sleep quality, and anxiety, so larger studies are required. 

It improves mood and sleep

Hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis) is a feedback network between part of our brain and the major hormone-secreting glands in our body and this interaction influences our stress response. HPA axis disturbances have been observed in fibromyalgia and these may be related to mood symptoms, fatigue and malaise like symptoms.

It may help alleviate psychological fatigue more than physical fatigue as observed in an animal study. Wingenfeld et al. reported that HPA axis disturbances may contribute to depression in fibromyalgia patients. Symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression in fibromyalgia were significantly higher than the non-fibromyalgia group.

Red ginseng extract is traditionally used as a sedative. In a study involving healthy individuals, treatment with 1500mg red ginseng supplements 3 times a day for 7 days improved sleep quality and reduced total wake time.

It has anti-stress property

HPA axis or hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis is a network that connects the part of the brain to major hormone-secreting glands in our body. This network plays an important role in regulating our response to external stressors.

The HPA axis regulates the action of our stress hormone -cortisol. HPA axis dysfunction is observed in depression and researchers are focusing on developing drugs that can modify the HPA axis and benefit in the treatment of Major Depressive Disorder. Ginseng is a natural remedy that is proven to normalize HPA axis activity and lower stress hormone levels and anxiety.

Ginseng Helps Chronic Inflammation and Pain

If ginseng is reported to help with such a broad spectrum of conditions, does ginseng also help with chronic inflammation and pain? Recent studies have confirmed the answer to be yes.  Allan Lau and his team of researchers from the University of Hong Kong have identified seven ginseng constituents or ginsenosides, which showed immune-suppressive effects.

A. Lau said, “The anti-inflammatory role of ginseng may be due to the combined effects of these ginsenosides, targeting different levels of immunological activity, and in doing so, contributing to the diverse actions of ginseng in humans.

Postmenopausal symptoms

Ginseng has also been found to be helpful for treatment of postmenopausal symptoms and as a natural alternative to anabolic steroids for athletes and body builders.

 

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References:

  • The Fatigue Fighting Benefits of Ginseng By Nicole W via Simpy Supplements
  • Featured Image : Via Salu Brainous

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