Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng) is an herbal medication that has been employed in a variety of
Modern science has studied the effects of ginseng with respect to both athletic performance and general health. In spite of the long history of ginseng, any definitively positive effects on performance have not proven conclusive. The active ingredient in ginseng, ginsenoside, is classed as an adaptogen (a substance that aids in the development of the restorative processes of the body, assisting the bodily systems in achieving balance). Ginsenoside, present in concentrations of approximately 4% in commercial preparations of Chinese ginseng, operates on the hypothalamic-pituitary axis, one of the linkages within the endocrine system, the crucial interconnected glandular system that is responsible for the production of all human hormones—the chemical messengers that signal organs to act in a particular way. The presence of ginseng appears to increase the production of adrenal corticotropic hormone (ACTH), the chemical that stimulates sensations of motivation and intensity during sports competition.
Ginseng is a common ingredient in a multitude of commercial energy drinks, herbal teas, and athletic supplements. Many consumers recognize the name and effects of this long-used herb, more so than other natural products, in part because of its longevity as a medicinal plant. Ginseng is commonly available as a dried powder or extract, or it can be sold as the entire root of the plant.
While the objective evidence of athletic improvement from ginseng may be inconclusive, unlike many other herbal formulations consumed as dietary supplements, ginseng rarely has serious side effects. As an adaptogen, there is a significant basis for the