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Updated on April 14, 2009


Legendary for its use a Chinese cure-all, ginseng today has been labeled an "adaptogenic" herb: Its components may help the body deal with stressors and a variety of other physical, chemical, or biological challenhes. Adaptogens are though to enhance overall vigor, boost brain-power, and improve physical stamina, making ginseng tea, in essence, a pick-me-up in a cup.


Teas made from both Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) appear to offer similar benefits. In one study, participants who took ginseng along with multivitamin supplements reported significant improvements in personal satisfaction, energy levels, sex drive, and sleep, and relief from symptoms of depression. Other studies show that substances found in ginseng tea may help people with diabetes, hypertension, fatigue, and stress. Ginseng tea may also protect the liver, guard against memory loss, and help relieve the stress-related hot flashes of menopause. A recent study confirmed ginseng's ability to bolster immunity in patients with suppressed immune systems, and scientists are now exploring the possibility that ginseng may slow the development of colon cancer.



  • Boosts immunity
  • Has a calming effect
  • Improves energy level
  • Sharpens mental acuity


  • Fatigue
  • Memory loss
  • Mild depression
  • Sleep troubles
  • Stress


Ginseng tea has a long history. In fact, it's one of the oldest medicinal tonics of the Far East. Modern experts note that ginsenosides-the helpful compounds found in ginseng tea-do affect health, but not everyone agrees on just what their effects are. In studies, various ginsenosides have been found to produce contradictory results. Some seem to raise blood pressure, for example, while others seem to lower it. Further, ginsenosides seem to help stimulate the body, while others may offer a calming effect. Herbalists say this "adaptability" may be the key to ginseng tea's many healing powers, with its impact depending on your individual need. For example, sipping a steaming cup could either energize or relax you, depending on whether your body needs a mild stimulant or sedative. In this way, herbalists say, ginseng tea helps the body's systems stay in balance, warding off the negative effects of stress, disease, and other health problems.


Thanks to its popularity, ginseng is widely available from virtually all health food stores and other herb suppliers, often in root form, which is ideal for brewing teas. (It's also available as a tincture and in capsules.) To brew a cup for yourself, steep 1 tsp. finely chopped, fresh root for 10 min. in boiling water, covering the cup while it steeps. If you buy ginseng in prepared tea bags, check the ingredients list to be sure you're getting the Asian and American varieties whose benefits have been most clearly demonstrated.


One study found that, of 54 ginseng products, 25% contained no ginseng at all! Be sure to follow package instructions regarding dosages: Different preparations offer varying concentrations of ginsenosides. Asian ginseng is considered more potent than American and is generally more expensive. Most experts recommend drinking 1 to 3 cups of homemade ginseng tea a day to reap its healing benefits. Thanks to its pleasant aroma and mildly sweet flavor, it tastes fine either plain or lightly sweetened.


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