Panax ginseng is one of the most common ingredients of energy drinks. Grown in the fields of Vietnam, this little plant thrives in the colder climates of Asia and has become a new American favorite during latest energy drinks buzz. Literally translated “man-root,” the ginseng plant lives up to its name and packs a punch in energy drinks from its fleshy root.
Carl Linnaeus, an 18th century botanist, physician, and zoologist, added “panax,” meaning “all-heal,” to the name of the ginseng plant when he observed how often it was used in Chinese medicine as a muscle relaxant.
The effects of ginseng are controversial, and many studies have had contradicting results. Some of the studies claim that panax ginseng may be responsible for diarrhea, headaches, high blood pressure, low blood pressure and even the inability to sleep. Some research even states that panax ginseng can be responsible for nosebleeds and warns that it should not be used with over-the-counter prescription drugs.
Other research notes a much different side to panax ginseng. According to some studies, panax ginseng could actually be a “promising” dietary supplement, and might have an anti-inflammatory effect on the inflammatory gene CXCL-10. Some more recent studies have suggested that panax ginseng might inhibit some cancers as well as provide cancer patients with more energy.
All in all, ginseng is still an ingredient whose true effects are not conclusively known; it has both beneficial and harmful qualities. Though energy drinks contain a sub-clinical dose of panax ginseng, this amount may prove to both increase your energy and have a measurable medicinal effect.