Here’s an easy way to stay healthy this winter. Multiple studies show that ginseng can help protect you from catching colds, RSV or the flu. What’s better, those who do get sick while taking ginseng report milder symptoms and shorter duration of illness.
Ginseng has been shown to demonstrate antiviral activity to protect people from getting RSV or the flu, according to Science Daily. They reported on two studies that found that ginseng can help treat and prevent influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages.
These studies, which were published in the journals Nutrients and the International Journal of Molecular Medicine, found that red ginseng extract improved the survival of human lung cells infected with the flu virus and reduced inflammation. In addition, mice who were given ginseng had more antiviral proteins and were better protected against RSV infection, a common infection that impacts the lungs and airways that is most common among infants. RSV can sometimes lead to serious infections like pneumonia or bronchiolitis in very young children or elderly adults, and it is the leading cause of viral death in infants and elderly adults.
Another peer-reviewed study, published in Canadian Medical Association Journal, found that taking 400 mg of ginseng daily made dramatic differences in susceptibility to colds and how well participants got over them. Participants were given capsules of North American ginseng or placebos, which were standardized to have 200 milligrams of freeze-dried ginseng extract per capsule. They were told to take two pills daily for four months during the flu season and to rate their cold symptoms on a four-point scale each evening. Neither the participants nor the researchers know which participants were taking the real ginseng.
The ginseng group reported fewer, milder and shorter colds, with fewer symptoms. Of the group that received ginseng, 10 percent reported having two or more colds that winter, compared with about 23 percent of those taking the placebo. In addition, colds lasted about 11 days for the ginseng group and 16.5 days for the placebo group. The total symptom scores of participants in the ginseng group was an average of 77.5, compared to 112.3 for the placebo group.
The researchers cautioned that further studies are required to assess ginseng’s efficacy and safety for children and immunocompromised populations. It’s important to note that the study was funded by a manufacturer of ginseng supplements. However, the Canadian Medical Association Journal stated that the company had no role in the trial’s design or execution.
The University of Maryland Medical Center also reports on two studies found that ginseng lowered the chance of catching colds. They report that studies have found that ginseng seems to increase the number of immune cells in the blood and improve the immune system’s response to a flu vaccine. In one study, 227 people got either ginseng or placebo for 12 weeks and got a flu vaccine after 4 weeks. The number of colds and flu were two-thirds lower in the group that took ginseng.
Ginseng has a long history of being used to guard against colds and flu. The Pacific College of Oriental Medicine reports that ginseng improves both stamina and stress resistance. This adaptogen helps the body cope with prevailing stresses, they say.
“Chinese healers most often use ginseng to reinforce qi, enhance memory and stave off cold and flu. Chinese athletes feel it gives them an added competitive edge. Many take it as a stimulant or tonic to increase energy and stamina.”
Ginseng has been used in Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. It has also shown promise in studies as a treatment for diabetes, cancer, immune disorders, and other ailments. It was also commonly used by the elderly to improve mental and physical vitality.
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