Exhaustive Exercise and Ginseng benefits

Effects of Panax ginseng extract on exercise-induced oxidative stress

Ginseng has been used in the Far East for centuries as a revitalising, strengthening and rejuvenating herb, and in more recent times became popular among Western sportsmen and women. But despite its popularity, there’s been little conclusive scientific evidence to date that it offers any significant benefits. However, new research into the effects of Korean (Panax) ginseng appears to provide evidence that it may be of value to help counteract the effects of exhaustive exercise.

In the study, a team of Korean scientists looked at the effects of ginseng on lipid peroxidation, which occurs when lipids in cells are damaged by oxygen free radicals, and enzymes that help to mop up these free radicals. Seven healthy male subjects performed a run to exhaustion on the treadmill during which VO2max, heart rate and exercise duration were measured. Blood samples were collected at rest and after each test, which were used to measure levels of malondialdehyde (a marker of lipid peroxidation) together with two enzymes involved in mopping up free radicals (catalase and superoxide dismutase).

Having completed the baseline test, the subjects took 2g of Panax ginseng three times a day for the following eight weeks, after which the treadmill test was repeated. The results were as follows:

  • After eight weeks of ginseng supplementation, the run time to exhaustion was significantly increased (by 1.5 minutes) over baseline;
  • The rise in malondialdehyde immediately following the treadmill test was significantly less after ginseng supplementation (indicating less lipid damage);
  • Higher levels of catalase and superoxide dismutase were recorded post-exercise after ginseng supplementation (indicating increased protection against free radical damage).

Ideally the study would also have included a second group of runners who performed the baseline test and then the eight-week test without ginseng supplementation (to verify that these improvements weren’t due to other extraneous factors). However, these results provide promising evidence that when it comes to exhaustive exercise, ginseng supplementation may offer protection against oxidative stress as well as potential performance gains.

J Sports Med Phys Fitness 2005; 45(2):178-82

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