Like cordyceps, ginseng has a long history of traditional use in China, where it is considered to have “qi-invigorating” properties.10 The concept of “qi” is that of “energy flow” or “vital energy;” its deficiency is associated with heart disease and lethargic blood flow.24,25
Not surprisingly, then, studies show that ginseng increases ATP production in the mitochondria, in this case in part because of powerful antioxidant effects that shield mitochondria from the fierce energy-rich environment in which they must function.10,26,27 It has recently been demonstrated that ginseng activates multiple enzymes in the so-called tricarboxylic acid cycle (or Krebs cycle), enabling mitochondria to extract maximum energy (in the form of ATP) from their glucose fuel in the presence of oxygen.28
Ginseng is also considered an adaptogen, namely, a compound that helps the body adapt to a wide variety of stresses and extremes.29-31 Unfortunately, most forms of ginseng require fermentation in the human intestine before they can be absorbed, which can limit their potential usefulness. An advanced formulation of ginseng, GS15-4, surmounts that obstacle by naturally fermenting premium Panax ginseng, which has been shown to increase absorption of the essential compound K (a ginsenoside metabolite) by more than 15-fold.32
In the laboratory, rats treated with a single dose of energy-boosting ginseng increased the time they could run on a treadmill by 132%; after 7 days it had increased by 179%.33 This study traced the source of the benefit to enhanced adaptation of the pituitary-adrenal gland system, enabling production of appropriate amounts of stress hormones until the animals’ bodies had adapted to the exercise regimen. In fact, studies of chronically stressed animals demonstrate that ginseng supplementation beneficially lowers plasma levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and reverses disturbances in neurotransmitter precursor balance and fatty acid metabolism that contribute to stress-induced fatigue.34,35
Multiple other studies have now confirmed that ginseng supplements prolong aerobic exercise endurance in even untrained animal models.26,34,36-38 Some of this effect appears to arise from a reduction in fatigue of the diaphragm, the large, sheet-like muscle that we use to draw in breath;39 fatigue of the diaphragm is a sure way of ending an exercise session.
Studies of the effects of ginseng in depression reveal potent antidepressant effects that contribute to improved energy.37 And studies of obese animals demonstrate down-regulation of a host of genes involved in lipid and energy metabolism, an important finding in light of the fact that obesity contributes to fatigue.1,40
In human subjects, fermented ginseng reduces anxiety and improves sleep, which of course makes for improved energy levels. One study showed that a total dose of 1,845 mg/day of fermented ginseng (three capsules of 205 mg each, three times daily for 8 days) improved the so-called “first night effect” in which sleep in an unfamiliar environment is disturbed.41
The same researchers identified an anti-anxiety effect produced by improvements in levels of the calming neurotransmitter GABA, suggesting that the sleep improvements may have been related to reductions in anxiety, another cause of fatigue.41
In a similar fashion, stressful cognitive tasks can produce mental fatigue (perhaps through anxiety production), and a single 200 mg dose of a standardized ginseng extract significantly reduced mental fatigue while improving cognitive performance on mental arithmetic tasks in a group of healthy volunteers.42
In a subsequent study, researchers gave healthy volunteers either 200 mg of the ginseng extract, or a placebo, immediately followed by a battery of cognitively demanding tasks, and then 30 minutes later by either 25 grams (nearly an ounce) of glucose or a placebo.43 While both ginseng and glucose improved performance on arithmetic and reduced feelings of fatigue, there was no synergistic effect.43 However, because ginseng lowered blood sugar, while the glucose obviously raised it, the researchers concluded that ginseng was both glucoregulatory and provided the mental stamina necessary to engage in extended cognitive processes.43
And in still another study, a standardized ginseng extract, 400 mg/day for 8 days, improved feelings of calmness in healthy young adults, compared with placebo recipients.44 On both the first and the 8th day, supplemented subjects also performed better on mental arithmetic tasks as well.44
Fatigue is like pain—it has many different causes, is difficult for others to assess objectively, leading to undertreatment, and is potentially debilitating.1
Yet fatigue, both mental and physical, can be traced to insufficient levels of the tiny battery-like ATP molecules in which we store the energy our bodies derive from foods, mainly fats and sugars. By restoring ATP levels, we literally “recharge our batteries,” relieving fatigue and restoring more youthful energy levels. Cordyceps and ginseng work in a complementary fashion to boost ATP levels and charge up our bodies’ energy stores.9,10
If you are one of the millions of Americans whose batteries seem chronically run down, who could use a safe, non-addictive, and biologically-proven energy boost, don’t turn to caffeinated energy drinks or prescription drugs, laden as they are with toxic side effects.1-3,5-7 Instead, choose a natural energy-restoring combination of cordyceps and fermented ginseng to optimize energy production and re-invigorate both body and mind.
If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Health Advisor at 1-866-864-3027.
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