Michael Liang, who has investigated the health benefits of ginseng for more than a decade, recently submitted his findings to the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology in advance of their meeting in Anaheim next April.
The research findings were based on a study of healthy, non-diabetic men ages 20 to 45 who took 3 grams of a Chinese ginseng supplement a day for seven days before drinking a concentrated glucose beverage. Their blood sugar levels declined within 30 minutes by as much as 23 percent compared with a similar group that took a placebo.
“Tests on healthy subjects are a good barometer because there are no
underlying health issues that could obscure or affect the results,”
Liang says. The next step is to test the ginseng regimen on diabetics,
who typically require insulin or prescription medicine to regulate and
control their blood sugar.
The goal, says Liang, is to give diabetics an additional tool to
manage their blood sugar and maintain good health, along with proper
diet, exercise and medication if prescribed by a physician. A ginseng
supplement is not intended to be taken for more than 90 days, he says.
A seven-day term would allow diabetics to properly align their blood
sugar level. The ultimate goal is to increase their insulin’s capacity
so that their doctor can help them comply with prescribed diabetic
Liang emphasized, however, that if Chinese ginseng extract becomes
part of a diabetic’s regimen, it should not replace medication or the
need to consult with a physician.
Diabetic athletes could be ideal beneficiaries for a ginseng supplement, says Liang, himself a diabetic and marathon runner.
“Athletes are very determined and focused on performance,” he says.
“Having an additional means to control their blood sugar level would
give them more control over their success if they did not have to worry
about an insulin injection or taking medications before a game or
during a match.”
A common misconception about ginseng is that all derivatives —
supplements, extracts, teas, formulas — have the same therapeutic
value. Some ginseng, however, is not nearly as effective as other
ginseng products for controlling blood sugar. For example, Chinese
ginseng is different from American or Korean ginseng.
“Some people hear the word ‘ginseng’ and think it’s a panacea,” Liang says. “It is not. They need to do their homework.”
Bulent Sokmen, Thomas Spalding and Jamie Y.W. Lau, Liang’s
colleagues in the Department of Kinesiology & Health Promotion,
collaborated in the research.