Herbal teas are a rage around the world today, as nutritionists increasingly recommend a ‘back-to-the-basics’ diet for overall health and fitness. There are hundreds of options to choose from and health freaks are lapping up the herbal tea trend, as more and more scientific studies come up with the addictive qualities of caffeine and the harmful effects of popular caffeinated drinks like coffee, tea, sports drinks, etc. Ginseng root is one herb, which can be used to make tea, which purportedly has a host of health benefits. It is used by Koreans to make a number of drinks including ginseng wine and ginseng tea. While the wine is supposed to be great for men to improve vigour and vitality, the tea is known to be an energy booster. The advantages of drinking ginseng tea are not completely unknown to the world. It has been consumed by Koreans for centuries, but now as herbal teas take the centrestage in the nutrition world, ginseng tea is getting the attention it deserves.
Traditionally, ginseng tea doesn’t have any tea leaves, but is instead prepared from ginseng roots, along with jujube fruits and Korean chestnuts. The root, the fruit and the nuts are decocted for several hours over low heat to obtain the tea. The drink is sweetened with honey and served with pine nuts floating on top of the concoction. Nowadays, ginseng tea is available in powder form, in single-serve foil packets for quick preparation and consumption. Ginseng tea capsules are also available to be taken as supplements. People who have tasted the tea have liked it and hated it in equal measure as the drink has a strong taste and smell, which some people have described as medicinal.
Everyone, from kids to old people, drink ginseng tea in Korea and it is known as ‘Insam-cha’ in Korean language. But is ginseng tea as beneficial for our health as it is made out to be? Let’s find out!
Health Benefits of Ginseng Tea
There are two kinds of ginseng- Asian (from China and Korea) and American ginseng root. Korean or Asian ginseng is a warmer variety, while the American ginseng is cooling in nature. While American ginseng is said to be safe for consumption over longer periods of time, Korean ginseng shouldn’t be consumed on a daily basis for long periods of time. The healing properties of ginseng root are credited to the presence of natural chemicals called ginsenosides. These chemicals are known to have anti-oxidative, anti-inflammatory and vasorelaxative properties. This is why Koreans have traditionally used ginseng extracts to renew body and mind and improve their overall well-being.
Here are some ways that drinking ginseng tea may benefit you:
1. Weight Loss: Ginseng tea may aid weight loss, as it is known to be a natural appetite suppressant, according to the book ‘The Miracle of Herbs and Spices’ by Dr. Bahram Tadayyon. However, only drinking this tea along may not help you lose weight and it has to be accompanied by regular exercise and a healthy diet.
2. Controls Hypertension: Drinking ginseng tea is said to be a natural home remedy to control hypertension or high blood pressure. According to ‘Linda Page’s Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-healing for Everyone’, some clinical trials on high blood pressure patients proved that consumption of ginseng tea can bring about a regular reduction in blood pressure.
3. Restores Hormonal Balance: Ginseng tea is particularly good for women, as it can help bring about a hormonal balance in their bodies and may consequently guard against breast cancer, endometriosis and other problems caused by hormonal imbalances. This is because ginsenosides are chemically similar to female steroidal hormones, which means that the root has mildly estrogen-like effects, according to ‘Linda Page’s Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-healing for Everyone’.
4. Revitalises Body And Brain: A lot of people claim to have improved cognitive abilities and better attention span, after drinking ginseng tea. This is because, according to the book ‘Prescription For Herbal Healing’ by Phyllis A. Balch, ginseng is an adaptogen, which improves the body’s ability to tolerate stressful situations. This is why it’s usually taken to improve energy and beat anxiety and stress.
5. Promotes Heart Health: Ginseng tea is a rich source of antioxidants, which are good for heart health. Moreover, according to the book ‘Prescription For Herbal Healing’ by Phyllis A. Balch, ginseng has been shown to slow the heart rate and reduce the heart’s demand for oxygen. The book says that ginseng root can increase the strength with which heart muscle can contract and hence, protects the heart from myopathy.
6. Promotes Skin Health: Antioxidant-rich herbs and spices like ginseng can promote skin health, due to the inflammation-fighting properties of their active chemicals and compounds. According to the book ‘The Miracle of Herbs and Spices’ by Dr. Bahram Tadayyon, ginseng has anti-ageing properties for the skin, due to the presence of free radical-fighting antioxidants.
7. Strengthens Immunity: Ginseng tea has been used in traditional medicine to fight cold and flu and it has been known to strengthen the immune system of the body. According to the book ‘Linda Page’s Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-healing for Everyone’ ginseng stimulates phagocytic action and antibody response to harmful bacteria and viruses.
8. Regulates Blood Sugar Levels: Both American and Korean ginseng has been shown to decrease insulin resistance, making ginseng tea good for regulating blood sugar levels. According to the book ‘Prescription For Herbal Healing’ by Phyllis A. Balch, ginseng tea can reduce insulin requirements and prolong the effects of injected insulin. According to the book, the drink may help people suffering from Type-2 diabetes.
9. Improves Sexual Health: Ginseng tea and ginseng wine are consumed by men in Korea, in order to maintain sexual health. According to ‘Linda Page’s Healthy Healing: A Guide to Self-healing for Everyone’, ginseng tea is the only herb to clinically test as a source of phyto testosterone or naturally occurring testosterone from a plant source. The book also claims that ginseng can improve sperm count and can also support key gland functions like adrenals and prostate.
Ginseng tea is one herbal drink that has multiple health benefits. However, as stated before, an overdose of the same can have a number of side effects as well. These include insomnia and nervousness, blood clots, nausea, vomiting, headaches, etc. One must always consult a certified nutritionist or dietitian before adding anything to their diet, especially in cases of chronic or potentially fatal illnesses.