Fact or Fiction: Ginseng helps prevent the flu?

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

China herbs
In China, dried herbs and plants are sometimes sold in open air markets.

For thousands of years, herbal medicines made from plants have been used to heal the human body. However, despite their mega popularity, some of these ancient remedies aren’t scientifically proven to work. Is it fact or fiction that ginseng, a root from the plant Panax ginseng, can prevent the flu?

A recent study found that Korean red ginseng may indeed protect the body from several flu viruses. In fact, long-term consumption of ginseng was linked to a stronger immune system, which is the body’s defense mechanism against disease.

Korean red ginseng is created by steaming, drying, and boiling the roots of a 6-year-old Panax ginseng plant. When this concentrated substance was given to mice infected by a mix of flu viruses, their lungs were better able to fight off the flu. Then, if the little furballs took ginseng for around 60 days, their immune systems had extra anti-virus chemicals. However, if the ginseng was taken after infection, researchers found very little protective benefits.

So, while herbal medicine studies performed on mice aren’t necessarily guaranteed to prove human effectiveness, it certainly can’t hurt to get a hold of some ginseng when the flu is going around. Plus, ginseng supposedly boosts athletic performance, relieves stress-related conditions like insomnia (not being able to sleep), and may improve blood pressure!

Featured image courtesy of yarra64 on Wikipedia.