AntiAGE Your Cardiovascular System with American Ginseng
Sugar is Not Sweet on Your Heart, or Body

You don't have to be a diabetic, nor be diagnosed with diabetes, to have high blood-sugar levels that insidiously damage, prematurely age, and inflict serious injury to your body's organs.

A recent study in England demonstrated that monitoring blood-glucose (blood-sugar) levels can help predict risk for developing cardiovascular disease.1 The University of Cambridge study of 4,662 English men between the ages of 45 to 79, found that men with type 2 diabetes were more than three times as likely as men without diabetes to die from heart disease. In fact, diabetic men were more than twice as likely to die of all causes compared to men without diabetes.

This correlation between diabetes* and increased mortality was found to be independent of age and other important risk factors, such as weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and smoking status. This increased risk of dying was also observed in men who had not been diagnosed with diabetes, but who had high blood-sugar levels represented by a high level of damage to the oxygen-carrying blood molecule hemoglobin. Men with only 5% or less of their hemoglobin damaged, reflecting low blood-sugar levels, had the lowest risk of death. These results strongly suggest reducing your blood-sugar levels can dramatically reduce your risk of developing heart disease, kidney problems, peripheral vascular problems, and many other unpleasant and unhealthy conditions.

* Diabetes is a disease that results when blood-sugar metabolism degenerates (chronically elevated blood sugar) because insulin, a hormone produced by the pancreas, is either unavailable or ineffective. Diabetes can result in organ damage, cardiovascular disease, peripheral neuropathy and many other organ dysfunctions.

This Cambridge study adds substantial support for the claim that having a diet, which does not increase blood sugar excessively, is beneficial to your health. In addition to increasing the risk of heart disease, for example, studies have suggested that high blood-sugar levels after a meal may lead to an increased risk of pancreatic cancer.2

One obvious way to lower your blood-sugar level is to simply reduce the amount of sugar and the amount of other simple carbohydrates, which are converted into sugars, in your diet. Some people find this more difficult to do than others. Another way is to eat low glycemic foods [see sidebar,"The Glycemic Index"]. Moreover, a convenient and easy way to achieve the same effect is to use the herb American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) - not just any ginseng, but P. quinquefolius ginseng, which significantly lowers blood-glucose levels in non-diabetics.3

The Glycemic Index
The glycemic index (GI) is a measure, on a scale of 0 to 100, of how specific foods affect your blood-sugar levels. It reflects the increase in blood sugar in the two to three hours after you eat. Certain carbohydrates (including certain carbohydrate sugars) are able to elevate blood-sugar levels significantly, so lists of GI values focus on foods high in carbohydrates. Foods high in fat or protein don't cause your blood-sugar level to rise very much.

Many diabetics, and others as well, still think only ordinary table sugar need be avoided. But experts now say complex carbohydrates, such as potatoes, can be even worse on your blood sugar.

It's not carbohydrates, as a class of food, that represents the problem. The problem is the consumption, and especially the over-consumption, of certain carbohydrates that break down so quickly during digestion that they raise blood sugar to dangerous levels. Indeed, they can trash your best-laid plans for eating reasonably and controlling your weight. They can make you fat. It is important to realize, though, that not all carbohydrates are a problem. Some break down more slowly, releasing glucose gradually into our blood. Thus, these have lower glycemic index values.

If you know which foods increase your blood sugar dramatically, it makes sense to shun them when you prepare healthy meals. Dine intelligently. Scientific studies have repeatedly shown that keeping your blood-sugar levels under control helps protect your health. This is true not only for diabetics, athletes, and the overweight, but is also true for all of us who can benefit from knowing about this relatively new concept in good nutrition. (See The Glucose Revolution by Drs. Brand-Miller and Woelever.)


Normally, after eating a meal, a sharp rise in blood-sugar levels takes place. However, a recent double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that when American ginseng was taken with meals, the average rise in blood sugar after eating was 20% lower than the placebo-controlled group. The levels simply did not rise as fast - or reach as high - as they normally would from just eating food. So, American ginseng also helped to dampen the hypoglycemic (low-blood sugar) crash that can occur after a meal. A hypoglycemic reaction happens when your pancreas responds to the high blood-sugar levels with a burst of insulin, and then swings your system uncomfortably in the opposite direction, resulting in blood-sugar levels that are too low. Exceptionally low blood-sugar levels can make you feel sluggish, irritable, and lethargic. By helping to reduce blood sugar spikes, American ginseng can play a role in helping to maintain the proper balance that is the key to energy stability.

Because American ginseng lowers blood-sugar levels after a meal, it also lowers the levels of AGEs (Advanced Glycation End products). AGEs are certain end products created by an unhealthy reaction process of proteins and sugars that merge to form dysfunctional molecules that can lead to tissue damage. This process is known as glycation. Because AGEs tend to accumulate as you get older, they are reliable indicators of your biological age. AGEs are a solid benchmark of aging. The higher your AGEs, the more aged you are. They are known to contribute to cell damage, kidney filtration problems, peripheral neuropathy, retinal damage, and even reduced immune function. One study showed that AGEs build up in the penile tissue of the male rat, and that this can cause erectile dysfunction.4

More American ginseng has numerous other health benefits besides lowering blood-sugar levels after a meal. It also possesses potent antioxidant capacities, has been shown to effectively inhibit a type of genetic damage (DNA strand breakage),5 and it may help prevent breast cancer.6 At the Harvard Medical School teaching hospital, American ginseng was shown to cause a dose-dependent decrease in abnormal cell proliferation. It also acted in ways that suggest it may work synergistically with the sex hormone estradiol (an estrogen) as a therapeutic agent for breast cancer. Furthermore, American ginseng can improve memory,7-8 probably because it facilitates nerve impulses that are mediated by the neurotransmitter acetylcholine in certain parts ofthe nervous system.

Reducing your blood-sugar levels
could dramatically reduce your
risk of developing heart disease.

In addition, studies have demonstrated American ginseng can help protect the smooth cells that line the arterial walls from injury and prevent atherosclerosis (plaque formation).9 Consequently, American ginseng promotes a healthy cardiovascular system in several ways because it also lowers blood-sugar levels. As an added bonus, it seems, American ginseng has also been shown to significantly increase copulatory behavior and sexual potency, at least in male rats.10-11 All the impressive research that has been done with American ginseng helps us understand why this beneficial herb is so revered in traditional medicine systems.

Besides lowering blood-sugar levels
after a meal, American ginseng
can improve memory and more.


  1. Khaw KT, Wareham N, Luben R, Bingham S, Oakes S, Welch A, Day N. Glycated haemoglobin, diabetes, and mortality in men in Norfolk cohort of European Prospective Investigation of Cancer and Nutrition (EPIC - Norfolk). BMJ 2001;322:1-6.
  2. Gapstur SM, Gann PH, Lowe W, Liu K, Colangelo L, Dyer A. Abnormal glucose metabolism and pancreatic cancer mortality. JAMA 2000 May 17;283(19):2552-8.
  3. Vuksan V, Sievenpiper JL, Koo VY, Francis T, Beljan-Zdravkovic U, Xu Z, Vidgen E. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) reduces postprandial glycemia in nondiabetic subjects and subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus. Arch Intern Med 2000 Apr 10;160(7):1009-13.
  4. Jiaan DB, Seftel AD, Fogarty J, Hampel N, Cruz W, Pomerantz J, Zuik M, Monnier VM. Age-related increase in an advanced glycation end product in penile tissue. World J Urol 1995;13(6):369-75.
  5. Kitts DD, Wijewickreme AN, Hu C. Antioxidant properties of a North American ginseng extract. Mol Cell Biochem 2000 Jan;203(1-2):1-10.
  6. Duda RB, Zhong Y, Navas V, Li MZ, Toy BR, Alvarez JG. American ginseng and breast cancer therapeutic agents synergistically inhibit MCF-7 breast cancer cell growth. J Surg Oncol 1999 Dec;72(4):230-9.
  7. Salin KN, McEwen BS, Chao HM. Ginsenoside RB1 regulates ChAT, NGF and trkA mRNA expression in the rat brain. Brain Res Mol Brain Res 1997 Jul;47(1-2):177-82.
  8. Benishin CG, Lee R, Wang LC, Liu HJ. Effects of ginsenoside Rb1 on central cholinergic metabolism. Pharmacology 1991;42(4):223-9.
  9. Yuan CS, Attele AS, Wu JA, Lowell TK, Gu Z, Lin Y. Panax quinquefolium L. inhibits thrombin-induced endothelin release in vitro. Am J Chin Med 1999;27(3-4):331-8.
  10. Murphy LL, Cadena RS, Chavez D, Ferraro JS. Effect of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) on male copulatory behavior in the rat. Physiol Behav 1998 Jun 15;64(4):445-50.

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