Research: Ginseng and weight loss.


Ginseng may improve insulin sensitivity and assist with weight loss.  



Back home in West Virginia, ginseng is found growing in the mountains.  It is a native plant that has been a part of the mountain culture.  For generations, they have traded it and used it in traditional recipes to improve health.  Like the Chinese, many rural cultures from the mountains turn to natural herbs and spices to cure what ails them.  

As a child, I learned to look for these and other naturally growing plants for medicinal use, flavor, and to sell in town.  Ginseng had a significant value and could be bartered or sold for money as recent as the 1970s to 80s.  Personally, I liked gathering it to make tea.  Ginseng tea takes some time, but the effect is quite relaxing.     

Ginseng reportedly boosts energy, improves cognitive performance, prevents cancer, and even helps with weight loss.  We will focus on the energy and weight loss properties and the research that supports these attributes.  

Ginseng has been reported to have reduced body weight.  A clinical trial from Korea looked at ginseng consumption and body weight and found that it significantly reduced both body weight and waist circumference[1],[2],[3].  The mechanism appears to be through stimulating the oxidation of fatty acids[4] and thus reducing body fat.

Ginseng helps reduce insulin resistance [5],[6],[7],[8],[9] and lower blood sugar[10],[11],[5],[3],[12].  If you reduce your insulin resistance, weight loss or maintenance will occur because elevated insulin increases hunger.  Although carbohydrate consumption does not increase obesity, elevated blood sugar and insulin levels do.  Anything we can do to reduce insulin sensitivity and blood sugar will help reduce the risk of obesity.

The bottom line: Based on a large number of studies, ginseng appears to help with reducing insulin resistance, blood sugar, body weight, and fat.  Although it is a magical cure, I recommend you continue to drink ginseng tea if you enjoy it.  It may just help you with weight loss. 


D. Kwon et al., “Efficacy of Korean Red Ginseng by Single Nucleotide Polymorphism in Obese Women: Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Trial,” J Ginseng Res, vol. 36, no. 2, pp. 176–189, Apr. 2012. [PMC]
E. Sotaniemi, E. Haapakoski, and A. Rautio, “Ginseng therapy in non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients.,” Diabetes Care, vol. 18, no. 10, pp. 1373–5, Oct. 1995. [PubMed]
J. Kim, J. Park, H. Kang, O. Kim, and J. Lee, “Beneficial effects of Korean red ginseng on lymphocyte DNA damage, antioxidant enzyme activity, and LDL oxidation in healthy participants: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial.,” Nutr J, vol. 11, p. 47, Jul. 2012. [PubMed]
X. Li et al., “Dietary Supplementation of Chinese Ginseng Prevents Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome in High-Fat Diet-Fed Mice,” J Med Food, vol. 17, no. 12, pp. 1287–1297, Dec. 2014. [PMC]
B. Park et al., “Effects of Korean Red Ginseng on Cardiovascular Risks in Subjects with Metabolic Syndrome: a Double-blind Randomized Controlled Study.,” Korean J Fam Med, vol. 33, no. 4, pp. 190–6, Jul. 2012. [PubMed]
D. Reeds, B. Patterson, A. Okunade, J. Holloszy, K. Polonsky, and S. Klein, “Ginseng and ginsenoside Re do not improve β-cell function or insulin sensitivity in overweight and obese subjects with impaired glucose tolerance or diabetes.,” Diabetes Care, vol. 34, no. 5, pp. 1071–6, May 2011. [PubMed]
H. Jung et al., “Effects of Panax ginseng supplementation on muscle damage and inflammation after uphill treadmill running in humans.,” Am J Chin Med, vol. 39, no. 3, pp. 441–50, Jan. 2011. [PubMed]
M. Mollah et al., “Antiobesity effects of wild ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer) mediated by PPAR-gamma, GLUT4 and LPL in ob/ob mice.,” Phytother Res, vol. 23, no. 2, pp. 220–5, Feb. 2009. [PubMed]
S. Lee et al., “Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng) improves insulin sensitivity in high fat fed Sprague-Dawley rats.,” Phytother Res, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 142–7, Jan. 2012. [PubMed]
M. Rhee et al., “Effect of Korean red ginseng on arterial stiffness in subjects with hypertension.,” J Altern Complement Med, vol. 17, no. 1, pp. 45–9, Jan. 2011. [PubMed]
E. Jovanovski et al., “Effects of Korean red ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A. Mayer) and its isolated ginsenosides and polysaccharides on arterial stiffness in healthy individuals.,” Am J Hypertens, vol. 23, no. 5, pp. 469–72, May 2010. [PubMed]
E. Shishtar et al., “The effect of ginseng (the genus panax) on glycemic control: a systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled clinical trials.,” PLoS One, vol. 9, no. 9, p. e107391, Sep. 2014. [PubMed]
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About the Author

I am a family physician who has served in the US Army. In 2016, I found myself overweight, out of shape, and unhealthy, so I made a change to improve my health. This blog is the chronology of my path to better health and what I have learned along the way.

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