While caffeine has always been a crowned champion of brain stimulation, energy-boosting, alertness, and mood elevation, research on potent nootropics has introduced us to a possible rival coming from the far east. Ginseng extract, a natural herbal gem hidden in the East Asian traditions, has potent pharmaceutical and medicinal benefits that are similar to caffeine.
Putting up ginseng vs caffeine is challenging. Ginseng has competing qualities that can, in some cases, even surpass caffeine. This article puts both nootropics under investigation to see how they influence our brain health, energy level, and psychological state.
Ginseng vs Caffeine
Ginseng is the root of Panax plants. It has about 17 species worldwide; the most cultivated species of Ginseng are the Korean Panax ginseng and the American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium L.).
Ginseng has unique medical properties and is widely used as a herbal medicine plant in East Asia .
Ginseng is available as a green (fresh) non-dried raw product, peeled sun-dried white, or rather as a steamed and dried red one. It is found in energy drinks, herbal drinks, or dietary supplements.
Caffeine is the most used psychoactive drug worldwide. It is a natural stimulant of the central nervous center with an addictive effect expanding with larger daily intakes.
The bitter substance is found in the seeds, nuts, or leaves of many plants, such as guarana seeds, coffee beans, and cacao plants.
Effects On Brain Health
Both substances have shown positive impacts on cognitive health and treating neurological diseases, yet there are some alarming observations that caffeine cognitive enhancement is a byproduct of its addictive nature.
Caffeine has a stimulant effect that is well-known to everyone. The substance influences our cognitive performance and directly increases alertness and wakefulness.
Research shows that caffeine could also prevent or restore memory loss. Nevertheless, some human studies curiously explain the cognitive enhancements of caffeine as a result of the relief from caffeine withdrawal symptoms [2,3].
Caffeine appears to enhance memory performance under suboptimal alertness and prevent cognitive decline in healthy elderly adults. In different studies it was associated with a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases .
When Panax ginseng was administered as an extract in animal experiments and human studies, it has significantly enhanced intellectual work capacities .
The neurological benefits of ginseng are strongly associated with ginsenosides, an active compound with anti-inflammatory, anti-tumor, and antioxidant properties. Recent studies showed that ginsenosides could be applied in the prevention and treatment of neurological diseases.
The research data of patients treated with ginseng preparations show that ginseng's active substance can protect and inhibit further development of Alzheimer's during maintenance therapy . In some animal studies, American ginseng showed neuroprotective effects against neuronal damage resulting from ischemic strokes and improved cognitive function in Alzheimer's cases .
Boosting Energy Levels And Relieving Fatigue
Caffeine and ginseng extract are commonly found in energy drinks. Most of the studies we have reviewed have confirmed the energy-boosting impact of both substances. Yet, the benefits of both substances extend beyond just the consumer's induced higher activity level.
Caffeine has a proven effect of reducing the perception of fatigue and enhancing endurance. In a study that included male cyclists, caffeine consumption has decreased subjective fatigue and significantly extended time to exhaustion by 12% .
While moderate-to-high caffeine doses have been known to increase exercise performance, lower doses of about 200 mg taken before exercise can also prolong exercise and increase athletic performance .
Extract of red ginseng has shown positive impacts on lowering cholesterol levels, controlling blood glucose, increasing blood flow rates, and even improving vascular health in menopausal women .
Adaptogen activity represents body resistance and adaptation to external stress. Research shows that Panax ginseng and Korean red ginseng exhibit adaptogen activities resulting in diverse macrovascular enhancements such as fatigue relief, blood circulation, and anti-oxidation .
Compounds of Panax ginseng are recommended for routine use in cases of fatigue. The compounds' antioxidant properties regulate carbohydrate metabolism, promote mitochondrial function, and regulate disorders in the nervous system . Ginseng has also been proven effective with patients with idiopathic chronic fatigue; in a study that included 90 patients, the consumption of a 1-2 g a day of ginseng extract over 4 weeks was associated with an anti-fatigue effect .
Mood Enhancement Properties
Some nootropics like Ashwagandha and Rhodiola are known to help in relieving stress. Both rich in caffeine, coffee and cacao have been also culturally associated with mood enhancement. These conceptions of caffeine have been shown in clinical studies and could likewise be found in ginseng.
Data gathered from experiments show that caffeine consumption suppresses depression symptoms. That positive impact of caffeine comes from its ability to oppress the A1/A2A receptors in the brain responsible for inducing depression .
Similarly, ginseng's herbal formulae can modulate the monoamine neurotransmitter system, including the mood modulating dopamine and serotonin. The plant extracts are considered viable in treating depression cases .
Bonus Health Benefits Of Ginseng
Immune System Impacts
Benefits of ginseng on the immune system were observed in a study investigating the impact of the red ginseng on the circulation of cell-growth proteins during chemotherapy after patients' operative treatment. The study results suggested that the intake of ginseng extract improves earlier anticancer immunity .
A study showed that the steaming treatment of red ginseng exhibits anticancer activity and the active anticancer ginsenosides compounds' production. The red ginseng compounds possess anticancer mechanisms such as cell cycle arrest, apoptosis induction, and angiogenesis inhibition .
Treating Erectile Dysfunction
Ginseng could be considered as a libido nootropic. A study that included 60 patients treated by an intake of 1,000 mg red ginseng doses showed that the Korean red ginseng could also be an effective treatment and a for mild to moderate cases of erectile function disorder .
Ginseng vs Caffeine: Summing Up
While we recommend being careful where you are buying supplements, caffeine and ginseng appear to be common substances in many products.
They are natural stimulants with proven health benefits if consumed in moderation and in a non-addictive manner.
While caffeine was associated with the prevention of memory loss and decline in cognition, ginseng extract could inhibit Alzehimer's development and prevent neuronal damage.
The two nootropics have fatigue-relieving properties. Consuming caffeine before or after exercises reduces the perception of fatigue and improves physical endurance. Meanwhile, ginseng extracts can increase blood circulation and decrease cholesterol levels. Moreover, it can be used to treat chronic fatigue.
Studies showed that the neurological impacts of consuming caffeine and ginseng extract are also effective in treating depression and boosting mood. Furthermore, ginseng showed anticancer and immune system enhancement properties and potential in treating erectile dysfunction.