Ginseng: Is It in the Root?

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In athletics today, there is no shortage of participants looking for an extra edge in competition. In addition, there is no shortage of nutritional supplements for athletes to use with hopes of reaping ergogenic benefits. Ginseng is and will continue to be one of these supplements consumed by athletes despite little or no scientific data to support its ergogenicity. Multiple different types of ginseng can be consumed; the most studied and most common types are Siberian, Chinese, and American. Although related, each has different active compounds, and likely, different effects on the body. There do not appear to be significant adverse effects when used for short periods, but further studies are needed to confirm this. Similarly, more studies are needed to address the ergogenic potential of ginseng. At this time, ginsengs cannot be recommended to improve athletic performance, but there may be some utility for athletes by preventing viral upper respiratory infection and improving cognition. This review evaluates recently published literature on ginseng use in athletes.

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