Ginseng & Student's Health
Exam sessions are a necessary step in the life of every student; and one that can be particularly critical for the health and well-being of teenagers and young adults.
Indeed, to the challenge of assimilating large amounts of information in a limited timeframe, can be added factors like stress, fatigue, and poor dietary and lifestyle habits – all of which carry health risks and may hinder academic performance.
It is therefore essential to make sure that students’ nutritional needs are met through this stressful and exhausting period, to ensure the optimal functioning and performance of their brain and to best support their well-being.
In this blog post, we explore the potential of ginseng as a natural solution for mental energy, cognitive performance, memory and stress relief in young healthy people.
1. STUDENT’S HEALTH MARKET
1.1. Market trends
In recent years, dietary supplements geared towards students’ health and performance during exams have been developing on the market, although they remain a very small market in size.
Among the most widespread and fast-growing categories in this segment are cognitive performance and memory solutions. Although traditionally addressed to older patients wishing to preserve their mental acuity and prevent cognitive decline, an increasing number of products now target mental focus, alertness, and overall nootropic effects in young healthy people.
Solutions in for enhanced focus and cognitive function largely rely on group B vitamins, minerals and omega-3 fatty acid DHA supplementation to ensure the optimal functioning of the brain. But natural botanical extracts traditionally associated with memory – like gingko (Gingko biloba) and bacopa (Bacopa monieri) – are undoubtedly the star-ingredients of the segment.
Mental alertness and fatigue alleviation are also an important focus for students as they withstand long hours of study and need to maintain sustained levels of energy to perform. Although coffee, tea and energy drinks remain the go-to solution for most students, the nutraceutical market offers a wide variety of natural caffeine-rich energy-boosting botanicals like guarana, kola nut or yerba mate. In addition, caffeine-free solutions are emerging as a response to the known risks of prolonged consumption of stimulants – with natural ingredients like maca, moringa and ginseng.
Stress management and emotional balance is another major health segment in the nutraceutical market of particular interest for students. Active ingredients used in this category also range from vitamins and minerals (Vitamins B and D, magnesium and zinc in particular) to adaptogens like ashwagandha and rhodiola. In addition, pro-serotoninergic active ingredients like saffron (Crocus sativus) or 5-HTP (5-hydroxytryptophan) are commonly used for their mood balancing properties.
Botanicals with a calming and sleep promoting effect such as lemon balm (Melissa officinalis), valerian (Valeriana officinalis), passionflower (Passiflora incarnata) and sage (Salvia officinalis) may also be beneficial for relaxation and could help with better recovery and quality sleep – both essential for memory fixation.
1.2. Product Applications
In terms of formulas, the existing offer is still limited and lacks variety in active ingredients. This segment could therefore present an opportunity for brands to innovate and differentiate.
Among the most complete and well-known supplements, European leader Metagenics’ solution for students is worthy of mention. MetaStudent’s 21 ingredient formula simultaneously targets 4 key issues for the student: energy, immunity, memory, and stress. It covers the daily nutritional needs in a large panel of vitamins and minerals and contains 4 herbal extracts – guarana, ginseng, gingko and green tea polyphenols. Overall, the product promise is to support student’s cognitive function, learning capacity and memory as well as to prevent symptoms associated with stress and fatigue.
More recently, French laboratory Les 3 Chênes launched Neurogenius Etudiant, a formula that bets on the adaptogenic and anti-stress effects of rhodiola, the nootropic and memory benefits of bacopa and gingko as well as the relaxing and sleep-promoting effects of Californian poppy – on top of the essential daily intake of B vitamins and magnesium.
Finally, French start-up Sincerely Nature developed a vegan additive-free Made in France supplement Memotop for cognitive performance, memory and focus. Natural B vitamins and organic bacopa are combined with Memophenol, a polyphenol-rich proprietary extract backed with 2 clinical studies on students and Lion’s mane, an adaptogenic mushroom with proven neurological benefits.
2. GINSENG & STUDENT’S HEALTH
Ginseng’s millennial reputation in the fields of energy and cognitive performance is no secret for anyone. The root has been long used in traditional Asian medicine for its potent adaptogenic and nootropic properties, although its benefits are often associated with the prevention of aging.
Not only has recent research backed most of the traditional uses of ginseng with solid data on energy, focus, stress or immunity, but it has also broadened its potential scope of application. Indeed, scientific studies keep unveiling the unprecedented therapeutic benefits of the precious roots in the fields of metabolism, inflammatory conditions, and cancer.
Although most of these benefits have largely been demonstrated in aging and cognitive decline models, research on whether these results are transposable to younger healthier populations is still at its infancy. However, the great fit between student’s needs and ginseng’s potential benefits clearly deserves further investigation.
Could ginseng supplementation bring students tangible benefits during the challenging periods of exams? Here is what research has to say about it.
2.1. Focus & Cognitive Performance
Ginseng and its bioactive compounds have a long history of use as neuroprotective agents at a preclinical level, a propriety that has been backed by numerous studies throughout the years. This has lead research on ginseng’s effects on cognitive performance to be mainly carried out in neurodegenerative disease or cognitive decline models. Although very effective in that context, proof of its benefits on healthy young healthy adults is still lacking.
One of the few studies on ginseng’s cognitive benefits for young adults was carried out the effects of 200mg standardized ginseng extract for 12 weeks . 4 parameters of psychomotor performance were significantly enhanced with ginseng treatment, that is: attention and processing (mental arithmetic) and, to a lesser extent, logical deduction, and choice reaction time.
Another clinical study showed the time-dependent benefits of a single acute dose (between 200 and 600 mg) of ginseng on several factors of cognitive performance . Patients performed significantly better in terms of speed of attention (simple and choice reaction time) in the 200 and 600 mg groups, 4 to 6 h after ginseng administration.
Furthermore, the potential effects of ginseng on “mood” parameters were assessed. Participants in the 200 and 400 mg dose groups reported feeling significantly more alert after 6h. The two lower dose groups also reported feeling calm after 6h, however this effect was not significant.
The following year, these effects of ginseng administration in healthy young adults were confirmed by another clinical trial, where patients showed enhanced speed and performance in timed memory tasks as well as improved accuracy in attention tests . In addition, ginseng showed superior benefits to those of gingko supplementation in all tested cognitive performance measures.
2.2. Mental Energy & Stamina
Intense study sessions can be mentally and physically exhausting; on top of potentially compromising performance and motivation, prolonged fatigue may also weaken the students’ immune system and make them more vulnerable to stress and illness. In fact, the immunostimulatory properties of ginseng – also potentially beneficial for students – have been the object of a previous blog post.
Although additional research is needed to support ginseng’s potential as an ergogenic in younger patients, data on older and chronic fatigue patients is encouraging and provides sufficient proof of its efficacy and safety of use. Ginseng could therefore be an efficient stimulant-free solution to support student’s energy levels throughout their exam period and prevent the symptoms of mental fatigue.
2.3. Memory & Learning
Stress and fatigue can have negative consequences on neurophysiological mechanisms and impact students’ ability to assimilate, memorize and retrieve large amounts of information. It therefore appears crucial to preserve if not stimulate these neurological processes to optimize learning keep students well-performing and motivated.
A 2001 clinical study on a cohort of 20 to 27-year-olds was the first to highlight the dose and time-dependent benefits of a single acute dose (between 200 and 600 mg) of ginseng on memory . Results revealed a significant improvement in the Quality of memory – measured through accuracy in several memory tasks (immediate and delayed word recognition and recall, picture recognition) – from 1 to 4h after administration of a 400mg dose of ginseng. However, this improvement in memory performance concerns the secondary memory rather that working memory, which suggests ginseng specifically benefits learning and information consolidation and retrieval.
In 2005, a study on 2 murine models of severe memory impairment (by ethanol administration or scopolamine injection) showed the potential of ginsenosides Rg3(R), Rg3(S) and Rg5/Rk1 to enhance mnesic faculties and reverse the effects of induced-amensia . The Rg5/Rk1 tandem even demonstrated beneficial effects on the memory of healthy (control) mice.
The state of mnesic function was assessed with a passive-avoidance test, in which mice were given the freedom to explore a hostile environment 2 days in a row, to measure how many of them would avoid said environment the second day (remember) or how long they would stand still after being allowed to explore it.
A more recent study showed a similar protective effect of Rg5, and most importantly its metabolite Rh3, on mice with scopolamine-induced memory damage, in 2 different memory test models and in a similar manner to that of Donepezyl – a known medication used in early Alzheimer’s .
Similar dose-dependent benefits were observed in streptozotocin (STZ)-induced learning and memory impaired rats, supplemented with Rg5, with significant attenuation of neuroinflammatory responses .
At least 3 underlying mechanisms of action were identified for Rg3, Rg5 and Rh3’s effects on memory: AChE (Acetylcholinesterase) inhibition [11, 13], BDNF expression enhancement and activation of CREB phosphorylation  – all factors of memory performance.
Even though most of ginseng’s investigated effects on memory apply to memory deficit and neuronal damage models, their underlying mechanisms of action could help reinforce and enhance the physiological mechanisms of learning in a healthy brain.
2.4. Relaxation & Sleep
A significant number of students suffer from stress-related sleeping issues and can find it difficult to disconnect for proper rest and recovery after studying. In addition, healthy habits essential to the student’s well-being, such as a balanced diet, sport practice or social life, can take a back seat during the study weeks. This can of course lead to tiredness and hinder concentration and learning, but it can also put young people’s mental health at risk.
Providing students with solutions to manage stress, improve their recovery and boost their well-being could be key in helping them maintain a healthy lifestyle throughout exams and attenuate the potential crash that may occur or follow in these intense periods.
Several studies attempted to assess the well-being self-perceived benefits of ginseng supplementation but subjective assessments – although encouraging for the most part – remain of relatively limited scientific value. A study on 20-year-old healthy students showed that 200 mg / day of ginseng supplementation could improve aspects of mental health and social functioning after 4 weeks, but these effects tended to attenuate with continued use .
Pre-clinical studies on the other hand, allowed to demonstrate ginsenosides Rg3 and Rg5’s potent antidepressant and anxiolytic-like properties in different animal-models [15-18].
In addition, a recent study on rodents investigated the sleep-promoting potential of ginsenosides Rg5 and Rk1 and underlying mechanisms of action through GABAergic and serotoninergic regulation .
Although known for their anti-stress and anxiolytic effects, ginseng saponins’ effect can escalate to sedative and hypnotic effects at high dose. In fact, both Rg5 and Rk1 were shown to significantly lessen the mice’s locomotor activity (anxiolytic / sedative effect) and enhance their sleep quality index. In addition, Rk1 showed potential to shorten sleep latency and prolong time of sleep.
Furthermore, Rg5 and Rk1 were shown to up-regulate two important sleep-promoting neurotransmitters in the Central Nervous System (CNS) – GABA and 5-HT / serotonin – thus partially elucidating their observed sedative properties. These mechanisms seem to be confirmed by the detection of significantly higher GABA and 5-HT in cecum content of ginsenoside-treated mice.
Ginseng may therefore offer helpful support for stress and mood balance and contribute to the students emotional well-being and ability to rest.
2. BOTALYS’ GINSENG FOR STUDENT’S HEALTH
Research shows ginseng and its bioactive compounds may hold potential for the prevention of stress and fatigue-related discomforts and boost performance in students when taken in the limited time frame of exams. And BOTALYS technology makes it possible to go even further in exploiting the incredible potential of ginseng for the neurological sphere.
BOTALYS’ ginseng is a full-spectrum optimized adaptogen that delivers potent nootropic effects. Its unique composition is rich in rare ginsenosides with neuroprotective efficacy like Rg3, Rg5 or Rk1, as well as in acidic bioactive polysaccharides, known for their immunomodulating and neurobiotic properties.
Helder of a proprietary study, BOTALYS ginseng has demonstrated significant effects on cognitive performance in healthy adults working under stressful conditions. A 400 mg / day supplementation allowed participants a significant improvement in concentration from day 1, a reduction in stress from day 5 and even an increase in mnesic capacity after day 12, therefore confirming its ability to mitigate stress and enhance cognitive performance and memory .
In addition, a proprietary usage test on 70 healthy adults confirmed the felt beneficial effects of BOTALYS’ ginseng after a 10 days cure, showing significantly higher self-assessed scores of dynamism, mood stability, learning capacity and better sleep – 4 major health preoccupation for students.
At BOTALYS, we believe Ginseng could offer students a holistic, but above all effective, healthy, and sustainable solution to allow them to learn and perform with more serenity and confidence. And our ingredient‘s potent benefits on health, unparalleled purity and uncompromising quality could place it as an active ingredient of choice to support the health and well-being of students during exams.
Although clinical studies on adult and senior populations are numerous, those on young and healthy populations remain rare which limits the number of otherwise encouraging results. Additional clinical research would allow a better understanding of ginseng’s specific efficacy and potential in healthy young adults and open new possibilities for targeted “bio-hacking” applications directed to them.
Furthermore, ginseng supplementation seems to benefit subjects suffering from fatigue or significant stress more markedly than healthy subjects. Added to this is an attenuation effect of the benefits after a continuous and prolonged intake. The time-limited use of ginseng in particularly challenging periods such as an exam session, could therefore be an ideal context in which to harness ginseng’s health potential.
Although research in this field is still at its infancy, it seems that ginseng could be part of the solution to offer students the nutritional support and energy-boost they need to pass their exams more serenely and successfully.
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