Anxiety and Depression remain prevalent and pressing issues in American society. While there are many factors to consider when it comes to depression, what doesn’t change is the need to address the underlying condition.
According to the CDC, over 8% of people over the age of 20 experience depression. In addition to that, women suffer from depression at a rate nearly double that of men. While the causes of depression continue to be studied, leading experts have found interesting correlations between neurotransmitters, the hippocampus, the amygdala and depression.
✲ No studies have yet been conducted on long-term, clinical depression in humans.
✲ Ginseng has been researched to impact several key mechanisms tied to depression.
✲ Anxiety, closely related to depression, has seen benefits from ginseng use.
✲ Depression can be a serious and deadly disease; anyone suffering from depression should seek immediate care.
Studies on Animals
The data from the following studies is valuable, but none are derived from human participant, live trials. Their results will always be more hypothetical than practical. Because individual body chemistry, nutrient delivery, and a multitude of other variables are present when we give treatment to live participants, we can never be 100% sure that animal results will show up with actual patients.
In a highly specialized study of the relationship between heart-attack and serotonin levels, doctors publishing in Aging and Disease were able to observe a positive link between ginsenosides and the stabilization of serotonin.
There is still debate in academic circles on the impacts of serotonin on depression, and this experiment, like most in our review, was not conducted on human participants.
Doctors and scientists have known for years about the relationship between dopamine, serotonin, and other related chemicals and the behavior and mood of individuals. These neurotransmitters are collectively called monoamines, and one popular theory of depression states that by regulating their expression we can moderate depressive moods.
A study of laboratory animals found that ginseng were able to both excite and inhibit monoamines in brain tissue. This study is not publicly available for full review, so their data can’t be stated here.
Secondary Supporting evidence
Several other studies, also in laboratory animals, have reported evidence that ancillary aspects possibly related to depression may be benefited by ginseng.
One of the defining characteristics of depression–that its causes aren’t known–makes it difficult to determine what medications may help prevent or treat it.
A study looking for Parkinson’s treatments showed promising protections of the hippocampus region of the brain when treated with ginseng. Another study found a link between what are considered depressive behaviors and ginseng treatment. These and other studies were amalgamated by researchers in a review of ginseng literature to support the idea that ginseng can improve the brain functions thought to relate to depression.
These studies were not conducted on humans, however, and their data have not been proven to correlate directly to depression in humans.
Major studies conducted over many years have shown a definitive link between certain stress and anxiety conditions and major depression. This link is important, especially when it comes to ginseng, because ginseng has been shown in various human trials to actually treat and prevent anxiety.
A full review of the scientific literature is available here. In the various data we can see that not only are self-reported behaviors improved by ginseng use, but so is serum cortisol level, a key indication that the body’s chemistry is responding to lowered stress and anxiety.
This lowering of anxiety may be the strongest link to ginseng being a useful supplement in alleviating depression. Until more human trials specifically targeting depression are conducted with ginseng as the primary variable, this is the best we have.
Depression can strike anyone at almost any time. It is important that people seek proper care and adequate medication, if needed. The scientific literature, as it stands, supports the use of ginseng in laboratory animals on mechanisms thought to relate to depression in humans. The data, however, is not nearly conclusive.
Among the best uses of ginseng is in treating anxiety and stress, which disorders in many cases can lead to depression. More research is needed to study humans with depression and the use of ginseng.