Ginseng speeds up recovery and reduces muscle fatigue. UOC

In a review of 700 studies, the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya (UOC) has found that taking ginseng as a dietary supplement can help the body recover from physical exercise, improve performance and prevent injury.

Ginseng is one of the most popular food supplements in the world. Made from a variety of plants and herbs, it is thought to have many benefits, with numerous studies suggesting possible anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anti-cancer effects. Now, a group of researchers from the UOC have found that it can also help with exercise as it informs the Catalan University. 

Carried out as part of a master's thesis final project and recently published in the journal Nutrients, the study revealed that ginseng has a direct effect on reducing fatigue and helping muscles to regenerate. "We found that ginseng can play an important role as a supplement when it comes to recovery after exercise," said Borja Muñoz, a fitness coach and one of the main authors of the study. 

He carried out this research under the supervision of his tutor, Patricia Martínez, a dietician and nutritionist who teaches at the UOC Faculty of Health Sciences, together with the experts Rafael Bailón and Laura Esquius, a researcher at the UOC Epi4Health group. To carry out the study, they systematically reviewed more than 700 articles from the scientific literature and meticulously analysed their findings to confirm these benefits for healthy, physically active adults. 

"Taken as part of a balanced diet, ginseng can provide an extra source of energy for athletes or anyone who exercises regularly. It's also worth noting that, unless it's medically contraindicated in a specific case, regular use of ginseng is considered beneficial (or at least not harmful) for healthy people," said Muñoz. 

Laura Esquius, researcher in the Epi4Health group at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. UOC
Laura Esquius, researcher in the Epi4Health group at the Universitat Oberta de Catalunya. UOC

Benefits of ginseng

The review has concluded that taking ginseng can significantly reduce muscle damage after exercise in healthy adults. It also improves muscle recovery and helps the body recover from both muscle fatigue and muscle damage after physical exercise. 

The exertion and intensity of sport causes muscle damage, mainly inflammatory damage. The active ingredients of the compounds contained in ginseng stimulate the central nervous system, have antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, and regulate cortisol, the stress hormone cortisol, benefit many of the body's metabolic functions and help the immune system to function properly. 

Systematic long-term use of ginseng can reduce the response of biological markers, mainly creatine kinase (CK) and interleukin 6 (IL-6), responsible for exercise-induced muscle damage and inflammation. It also reduces and mitigates the appearance of lactate in the blood. 

Lactate is a chemical compound produced by the body when the muscles are deprived of oxygen due to overexertion, which inhibits the ability of the muscles to contract, the main cause of muscle fatigue. By reducing fatigue, regular use of ginseng may also help to reduce the risk of injury, particularly to muscles or ligaments, which in turn may improve athletic performance.

Ginseng can be used to help recover from exercise.
Ginseng can be used to help recover from exercise.

"The damaged structures share the same physiological processes. That's why professionals in this field need to have the most effective physiological context, to ensure that each person can recover as well and as quickly as possible. This is where ginseng comes in, as it can play an important role in recovery from injury," said Muñoz about the potential benefits for athletes of taking ginseng. 

Common in traditional Chinese medicine

The study was born out of Muñoz's interest in providing scientific support for the empirical experiences he had observed while working as a fitness coach and injury specialist at a football club in China. He observed that ginseng, a supplement widely used in traditional Chinese medicine, was widely used by football players, who reported positive effects from taking it. 

"We wanted to learn more about the effects of ginseng in a specific situation, in this case in relation to exercise, and to provide verifiable evidence of its ability to improve the body's response to the stimuli of chronic stress in sport, helping athletes to recover between training sessions," said Muñoz. 

A scheduled consumption protocol

According to these experts, this could pave the way for further research into the benefits of ginseng in greater depth and assessing how its use as a supplement can improve performance in sport. One of its main potential effects is to stimulate and speed up the body's regeneration processes after muscle damage. 

"Among the possible future research we're considering, a study to establish a scheduled consumption protocol to find out exactly how and when athletes should take ginseng to optimise its benefits within a given timeframe is particularly appealing, as the studies carried out in these cases suffer from a lack of diversity and scientific evidence," stressed Martínez.

The authors str

Ginseng is a very positive supplement for athletes. GETTY IMAGES
Ginseng is a very positive supplement for athletes. GETTY IMAGES

ess the need to clarify the methodology to be used in each type of situation must be clarified in order to learn more about how to improve ginseng supplementation. "There is still a lot of work to be done, as ginseng has the potential to improve the physical performance of athletes and help prevent certain injuries, especially muscular injuries," concludes Muñoz. 

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