Steaming ginseng at higher temperatures can boost its potency dramatically, according to research reported in the current (November 21) issue of the Journal of Natural Products, a peer-reviewed journal of the American Chemical Society, the world's largest scientific society.
Ginseng root has been used mostly in Asian cultures for centuries to enhance physical and mental vitality. The nutritional supplement in recent years has become widely available in world markets - either dried, or steamed at standard boiling temperatures of 100 degrees Celsius (212 Fahrenheit) - for use as an antioxidant and blood thinner.
Steaming for approximately three hours at 120 degrees Celsius (248 Fahrenheit) can multiply the herb's antioxidant qualities by eight times and its ability to relax blood vessels by up to 32 times, according to researcher Jeong Hill Park of Seoul National University in Korea.
The hotter steam produced an optimal amount of biological activity from the same ginseng used in normal supplements, Park found. The higher temperature amplifies certain ginsenosides - the ingredient believed responsible for ginseng's sought-after qualities - and generates others not normally found in dried versions of the root, Park said.
"This very simple steaming can significantly increase the biological activities of ginseng," Park said. "I believe we can develop more potent health foods or related products using this process."
Such high temperature steaming would be part of the manufacturing process of "sun ginseng," named after the dark purple color achieved from the heat, Park said. The additional heating above normal boiling temperature requires applying pressure to the water. This cannot be done without special equipment, he said.
Ginseng steamed at boiling temperatures is known as "red ginseng" because of the coloration it assumes.
Park reported no negative side effects from the higher concentration levels produced by the hotter steaming. As a food supplement, ginseng does not require extensive clinical trials in the United States. But those taking anti-inflammatory or blood thinning drugs should be alert to possible interactions, according to health sources.
Materials provided by American Chemical Society. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.
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