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Ginseng berry is the red fruit of the Panax ginseng plant. Some people, starting with the Chinese, have used ginseng root for medicinal purposes for about 2,000 years, but relatively recent studies suggest that the berry contains a different chemical makeup than the root. An ongoing study by the University of Chicago in the American state of Illinois claims that the berry’s ingredients may help alleviate the symptoms of diabetes and obesity.
The ginseng plant is said to contain proteins, amino acids and a substance called ginsenoside. Ginsenoside is the active ingredient many believe gives the plant its stimulating effects on energy and metabolism. While the root of the plant has long been the favored source of these active ingredients, a study by doctors at the University of Chicago showed that the ginseng berry had much higher concentrations, as well as different types of ginsenosides. As the ginsenosides are thought to be the most effective ingredient in ginseng, a study was performed to learn about the effects of the ginseng berry, particularly whether or not they differed greatly from the effects of ginseng root.
Diabetes is a condition linked to the body’s ability to control glucose levels in the blood, which is often caused by a hormone called insulin that is not functioning properly. Sufferers of diabetes must periodically check their blood sugar level and administer insulin injections when needed. Using diabetic mice as subjects, the University of Chicago study found that administering ginseng berry extract helped to equalize the mice’s blood-sugar levels and increased the animals' sensitivity to insulin. The extract also lowered cholesterol levels and, by suppressing appetite and stimulating exercise, helped the diabetic mice to lose unnecessary body weight. No conclusive results were found when the extract was injected into mice without diabetes.
While researchers and doctors remain hopeful, results on the effect of the ginseng berry extract on humans are not yet conclusive. Sufficient data, along with approval by the American Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which is required to deem the ginseng berry extract a useful drug in treating diabetes, may be many years away. As the number of people who suffer from diabetes and obesity rises, though, more consumers may turn to ginseng berry supplements and juice as a precaution.
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