Ashwagandha vs. Ginseng: Differences & Similarities Explained

Ashwagandha and ginseng are two herbs that are often compared because of their many similarities. However, there are also some key differences between these herbs that you should be aware …

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Written by: Daniel Powers, MS
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Ashwagandha and ginseng are two herbs that are often compared because of their many similarities.

However, there are also some key differences between these herbs that you should be aware of before choosing one or the other.

In this article, we’ll dig into the differences between ashwagandha vs. ginseng, as well as their similarities.

differences between ashwagandha vs. ginseng

Ashwagandha vs. Ginseng: Similarities & Differences Explained

When it comes to comparing ashwagandha vs ginseng, there are many similarities between the two.

First off, the medicinal part of each plant is its root. Typically ashwagandha is harvested after 1-2 years. Ginseng is slower growing and can take up to 3-5 years, depending on the weather.

Ashwagandha and ginseng are also similar in that they are both considered to be adaptogens, which means they help the body cope with various types of stress (physical, mental, or emotional).

While both ginseng and ashwagandha were used as traditional medicine in the eastern part of the world, each of them is used in different health systems.

Ginseng has a long tradition in traditional Chinese medicine as a superior tonic. On the other hand, ashwagandha is a herb that has been used in the Indian Ayurvedic system of medicine.

Additionally, these herbs differ in their energetics (i.e. how they work in the body).

Ashwagandha is a relaxing, restorative herb. Ginseng is a stimulating, energizing herb.

Ashwagandha Overview:Ginseng Overview:
Primary Benefit:Ashwagandha may have stress lowering abilitiesGinseng may work to benefit brain health and function
Secondary Benefit(s):Ashwagandha may reduce elevated levels of anxietyGinseng may be able to support blood sugar regulation
Part of the Plant Used:RootRoot
Dosage Range:300-1,000mg200-400mg
Form:Extract, powder or capsuleExtract, powder or capsule
Side Effects:Large doses may cause stomach upset, diarrhea, or vomitingHigh doses may lead to headaches, dizziness, stomach upset or insomnia
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Ashwagandha vs. Ginseng: Which is right for you?

Ashwagandha provides more of a relaxing, focused energy. Whereas ginseng tends to be more of a stimulating, energy-inducing herb.

If you tend to be an easily stimulated person, go with ashwagandha as it can help to calm your body and give you balance. Ashwagandha can help with sleep, anxiety, and overall stress resilience.

If you tend to be lethargic and tired, pick ginseng; it is more of a stimulating herb and can help to increase your energy level. It’s great as a pick-me-up in the morning and can help to improve your brain function.

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To make picking a supplement that works for you easier, we’ve put together a complete guide going over our top recommended ashwagandha supplements and the best ginseng supplement.

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Ashwagandha Overview & Uses:

Ashwagandha is a popular Ayurvedic herb used for its adaptogenic properties.

This herb was traditionally used in India as an aphrodisiac and tonic. Additionally, it was used for a variety of other conditions, including inflammation, psoriasis, bronchitis, asthma, ulcers, insomnia, and healthy aging.

Modern research shows that ashwagandha may help to reduce anxiety, improve sleep quality, and build stress resilience.

ashwagandha vs. ginseng : ashwagandha health benefits

1. May Improve Stress Resilience

Ashwagandha has been found to have adaptogenic capabilities, which means it helps relieve stress.

In a study of stressed healthy people, a clinical trial tested the stress-reducing impact of ashwagandha. The researchers discovered that ashwagandha helped to reduce participants’ perceived stress in the study.

This study, along with other research, shows that ashwagandha may be the perfect way to balance out the negative impacts that stress can have on our health. This benefit makes this an ideal herb for women and male health.

2. May Reduce Anxiety

Clinical trials show that ashwagandha may lower anxiety and improve overall mental health.

One study found that the self-reported stress levels in human participants were reduced after taking 300mg of ashwagandha root extract daily.

Ashwagandha extract was also observed in a human clinical trial to help decrease anxiety, as measured by various anxiety indexes.

3. May Increase Sleep Quality

According to clinical research, ashwagandha may help improve sleep quality and reduce insomnia.

Researchers looking into the impact of ashwagandha for sleep found that it significantly improved various sleep parameters in individuals with poor sleep quality.

Learn more about the benefits of ashwagandha.

Ginseng Overview & Uses:

Ginseng is a well-known adaptogen that has been used for thousands of years in China and Korea.

In traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng is considered to be a very important herb for increasing vitality and longevity.

In modern times, research shows that ginseng has numerous health benefits, including blood sugar regulation, cognitive function, and heart health.

ashwagandha vs. ginseng: ginseng health benefits

1. May Improve Cognitive Function

Ginseng is noted for its ability to improve brain health and function.

A human clinical trial found that participants who took American ginseng extract showed improved working memory, reaction time, and an improved sense of calm.

2. May Support Blood Sugar Regulation

Various studies have shown that ginseng may help to support blood sugar stabilization.

A human clinical trial revealed that American ginseng taken with a meal helped to lower blood sugar spikes by 20% in both non-diabetic and diabetic individuals.

An in vitro (i.e. “test tube”) study found that ginseng increased glucose uptake and insulin sensitivity. It’s thought that this mechanism may work to reduce blood sugar levels.

3. Antimicrobial Properties

According to research, many of the diverse phytochemical components found in ginseng have antibacterial properties.

In one study, ginsenosides (a component found in ginseng) showed anti-staphylococcal activity. This research also revealed that the leaves, roots, and hairy root cultures of ginseng are all sources of antibacterial chemicals.

Learn more about the benefits of ginseng.

Potential Side Effects & Interactions:

As with all substances, herbs have the potential to interact negatively with your body.

Ginseng is generally well tolerated, especially at low-to-moderate doses.

Research notes that high doses of American ginseng can alter the effects of the medication warfarin (Coumadin®), while smaller doses do not.

You can find a full safety profile review of ginseng here.

Ashwagandha is generally well tolerated and safe to consume.

A safety review showed that moderate doses of ashwagandha (~300mg daily) do not appear to be associated with any major side effects or adverse reactions.

You can find our full safety profile review of ashwagandha here.

As with all supplements, it’s best to run any additions by your personal doctor for feedback prior to ingesting.

Conclusion:

As you can see, both herbs are generally well tolerated and safe to consume.

If you’re trying to decide between ginseng and ashwagandha, consider taking a few weeks to experiment with each herb for yourself before making your final decision.

You might find that one works better than the other or vice versa!

Chandrasekhar, K., Kapoor, J., & Anishetty, S. (2012). A prospective, randomized double-blind, placebo-controlled study of safety and efficacy of a high-concentration full-spectrum extract of ashwagandha root in reducing stress and anxiety in adults. Indian journal of psychological medicine34(3), 255–262. https://doi.org/10.4103/0253-7176.106022

Chen, W., Balan, P., & Popovich, D. G. (2019). Review of Ginseng Anti-Diabetic Studies. Molecules (Basel, Switzerland)24(24), 4501. https://doi.org/10.3390/molecules24244501

Kochan, E., Wasiela, M., & Sienkiewicz, M. (2013). The production of ginsenosides in hairy root cultures of American Ginseng, Panax quinquefolium L. and their antimicrobial activity. In vitro cellular & developmental biology. Plant : journal of the Tissue Culture Association49(1), 24–29. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11627-012-9469-5

Langade, D., Kanchi, S., Salve, J., Debnath, K., & Ambegaokar, D. (2019). Efficacy and Safety of Ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) Root Extract in Insomnia and Anxiety: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Study. Cureus11(9), e5797. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.5797

Lopresti, A. L., Smith, S. J., Malvi, H., & Kodgule, R. (2019). An investigation into the stress-relieving and pharmacological actions of an ashwagandha (Withania somnifera) extract A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study. Medicine98(37), e17186. https://doi.org/10.1097/MD.0000000000017186

Salve, J., Pate, S., Debnath, K., & Langade, D. (2019). Adaptogenic and Anxiolytic Effects of Ashwagandha Root Extract in Healthy Adults: A Double-blind, Randomized, Placebo-controlled Clinical Study. Cureus11(12), e6466. https://doi.org/10.7759/cureus.6466

Scholey, A., Ossoukhova, A., Owen, L., Ibarra, A., Pipingas, A., He, K., Roller, M., & Stough, C. (2010). Effects of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) on neurocognitive function: an acute, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study. Psychopharmacology212(3), 345–356. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00213-010-1964-y

Verma, N., Gupta, S. K., Tiwari, S., & Mishra, A. K. (2021). Safety of Ashwagandha Root Extract: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, study in Healthy Volunteers. Complementary therapies in medicine, 57, 102642. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2020.102642

Vuksan V, Sievenpiper JL, Koo VYY, et al. American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L) Reduces Postprandial Glycemia in Nondiabetic Subjects and Subjects With Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus. Arch Intern Med. 2000;160(7):1009–1013. doi:10.1001/archinte.160.7.1009. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/485272

Yuan, C. S., Wei, G., Dey, L., Karrison, T., Nahlik, L., Maleckar, S., Kasza, K., Ang-Lee, M., & Moss, J. (2004). Brief communication: American ginseng reduces warfarin's effect in healthy patients: a randomized, controlled Trial. Annals of internal medicine141(1), 23–27. https://doi.org/10.7326/0003-4819-141-1-200407060-00011

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About Daniel Powers, MS

Daniel has a master's degree in herbal science from the Maryland University of Integrative Health. He has a passion for herbal medicine and how it can be used to support everyday health & wellness.

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