Effects of 8 weeks administration of Korean Panax ginseng extract on the mood and cognitive performance of healthy individuals
Background: Previous research has suggested that single doses of a standardised Panax ginseng extract can decrease fasted blood-glucose levels and modulate cognitive performance in healthy young volunteers. The latter has generally been seen in terms of improved secondary memory performance. However, both the cognitive effects of chronic administration of ginseng and the potential modulation of working memory have received comparatively little research attention. Aims: The current double-blind, placebo-controlled, balanced cross-over study investigated the effects of 8-weeks administration of Korean ginseng extract (200 mg) on cognitive performance, gluco-regulatory parameters and ratings of subjective mood and 'quality of life'. Methods: 'Eighteen healthy young participants were assessed pre-dose and 3 hours post-dose on the mornings of Day 1, Day 29 and Day 57 of 8 week treatment regimens of both placebo and ginseng. A four-week placebo wash-out separated the treatment phases. Each assessment included the Cognitive Drug Research battery, computerised working memory tasks, and Bond-Lader mood scales. The WHO Quality of Life scale (WHOQOL-BREF) was completed once per visit. Gluco-regulatory parameters were assessed with assays of blood glucose, insulin and HbA1c. Results: Data from the 16 participants that completed the study showed that there were no significant, acute treatment related differences on Day 1 of treatment, or in gluco-regulatory parameters throughout the study. However, time related performance improvements were evident following chronic administration of ginseng on the '3-Back' and 'Corsi-block' computerised working memory tasks. Ginseng was also associated with an improved score on the 'social relations' subscale of the WHOQOL-100, and a significant shift on the 'calm' factor of the Bond-Lader mood scales (from calm/relaxed towards excited/tense). Conclusion: The results of the current study suggest that Korean ginseng extract can modulate working memory performance and subjective ratings of 'quality of life' and mood. Replication with a larger sample size may further elucidate the actions of this product.