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New study questions role of ginseng as mood enhancer

CORVALLIS, Ore. - The popular dietary supplement ginseng is purported to improve one's mood and all-around vigor, but a new study published today in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association suggests that ginseng has little if any effect on psychological health.

The study, conducted by researchers at Oregon State University and Wayne State University, is one of the most extensive peer-reviewed studies of ginseng ever conducted.

"Ginseng is being marketed to relatively healthy young people as a way to feel even better a kind of yuppie supplement," said Bradley J. Cardinal, an associate professor in the College of Health and Human Performance at Oregon State. "We found it had no real effect on mood at all. It certainly did not live up to some of its over-enthusiastic marketing claims."

Among the claims, the authors say, were that ginseng enhances mood, leads to positive well-being, and generally makes you feel better. Marketing ploys used to push ginseng promoted its use by astronauts and professional athletes, and claimed it did everything from easing childbirth to working as an aphrodisiac.

The study by Cardinal and Hermann J. Engels of Wayne State University focused only on the alleged psychological properties of ginseng. The researchers gave a regular, 200-mg daily dose of ginseng to one group of volunteers for eight weeks. A second group received a double dose of 400-mg daily; the third group received a sugar pill. None of the individuals knew what they were taking.

At the end of the eight-week period, the researchers measured the effects of the supplements on the volunteers' "total mood disturbance" using a 65-question "Profile of Mood States" inventory. They used the 20-item "Positive and Negative Affect Scale," or PANAS, to target potential positive and negative impacts more specifically. PANAS, commonly used by psychologists and counselors, uses established positive adjectives, such as "active," "alert" and "enthusiastic" and n
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Contact: Brad Cardinal
brad.cardinal@orst.edu
541-737-2506
Oregon State University
3-Jun-2001


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