If 2016 was the year of superfoods like kale and seaweed, 2017 was all about herbs that boast too many benefits to count. Take ginseng, for example. Most commonly found in Eastern Asia—the home of the sheet mask and BB cream—it's got all the makings of a power plant with trendsetting potential. There are mood-improving properties, metabolism-boosting abilities, and, of course, some all-important supermodel advocacy. But that's just the tip of the iceberg for ginseng.
It Reduces Stress
Ginseng isn't just an herb; it's known as an adaptogenic herb, which means it's a type of healing plant considered to help your body adapt to stress. Now, stress can mean anything—from a poor diet to the effects of pollutant particles—but it also covers those trying moments that are part of everyday life.
Because ginseng nourishes the adrenal glands—the glands that produce the hormones you need—it's able to reduce your levels of the stress hormone cortisol. On the other end of the scale, your daily coffee raises those levels, so it might be a good time to swap your Starbucks trips for a ginseng supplement to calm jittery nerves.
It Boosts Energy
Ginseng does bear some similarities to that caffeine fix. While it doesn't raise cortisol levels like a cup of coffee can, it still gives you an energy boost. However, this one requires some patience. There's no instant java jolt here, but rather a more balanced feeling of energy if you take it regularly.
Still, here's where that supermodel advocacy comes in: Soo Joo Park told Vogue that ginseng is one of her key essentials for fending off fashion-week fatigue. (That's a thing, by the way.) "I carry red ginseng extract with me—it's exported from Korea," she explained backstage. "I get it whenever I'm going to the Seoul airport, from duty-free."
And while we can't all jet off to Seoul for an herbal pick-me-up, Amazon sells Ginseng Tea Bags ($29), ideal for sipping over breakfast. A number of energizing supplements are also packed with the cure-all plant, such as Centrum Performance Tablets ($15), which are "specially formulated for highly active people," Or, you know, just moderately active people…
It Burns Fat
You could argue that ginseng is bound to help with weight loss, as it gives you an energy boost, thus making that morning run feel slightly less daunting. Slightly. But that’s not the only reason this super herb has been linked to weight reduction; it also comes down to a red ginseng constituent called ginsenoside Rg3. In a study published in the Phytotherapy Research Journal, researchers found that this compound minimized fat by inhibiting differentiation in the cells that store fat as energy. It's easy to add to your diet, too. A supplement like Pukka Wholistic Red Ginseng ($86) will provide a daily dose that is also meant to improve your metabolism.
It Enhances Brain Function
Raise your hand if your head is so clouded with stress that you can't think straight. We know the feeling, which is why it's important to clear your mind in order to nurture your brain. Ginseng helps because "reducing cortisol means that serotonin is more likely to be taken up by the brain," says Shabir Daya, co-founder of VictoriaHealth.com. "This means the brain is calmer and so more able to concentrate fully." Meanwhile, animal studies indicate that, like rosemary, ginseng may improve your ability to learn new things and then remember them. Thanks to its ability to activate certain neurotransmitters, it's a good supplement to pop if you're prone to forgetting things—like, er, taking your vitamins.