Ginseng: the Power of Nature

This Wonder Plant has a long history of use in traditional Chinese medicine. Since the root has a form similar to human body, the Chinese considered it beneficial for the hole body. In order to understand the effects, you must know there are three major ginseng varieties:

  • American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius): Its root contains ginsenosides, which are thought to be responsible for many of its medicinal properties. Chinese medicine, which has used ginseng for thousands of years, considers American ginseng a “cool” calming tonic.
  • Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng): Also referred to as Korean ginseng, Asian ginseng also contains ginsenosides, although in different proportions than American ginseng, and is considered an adaptogenic herb. According to Chinese medicine, Asian ginseng is a “hot” stimulant.
  • Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus): Siberian ginseng is not a true ginseng and does not contain ginsenosides. Its active components are called eleutherosides, which are thought to stimulate your immune system.

Like American and Asian ginseng, however, Siberian ginseng is an adaptogen that’s traditionally been used to increase energy, stimulate the immune system, and increase longevity.

Ginseng was traditionally used as stimulant, tonic and to support the immune system.

Health Benefits of American Ginseng

American ginseng cannot be used for medicinal purposes until it’s at least six years old (the wrinkles around the neck of the root reveal its age).

Memory. American ginseng was found to improve working memory and mood in young individuals and middle-age adults.

Cancer: It has anti-cancer properties, as it appear to suppress tumor growth. It has shown particular promise in treating colorectal cancer.

Diabetes: American ginseng appears to have anti-diabetic properties. In one animal study, extract of American ginseng root lead to weight loss and lower blood sugar levels in mice with type 2 diabetes. It’s also been shown to increase insulin sensitivity in healthy individuals.

Cold and Flu: A study has shown that taking an extract of American ginseng had reduces the risk and duration of respiratory illness in half. It was also found to be a safe and effective treatment for reducing the absolute risk of recurrent colds and the mean number of colds per person.

Immune System Function: American ginseng is generally known as immunostimulant, as it helps your body fight off infections and disease.

Health Benefits of Asian Ginseng

Asian ginseng is regarded as heating and is not generally recommended for stress relief. For that purpose American ginseng is more suitable.

Heart health: Asian ginseng may protect against symptoms of heart disease and support healthy cholesterol levels. It protects heart health, including anti-hypertensive effects and protection against heart failure.

Some research suggests Asian ginseng increases blood pressure at typical doses but lowers it at higher doses, so be careful with its use if you have high blood pressure.

Neurodegenerative diseases: Some studies show that Asian ginseng may have neuroprotective properties, including maintaining homeostasis and anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-apoptotic, and immune-stimulatory activities.

The herb could potentially be useful for Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, Huntington’s disease, multiple sclerosis, and other neurological disorders.

Stroke: Asian ginseng’s antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties appear useful as a promising neuroprotective strategy in stroke.

Cancer-related fatigue (CRF): CRF is the most common symptom in patients with cancer. Those who used high-dose Asian ginseng reported improved fatigue, quality of life, appetite and sleep quality.

Cold and flu: Like American ginseng, Asian ginseng appears to stimulate the immune system.

Erectile dysfunction: Asian ginseng may be beneficial in treating erectile dysfunction, and it may also improve sperm production, sexual activity, and sexual performance.

Mental performance: Asian ginseng appears to boost alertness as well as thinking and learning.

Menopausal symptoms: There is some evidence suggesting Asian ginseng may help relieve certain menopausal symptoms, particularly depression and well-being.

Short-term use of ginseng is considered to be safe among adults. Asian ginseng is best taken in cycles, such as every day for two to three weeks, then taking a break for two to three weeks. In choosing a supplement, fermented ginseng may provide faster, more consistent absorption compared to non-fermented varieties. And if you choose Asian ginseng, look for the unpeeled variety (sometimes called red ginseng), as it will retain more of its bioactive compounds.

Sources:

  •  University of Maryland Medical Center, American Ginseng
  •  Scholey A, Ossoukhova A, Owen L, Ibarra A, Pipingas A, He K, Roller M, Stough C,Effects of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) on neurocognitive function: an acute, randomised, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover study, Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2010 Oct;212(3):345-56
  • Kim MS, Lim HJ, Yang HJ, Lee MS, Shin BC, Ernst E, Ginseng for managing menopause symptoms: a systematic review of randomized clinical trials,
    J Ginseng Res. 2013 Mar;37(1):30-6
  • Ossoukhova A, Owen L, Savage K, Meyer M, Ibarra A, Roller M, Pipingas A, Wesnes K, Scholey A, Improved working memory performance following administration of a single dose of American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius L.) to healthy middle-age adults, Hum Psychopharmacol. 2015 Mar;30(2):108-22
  • McElhaney JE, Goel V, Toane B, Hooten J, Shan JJ, Efficacy of COLD-fX in the prevention of respiratory symptoms in community-dwelling adults: a randomized, double-blinded, placebo controlled trial, J Altern Complement Med. 2006 Mar;12(2):153-7
  • Ginseng root, American Botanical Council, http://cms.herbalgram.org/
  • Hee Jin Kim, Pitna Kim, and Chan Young Shin, A comprehensive review of the therapeutic and pharmacological effects of ginseng and ginsenosides in central nervous system, J Ginseng Res. 2013 Mar; 37(1): 8–29.

 

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