Herbs - Ginseng

The Chinese have been using ginseng for over 5,000 years and still revere it as a preventative and a cure all. Oriental medicine has deemed ginseng a necessary element in all their best prescriptions. It is said to remove both physical and mental fatigue, cure pulmonary complaints, dissolve tumors, reduce the effects of age, cure impotence, normalize both high and low blood pressure, anemia, arthritis, indigestion, insomnia, fatigue, hypoglycemia, poor circulation and aids in assimilation of vitamins and minerals by acting as an endocrine gland stimulant. Ginseng also contains estriol an anti carcinogenic variant of estrogen.

In herbal language ginseng is an adaptogen - a word used to describe supplements that help the body perform at optimal levels and counter the ill effects of stress.

Ginseng is a native to eastern Asia and north America this perennial plant is often found in heavily wooded areas and requires rich soil to thrive. The root is often cultivated when the plant is between 4 - 6 years old and the best roots are normally saved to be sold in whole form and the others are sold to be refined for teas, powders or extracts.

Ginseng is a member of the araliaceae family which consists of Siberian Ginseng (Eleutheroccocus senticosus), American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolius) and Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng or Panax Ginseng C.A. Meyer) which includes Korean Ginseng, Manchurian Ginseng, Vietnamese Ginseng and Chinese Ginseng.

Panax is derived from the Greek word Panacea and means "all healing" or "cure all". The roots of the plant are called "Jin - Chen" meaning "like man" due to the roots resemblance to a tiny person.

Ginseng contains Vitamin A, Vitamin B6, Mineral Zinc and Mineral Germanium, which aids in the production of thymic hormones, necessary for the function of the immune system. Ginseng's secret however is its main active ingredients, approximately 25 Saponin Triterpenoid glycosides called ginsenosides or panaxosides. These Ginsenocides have shown powerful functions as adaptogens. They also contain a strong antioxidant component that has been shown in clinical studies to aid in combating the effects of aging. Saponins are analgesic, anti - inflammatory, anti - convulsant and a regulator of blood sugar levels, cholesterol levels and blood pressure.

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutheroccocus senticosus) is a member of the araliaceae family but is more closely related to the ivy family. The active ingredients in Siberian ginseng are called Eleutherosides and are aromatic alcohol aglycones, which appear to have the same function as triterpenoid aglycones found in Asian Ginseng.

American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolius) Is a milder form of ginseng compared to Asian Ginseng and most of the ginseng harvested in the U.S. today is shipped to Asia because its milder form is considered more suited for long term use. Native Americans considered it to be one of their sacred herbs and European settlers also used American Ginseng (while legend has it that Daniel Boon and other settlers use to harvest the roots wild and sell them in the colonies).

Potency of Ginseng is of vital importance and in most cases with any herbs or supplements you should check labels. Independent researchers have tested drinks and combination teas claiming to have ginseng and in some cases found no ginseng at all. Even with respect to capsules, lower grades of root are used and this effects the potency of the herb.

As mentioned earlier in this article the ginseng root is harvested at maturity around 4 - 6 years of age and the best roots are kept and sold whole, where as the seconds or least wanted roots are made into powders or teas. It is even common practice to fill capsules with powder made from younger inferior roots, hairs and discards.

Extracts are also another method to consume ginseng and in most cases a consumer should stick with Chinese extracts unless you can verify that the extraction process did not include distilling of active components. The Chinese extracts are not distilled and contain all of the vital essence of the roots juices where as in the united states extracts are distilled to remove unwanted elements leaving only the active ingredients. The Chinese feel that the whole extract is of more value and in my opinion I agree, but U.S. manufactures are seeing the light so it is possible to find quality undistilled extracts in the states.

If you chose to ingest your ginseng by capsules, teas or extract please read the label.

On the other hand if you buy whole root ginseng it can be softened by boiling it in some water and steeping until soft after which you can use the water as a tea and the root should be soft enough to slice with a knife.

Recommended dosages of ginseng are 1 - 2 grams a day or 2- 8 peanut sized pieces of root spread out through the day.

If you use Asian or American Ginseng look for products containing 4% to 7% ginsenosides, for Siberian Ginseng look for products that contain Eleutherosides equal to 1% of total weight.

In the 1970 Ginseng became very popular in the west when Russian athletes reported that their physical competitive edge was due to ginseng. Russian scientists proclaimed that ginseng could improve strength, stamina and concentration. Taking this into consideration ginseng contains many steroid like compounds including Panaxtriol, these compounds are very similar to the bodies own anabolic hormones. Respect to this should be considered if you are pregnant, nursing or on other medications.

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DISCLAIMER: This information is not presented by a medical practitioner and is for
educational and informational purposes only.  The content is not intended to be a
substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.  Always seek
the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions
you may have regarding a medical condition.  Never disregard professional medical
advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read.

Since natural and/or dietary supplements are not FDA approved they must be
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