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
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