|Ginseng Quick Facts
|North America and Asia
|Reminiscent of ginger or liquorice
There are 11 species of ginseng, all belonging to the genus Panax of the family Araliaceae. The botanical name Panax means “all heal” in Greek. The name “ginseng” is used to refer to both American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng). The true ginseng plant belongs only to the Panax genus, so other species, such as Siberian ginseng and crown prince ginseng, have distinctively different functions.
Ginseng is a short, slow growing perennial plant about 1 to 2 feet in height. The plant prefers rich, moist deciduous woods and may also be found on rocky talus slopes and grows on the slightly acidic soil, loose, rich soil, with a heavy mulch of leaves. Ginseng plant has a spindle-shaped, slender root which resembles the human body and is 2 to 3 inches in length (occasionally twice this size) and from 1/2 to 1 inch in thickness. Ginseng is known as “len seng” in Mandarin, which means “root of man”, because of the unusual morphology of the root. Root is actually a main source of nutrient of the plant. The plant has smooth, erect stem.
The plant has 3 large, palmate leaves composed of 4 to 5 (occasionally 3 to 7) oblong or lance-shaped leaflets with toothed edges.
Ginseng produces yellow-green flowers arranged in umbels (umbrella-shaped inflorescence). Flowers grow from the axils of leaves and contain both types of reproductive organs (perfect flowers). It blooms from June to July. Flowers are fragrant and they attract bees and syrphid flies, which are responsible for the pollination of this plant.
The plant bears cluster of bright red berries about 1 cm (0.4 inch) in diameter, filled with two seed.
Health Benefits of Ginseng
Containing more than 40 different ginsenosides, ginseng is considered a cure-all herb which is useful in treating a variety conditions. In addition to its anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, anti-cancer, and immune-boosting properties, it may also improve blood circulation, nurture the nervous system, and even help to balance hormones. Listed below are few of the health benefits of ginseng
1. Prevents Cancer
Several researches have proven that ginseng possesses powerful anticancer properties because of its ability to prevent tumor growth. Although more research is required on this subject, reports conclude that it’s the improvements in cell immunity involving T cells and NK cells (natural killer cells), along with other mechanisms such as oxidative stress, apoptosis and angiogenesis that give ginseng its anticancer properties.(1)
2. Weight Loss Efforts
Ginseng consists of powerful combination of chemicals which have a wide range of effects, including the suppression of appetite. When dried or powdered ginseng is consumed, it rapidly suppress the “hunger hormones” from activating any cravings, thus helping people in their weight loss efforts from cheating or snacking in between meals, while delivering a range of other health benefits at the same time.(2)
3. Stress Reliever
Ginseng affects the body’s nervous system in various ways, including stimulating the metabolism and boosting energy levels. Both of these effects can help to reduce stress and anxiety in the body. Additionally, the adaptogens found within ginseng have been shown to alter the hormonal levels of the body, which help to lower stress hormone levels and achieve a better balance of mood in the body.(3)
4. Diabetes Management
There are several researches on diabetes management and prevention, but one of the most promising herbal remedies for this veritable epidemic of diabetes in recent years is the use of ginseng. It has been shown to decrease blood sugar levels in terms of fasting blood sugar levels and post-prandial (after eating) levels. By regulating the intake or absorption of glucose, ginseng is able to protect the body from the sudden spikes and drops in blood sugar that can make diabetes so dangerous, or that can lead to development of the disease.(4)
5. Cognitive Ability
Everyone from students to the elderly used ginseng for its cognitive abilities. Consuming it cannot only stimulate your cognitive abilities of focus and concentration, but can also stimulate neural activity that can be difficult to achieve in older ages. The activity of antioxidants to stimulate these pathways prevents the accumulation of plaque and free radicals in the brain, effectively preventing the onset of dementia, Alzheimer’s, and other cognitive disorders.(5)
6. Improves Lung Function
Regular use of Ginseng has considerably decreased lung bacteria, and research involving rats has shown that ginseng can stop the growth of cystic fibrosis, a common lung infection. In one 1997 study, rats were given ginseng injections, and after two weeks, the treated group showed a significantly improved bacterial clearance from the lungs.(6)
7. Reduces anxiety
If you suffer from a condition that causes severe anxiety or you’re just a generally anxious person, ginseng can help. By helping improve your alertness, ginseng can help you feel better about yourself and more willing to get out there and get things done without too much worrying.
8. Lower bad cholesterol
Apart from changing your diet, including ginseng to your diet can help reduce the levels of bad cholesterol in your blood keeping your heart healthy and even reducing the chance of a clot or a stroke. You can use supplements as tablets to help reduce your cholesterol or switch those creamy coffees for a delicious ginseng tea instead.
9. Boost libido
Ginseng is one of the common traditional medicines for an aphrodisiac. Frequent use of powdered ginseng is believed to increase male performance and boost libido; in modern applications. It is commonly suggested for men suffering from erectile dysfunction as a natural solution.(7)
10. Colorectal Cancer
Although extensive research is continuing in other cancers, the most promising oncological area for ginseng is in colorectal cancer; research has shown a direct decrease in colorectal cancer spread and symptoms with the regular inclusion of it in one’s diet. Early research on other types of cancer show anti-tumor properties, but these studies are still in the early stages and discussion still exists on the true medicinal benefit of ginseng in terms of cancer.(8)
11. Boosts Immune System
Ginseng is quite beneficial to boost the immune system and helps the body fight off infection and disease. Roots, stems and leaves of ginseng are used for maintaining immune homeostasis and enhancing resistance to illness or infection.
Several researches have shown that American ginseng improves the performance of cells that play a role in immunity. Ginseng controls each type of immune cell, including macrophages, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, T cells and B cells.(9)
12. Menstrual Discomfort
Ginseng works as a soothing and anti-inflammatory substance and is often recommended for women suffering from extreme menstrual discomfort and cramps. It can help to reduce the mood swings commonly related with menstruation and the menopausal change in middle-aged women.(10)
13. Skin Health
Ginseng helps to stimulate blood flow throughout the body, mostly to the skin cells and is able to keep the skin looking young and hydrated. This falls under the category of anti-aging properties, but it is also associated to detoxifying the skin and boosting the immune response in the body’s largest organ.(11)
14. Prevents Premature Aging
Ginseng is valued throughout the world for its ability to reduce the signs of aging. Mainly, it is used as an antioxidant, which can prevent the negative effects of free radicals throughout the body, which are the dangerous byproducts of cellular metabolism that can damage healthy cells. Antioxidants found within it can prevent chronic diseases like heart disease, as well as certain types of cancer. Additionally, it has been connected to preventing the formation of maltol, another dangerous substance produced by the body that can worsen medical conditions.(12)
15. Hair Health
Ginseng consists of natural carbohydrates that have been directly associated with the prevention of alopecia and male pattern baldness. By applying ginseng salves or consuming the spice directly to the scalp can increase the health of the hair follicle beds, prevent dandruff, and reduce hair loss considerably.(13)
16. Treat and prevent influenza
Regular use of Ginseng help to treat and prevent influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), a respiratory virus that infects the lungs and breathing passages, according to research findings by a scientist in Georgia State University’s new Institute for Biomedical Sciences.
Traditional medicinal uses of Ginseng
- Root of ginseng is used to improve general health, to relieve stress, increase libido and in treatment of hypertension, common cold, diabetes and cancer.
- Ginseng is very popular and frequently used among athletes because of its ability to accelerate recovery of muscles after intense training, increase oxygen uptake in muscles and improve performances.
- It is used to treat diabetes, cancer, HIV/AIDS, and a variety of other conditions.
- Ginseng has been used in the treatment of erectile dysfunction.
- Oral intake of ginseng was shown to reduce muscle injury and inflammation following exercise in humans.
- Ginseng improves the function of the adrenal gland and thus helps the body to cope with these manifold symptoms of stress.
- Ginseng also improves the circulation and strengthens the heart.
History of ginseng
‘Ginseng’ comes from a Chinese term meaning ‘man root’, possibly because the herb’s unusual shape resembles the legs of a person. The history of ginseng consumption stretches back more than 5,000 years, when it was often used in the Chinese mountains as a rejuvenating remedy, as well as in soaps and lotions.
Ginseng soon became a popular export, reaching further afield around the world. In the 1700s, a Canadian priest sought a ginseng-like substance in his local area, finding a plant with similar qualities growing widely throughout the continent. It was an American ginseng and is still widely used today, being mainly grown in Wisconsin and Ontario.
Types of Ginseng
There are five major varieties, each with unique qualities; although only two are actually ginsengs:
1. American Ginseng
American Ginseng scientifically known as Panax Quinquefolius is good for fighting fatigue and possibly improves sexual performance, and improving cellular health in general.
2. Red Ginseng
Panax ginseng also known as Red Ginseng is actually an original one. It is a good metabolic regulator that seems to perk up your cells in a variety of environments, including some forms of cancer.
3. Indian Ginseng
Indian Ginseng scientifically known as Withania Somnifera has a variety of neuro-protective effects. It might improve some forms of cognition, and likely a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.
4. Siberian Ginseng
Siberian Ginseng scientifically known as Eleutherococcus Senticosus is particularly good at allowing your body to cope with metabolic stress. Cellular regulator, and provides a sustained energy boost/improvement in physical performance. It is also called eleuthero root.
5. Brazilian Ginseng
Brazilian Ginseng scientifically known as Pfaffia Paniculata seems to improve physical performance somewhat, a few anti-cancer properties, and likely scavenges free radicals within the body.
Ginseng Recommended Doses
The following ginseng doses have been studied in scientific research:
- For treating type 2 diabetes, take 200 milligrams daily.
- For erectile dysfunction, take 900 milligrams of Panax ginseng three times daily.
- For premature ejaculation, apply SS-Cream, containing Panax ginseng and other ingredients, to the penis one hour before intercourse and wash off before intercourse.
- For stress, tension or fatigue, take 1 gram of ginseng daily, or 500 milligrams twice daily.
How to Make Ginseng Tea
If you want to add ginseng to your daily diet, try making your own ginseng tea.
In China, people have been drinking ginseng tea for 5,000 years. In Chinese herbal medicine, practitioners recommend that adults over 40 drink one cup of ginseng tea every day.
Ginseng tea, just like ginseng supplements and extracts, is used to improve your mental power and memory. When making ginseng tea, first select the type of ginseng you want to use: American (which is better during hotter months) or Korean (better during colder months). You can buy ginseng tea bags from your local food store, but making it yourself from the root of the plant is the most beneficial form.
- You can use the fresh root, but this may be hard to find, so using the powered or dried root works too.
- Start by peeling the root if you are using it.
- Take 1 tablespoon of root shavings or the powdered root, and put it into a metal tea ball or filter.
- Bring water to a boil, and then turn it off — letting the water cool for 2–3 minutes.
- Pour the water into a tea cup, and sink the tea ball or filter into the cup; Let it steep for 5 minutes or longer.
- After drinking the tea, you can even eat the ginseng shavings to optimize the health benefits.
Tossed Ginseng Salad
- 1 small head of lettuce or cabbage, coarsely shredded
- 1 fresh ginseng root, thoroughly cleaned and thinly sliced
- 1 small red or white onion, sliced into rings
- 1 or 2 green onion stalks, julienned 1 inch
- Several spinach leaves torn into small pieces
- Condiments such as soy sauce, sugar, sesame seeds or black pepper.
- Combine all ingredients and toss well. Serve with oil and vinegar or your favorite dressing. Flavor with condiments of your choice.
Ginseng is generally considered to be relatively safe even in large amounts. One of the most common and distinctive symptoms of acute overdose of Panax ginseng is bleeding. Symptoms of mild overdose may include fidgeting, irritability, tremor, palpitations, increased body temperature, dry mouth and lips, excitation, early morning diarrhea, decreased appetite, blurred vision, headache, fatigue, increased blood pressure, edema, dizziness, itching, eczema, bleeding, and insomnia.
Symptoms of gross overdose with Panax ginseng may include nausea, increased blood pressure, vomiting, irritability, restlessness, urinary and bowel incontinence, fever, increased respiration, decreased sensitivity and reaction to light, decreased heart rate, cyanotic (blue) facial complexion, delirium, seizures, convulsions, and red facial complexion.
- Long-term use or high doses of ginseng may cause headaches, dizziness and stomachaches.
- Women who use ginseng regularly may experience menstrual changes, and there have also been some reports of allergic reactions to ginseng.
- Ginseng can act as a stimulant in some people, so it may cause nervousness and insomnia.
- Ginseng should not be given to children.
- It should not be taken by pregnant or nursing women as it can cause vaginal bleeding.
- Ginseng may affect blood sugar levels, so people taking drugs for diabetes shouldn’t use ginseng without talking to their health care providers first.
- One of the most common and characteristic symptoms of acute overdose of Panax ginseng is bleeding.
- Symptoms of mild overdose may include dry mouth and lips, excitation, fidgeting, irritability, tremor, palpitations, blurred vision, headache, insomnia, increased body temperature, increased blood pressure, edema, decreased appetite, dizziness, itching, eczema, early morning diarrhea, bleeding, and fatigue.
- Use of Panax ginseng should be stopped at least one week before surgery.