“Grandfather” ginseng is the “king” of herbal tonics on two continents
Ginseng is one of the most highly prized herbs in both the Old World and the New World. In the Orient, ginseng has been dubbed the “king of tonics” and in North America, some native American tribes spoke of “grandfather ginseng” as the leader of the tribe of medicinal plants. Ginseng has earned these titles because it is a powerful tonic that helps to counteract the affects of aging in both men and women.
Both Oriental ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) derive their Latin name Panax from the fact that they have been considered a “panacea” for those that use them. Both ginsengs are tonics and adaptagens, which help bring the body’s energies into balance and balance the effects of stress in one’s life. Both are helpful for middle-aged and older people who want to stay healthy.
Ginseng appears to help normalize body functions as one grows older. For example, ginseng brings high or low blood pressure to a regular rate. It also brings high or low blood sugar to the normal level. Thus, ginseng has adaptagenic or normalizing effects.
Everyone deals with stressful events, but not everyone’s body handles them equally well. Adaptagens help the body cope better with life’s challenges. They reduce the output of stress hormones, which enhances immune function and helps maintain inner balance or homeostasis when the body is under stress.
For example, students taking rigorous tests found they could pay attention better, had higher scores on mental arithmetic and logical deduction and felt improved brain and body function after taking ginseng. Mice who were fed ginseng were able to swim longer in cold water than mice who had no ginseng. Nurses working the night shift found they were more alert during work. Studies also found that radio operators transmitted text faster and with fewer mistakes while they were taking ginseng. These are examples of how an adaptagen, like ginseng, can counteract the effects of stress.
Ginseng has been shown to enhance immunity. Research shows that it stimulates the white blood cells which filter toxins from the blood and lymph. Ginseng also enhances killer cell and antibody activity.
Taking ginseng often brings an overall feeling of well-being and may relieve insomnia and depression. It strengthens the nervous system and glandular systems, bringing more balance to these regulating systems.
Ginseng contains saponins which have a hormonal-like quality and work to improve the function of the adrenal glands for men and women. Women suffering from the beginning stages of menopause were given ginseng on a regular basis. They experienced an increase in estrogen which eliminated the need for hormone shots. Ginseng also helps to increase sexual vigor.
Another benefit of ginseng is its ability to aid blood sugar problems such as hypoglycemia or diabetes. Ginseng has been shown to help type II diabetics to bring high blood sugar rates down.
People all over the world are often searching for a way to slow the process of aging, and in many ways ginseng has that effect. Studies show this herb stimulates cell growth and keeps cells alive longer. Ginseng helps to prevent and aid memory loss in older people by speeding up the brain processes. Being old is often accompanied by being tired and weak, but ginseng can bring back youthful energy.
The Chinese have used ginseng for conditions such as amnesia, asthma, atherosclerosis, debility, diabetes, dyspepsia, epilepsy, fatigue, headache, hyperglycemia, impotence, insomnia, menorrhagia and vertigo. You can see why some believe it to be a panacea.
So, which ginseng should you take, American or Korean? The Chinese see a slight difference in the action of these two plants. American ginseng is more of a yin tonic, which means it has a more cooling and moistening effect, while Korean ginseng is a more yang tonic, meaning it has a more heating and drying effect. So, if you tend to have a cooler body temperature, with clammy or moist skin, the Korean ginseng would be better. If you tend to be more hot, with flushed red skin and dry skin, eyes and mouth, American ginseng would be the better choice.
It doesn’t take a high dose to get the benefits of ginseng. Generally, one to two capsules per day is enough. Ginseng is not a good remedy for young children or teenagers, unless they are suffering from weakness or prolonged illness. Even in those cases, it is best used in combination with other herbs for younger people. It’s best use is as a remedy for people middle-aged and up who are under stress or having problems with fatigue and general illness.
Korean ginseng should not be taken in conditions of acute diseases, high fever, severe inflammations, hyperactivity or extreme, nervous anxiety. Ginseng should not be used in conjunction with caffeine.
Chinese Herbal Remedies by Albert Y. Leung
The Comprehensive Guide to Nature’s Sunshine Products by Tree of Light Publishing
Herbal Therapy and Supplements by Merrily A. Kuhn and David Winston
The Encyclopedia of Medicinal Plants by Andrew Chevallier