If there is one herbal plant in TCM(Traditional Chinese Medicine) that is so famous, it’s Ginseng. For over 7 millennia, Ginseng has been a popular choice when it comes to medicine, particularly in the East such as China, Japan, and Korea.
Ginseng also becomes a protected herbal plant in Russia and China, which is now illegal to harvest wild Ginseng in Russia, and exports of Ginseng in China have been banned.
During the late 1800s, the cultivation of Ginseng started in the United States. In this region, it was somewhat difficult to grow and cultivate the herb. In fact, it takes between 4 to 6 years before it can be harvested at the right maturity.
Ginseng roots are called Jin-Chen, which means “shape like a man“ in English, which is also in reference to being a resemblance shape of the body. Ginseng root can last up to over a century, that’s over 100 years of lifespan. Probably, this is the reason why North American Native people considered it as one of the sacred herbs.
There are several species of Ginseng that also grow around the globe, and while it has been popularly known for its medicinal properties, it is also widely used as a safe, effective, and natural vitality rejuvenator.
Throughout centuries, it has been widely respected as a magical natural supplement in the East providing numerous benefits to those who regularly used it.
It has been used as an energy and immune system booster, plus enhance a person’s vitality, increase mental alertness and physical endurance, and treat many common illnesses like vomiting, headaches, fever, colds, and even lessen the effects of aging.
For thousands of years when it was first discovered, it has been considered an aphrodisiac. In fact, Ginseng to these days is very popular not only in medications but on dietary male enhancement pills as virility enhancers.
Today, numerous studies have found Ginseng as a potential treatment for male impotency or erectile dysfunction, stabilizing glucose levels in diabetic individuals, and boost cognitive functions, as well as symptoms of ADHD(attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder) in children when used along with Ginkgo Biloba.
What Makes Ginseng Potent?
Ginseng is an herbal plant, and what makes it potent when it comes to health benefits is its active substance that can be found in the root called ginsenosides(saponin triterpenoid glycosides).
Ginseng also contains certain vitamins including vitamins A, B-6, and a mineral called Zinc that helps in thymic hormone production essential for the body’s immune system and boosting male fertility.
These compounds or active chemicals are regarded as “marker compounds”, which means its presence or absence and its chemical properties determine the quality and type of Ginseng contain in a product.
Ginseng contains 25 of these saponin triterpenoid glycosides or ginsenosides that are steroid-like component providing an adaptogenic property which is helpful in balancing and treating stress.
The glycosides appear to work on the adrenal glands aiding in the prevention of adrenal hypertrophy and excessive production of corticosteroid due to chemical, physical, biological stresses.
This is the substance that has been shown to boost physical endurance, decrease fatigue, and among other numerous benefits mentioned earlier. One study conducted on humans where a large amount of this substance was provided and participants noted a slight improvement in their endurance.
Moreover, NIH(National Institute of Health) published a Chinese herbal medicine that claims the usage of Ginseng can unusually raise low blood pressure and can aid in preventing shock after an occurrence of a heart attack.
The concentration of ginsenosides becomes higher as the Ginseng roots become older. As you might recall earlier, mentioned Ginseng roots can last up to over a century. Imagine how potent the ginsenosides when it reaches that level of maturity.
One known species of Ginseng is the Araliaceae herbs. However, the most widely used species is the Asian Ginseng, which often known in the market today as Korean, Chinese, or Panax Ginseng (Panax ginseng C.A., Meyer).
The American Ginseng(Panax quinquefolius L.), however, is pretty much related to Asian ginseng, which is known for its milder potency.
Another Ginseng species is the Siberian ginseng, also known as Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus Rupr ex Maxim), is not pretty much related to the former two mentioned. Siberian Ginseng contains two more compounds that are unrelated. It is also less potent, and cheaper. Among these known species of Ginseng, the most potent is the Asian Ginseng, this is why most supplementation available today has it.
British Medical Journal, The Lancet(Volume344, No.8915, p134, 9July1994) published a study conducted in Sweden that revealed the majority of Ginseng products sold in the market only contained a trace amount of these potent chemicals from Ginseng, ginsenosides. The findings of the study concluded the amounts of ginsenosides are insignificant to be beneficial.
Two of these Ginseng products were sold in the United States have been found to contain none of the substances at all. Hence, prior to buying and taking a product marketed to contain Ginseng, make sure to check and do a little bit of research online to find out whether the product is clinically-tested, safe, and effective.
In order to be effective, Ginseng should be taken with a dosage at approximately 5 grams every time. Commercial products with Ginseng comes it the form of capsules as supplementation, liquid form packed in viles, consumed as a tea, and even consuming the actual Ginseng root itself.
Moreover, Chinese studies have shown that ginsenosides also increase the synthesis of protein and neurotransmitter activities in the brain. Probably, this is the reason why it has been also used as memory and a cognitive booster, and concentration enhancer. More studies have also discovered it has specific effects that help the body central nervous system, circulatory system, liver, and lung functions.
Studies that are conducted on animals shown that the extract of Ginseng helps stimulate interferon production, decrease triglyceride levels, lower cholesterol, and activity of the natural killer cell. It has also believed that it helps women to boost estrogen levels and used as a treatment for menopausal symptoms.
Popular Ginseng Species
Most people are simply familiar with ginseng. But in reality, ginseng has many species and grows in many parts of the world.
To familiarize with the most popular ginseng species used in many traditional medicine and even in supplements today, let’s quickly explore a few of them.
Know that, these are just a few and you might come across ginseng species especially when you travel in Asian countries. There was a report that an unknown species of ginseng grows in the Philippine island of Palawan.
Korean Red Ginseng
Korean red ginseng has been valued due to its adaptogenic properties and commonly used as both restorative and natural preventative solutions. It is considered as the most suitable type of Ginseng for men and older individuals.
Korean Red Ginseng is believed to have an anti-aging herbal plant used in China for centuries. It helps in balancing the various system levels within the human body such as lower cholesterol level(although new research found that high cholesterol does not pose health risks), helps in balancing the metabolism for better fat burning and for better ideal weight management, boosts energy levels and strengthens the body’s immune system.
Korean White Ginseng
It is mostly used as an aphrodisiac component for a product formulated especially for enhancing male virility due to its adaptogenic and Yang(陽) properties, which is stimulating and arousing metabolic effects for the central nervous system including the head, brain, and blood vessels.
Korean White Ginseng may also beneficial for the following;
- Male Impotency(Erectile Dysfunction)
- Libido or Sex Drive Enhancement
- Reduce Stress and Depression
- Improve Physical and Mental Abilities
- Boost Immune System and Lung Functions
- Protection Against Exposure To Radiation
- Helps In Cocaine Withdrawal
- Helps In Artery Hardening Prevention
- Blood Sugar and Histamine Levels
- Helps Reduce and Prevent Inflammation
- Beneficial for Anemia, Diabetes, Ulcers, Edema, Appetite
(North) American White Ginseng(Panax quinquefolium)
This ginseng species provides a cooling effect on the body. It helps in boosting energy levels and increases physical endurance in which both are essential factors in today’s stressful and fast-paced environment.
A distinct form among the Ginseng species as it contains different active compounds in it. Valued for its potency in vigor restoration, enhance overall health and longevity, promotes both memory health and a healthy appetite.
Siberian Ginseng is popularly used in Russia in aiding the body to adapt to various stressful conditions and to enhance a person’s productivity.
Common health benefits include;
- Boost Energy Levels
- Reduce The Effects of Stress
- Helps with Mental and Body Fatigue
Known Side Effects
Ginseng is among those herbs where lots of research and clinical studies prove its numerous health benefits. Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a perfect and all-in-one solution, and just as with any other alternative and natural remedies, side effects can happen while taking it.
While not many people have experienced taking Ginseng especially through supplementation, it is important to be aware of the possible side effects of it.
Common side effects include;
- Breast Pain
- Increase in Blood Pressure
- Vaginal Bleeding
In addition to the potential side-effects, Ginseng can also result in certain unwanted health results when it is combined with certain substances like caffeine.
Ginseng, when it is consumed along with caffeine(from coffee, tea, chocolate) can lead to excessive irritability and nervousness. So, when you take Ginseng, avoid drinks or foods that contain caffeine, or vice-versa.
Even though Ginseng is a natural herb, which is supposed to be safe, yet it might interact with certain medications that can result in severe health conditions.
Hence, if you’re someone taking any sort of medications especially for heart-related medications, always consult your doctor prior to taking any supplementation that contains Ginseng.
Doing so, you can avoid the possible side effects mentioned. Even other supplements or vitamins should be meticulously investigated prior to taking Ginseng, or products that contain Ginseng.