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Health Benefits of Ginseng

Age related illnesses, fatigue | November 15, 2018 | Author: Naturopath

Brain, age related

Health Benefits of Ginseng

Ginseng is popular worldwide for its immune modulating and energizing properties. In Chinese herbal medicine ginseng is considered the “king of herbs” and is used to treat fatigue, poor cognition, stress, infertility, cancer and poor immunity. Ginseng is described as an “adaptogen,” a substance that can assist an organism in overcoming various types of stress to restore homeostasis. However, you might be surprised to find out that there’s more than one type of ginseng each with their own indications and benefits.

Ginseng species

Ginseng is a slow-growing perennial plant with fleshy roots which belongs to the genus Panax and family Araliaceae. The genus Panax derives its name from the Greek words pan (all) and akos (healing).

Up to thirteen plants belong to the Panax genera, with only five of them used medicinally in traditional medicine. These include:

  • Panax Ginseng 
  • American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
  • Vietnamese Ginseng (Panax vietnamensis)
  • Japanese Ginseng (Panax Japonicus)
  • Pseudoginseng (Panax Notoginseng)

By far American ginseng and Panax Ginseng are the two main ginsengs used around the world. Other well-known varieties such as Siberian Ginseng and Withania are not technically ginseng but are prescribed in similar circumstances.

Processing of ginseng

Ginseng products are classified into three categories - fresh, white, and red ginseng, depending on the processing Almost all supplements are derived from ginseng after 4 to 6 years of cultivation.

Fresh ginseng is defined as less than 4 years old and requires minimal processing.

White ginseng is peeled and dried and is 4-6-years old. 

Red ginseng first steamed and then dried ready for consumption in 6 years’ time.

 

Each type of ginseng can be further processed into different formulations, including powder, extract (tinctured or boiled), juice, tea, capsules, tablets, and more.

What makes ginseng so powerful

Traditionally, the root of ginseng is the only effective part used to treat various conditions, but through more recent research, its other parts including the flowers, leaves and fruits have also been discovered to be effective against:

  • fatigue
  • hyperglycaemia
  • obesity
  • cancer
  • possess anti-oxidant
  • anti-inflammation
  • anti-aging properties.

Researchers have discovered a variety of potent components in all parts of the ginseng plant including ginsenosides and gintonin (the major bioactive metabolites), alkaloids, phenolics, phytosterol, carbohydrates, polypeptides, ginseng oils, amino acids, vitamins, minerals and certain enzymes.

Panax Ginseng

Panax GinsengPanax ginseng is known to be the most stimulating out of all the different varieties of ginseng and is indicated as a tonic for fatigue and debilitating illness. In clinical trials Panax ginseng has proven benefits for:

Alzheimer’s disease—evidence shows that when taken daily for 12 weeks, Panax ginseng can improve mental performance with Alzheimer’s disease.

Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)—Panax ginseng improved lung function and some symptoms in this lung disease.

Mental function—improves abstract thinking, mental arithmetic skills and reaction times in healthy middle-aged people but not in young adults. When combined with ginkgo, Panax ginseng improves memory.

Fertility—improves sexual function in men with erectile function, increases libido in men and women and improves sperm quality.

Immunity—decreases your chance of getting a cold or flu.

American Ginseng

American ginseng, or Panax quinquefolis mostly grows in North America. Traditionally, Native Americans have used American ginseng for its medicinal effects.

According to the Journal Phytotherapy Research, ginsenosides greatly improve verbal and working memory. American ginseng is also linked to enhanced neurocognitive function when it’s consumed regularly. With benefits like these, this American ginseng may be able to prevent mental disease like Alzheimer’s.

American ginseng has a calming effect and is considered less stimulating than Panax ginseng. This herb is also great for relieving stress, upset stomach, colitis, vomiting, and insomnia.

It’s also the best type of ginseng for anti-cancer properties. It works by preventing the DNA from oxidative stress, giving you protection from dangerous free radicals.

A review of several studies concluded that people who take ginseng may have a 16% lower risk of developing cancer.

Do you have high blood pressure? American ginseng can control it by reducing arterial hardness.

This is useful for keeping heart disease at bay, especially if you already have a high risk. The effects are so good that it can even help type 1 and type 2 diabetics.

Siberian ginseng

Although Siberian ginseng isn’t technically a true ginseng, it is still in the same plant family araliaceae. Its main actions are adaptogenic and immununomodulating which means that it supports healthy immunity and assists during times of stress. Siberian ginseng is a gentle, well-tolerated herb which is indicated if there is chronic illness, fatigue and stress.

Withania

Withania is called Indian ginseng because it used in much the same way as Panax ginseng, although it is less stimulating. Withania can assist with anxiety, depression, poor cognition, inflammation and low libido in women. This amazing herb can give our immune system a boost, reduce inflammation, improve male fertility and protect the nervous system. If you feel ‘wired’ from stress but at the same time tired, withania is the most indicated herb.
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Ginseng summarized

Panax ginseng and American ginseng are ‘true ginsengs’ which contain properties that enhance memory and cognition, reduce fatigue and act as an overall tonic.

Siberian ginseng is a distant ginseng cousin which is less stimulating but contains similar properties.

Withania is in no way related to ginseng but has very similar actions that benefit our mood, energy levels, levels of inflammation and wellbeing.

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References

Braun L, Cohen M. (2010) Herbs and natural supplements: An evidence-based guide vol. 2. Churchill Livingstone, Australia

Yang Y, et al. Ginseng: An Nonnegligible Natural Remedy for Healthy Aging. Aging Dis. 2017 Dec 1;8(6):708-720

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/29344412

Shergis JL, et al. Panax ginseng in randomised controlled trials: a systematic review. Phytother Res. 2013 Jul;27(7):949-65

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22969004

Sen S, et al. North American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) prevents hyperglycemia and associated pancreatic abnormalities in diabetes. J Med Food. 2013 Jul;16(7):587-92

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23875898

Bleakney TL. Deconstructing an adaptogen: Eleutherococcus senticosus. Holist Nurs Pract. 2008 Jul-Aug;22(4):220-4

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18607235

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