Asian Ginseng Summary:

Asian ginseng is one of the most valuable and commonly used medicinal plants in the world. Its use originated from, and is well described in the traditional Chinese medical system. From here it has spread the world over and is now commonly used in both the Eastern and Western hemispheres of the world for mostly the same uses. 

Its botanical name, Panax, likely stemmed from the greek word Panaceae which means "cures all". This is a good indication for its view in traditional medical systems including Western herbal medicine. Ginseng was used for a huge range of conditions, and was suggested to be able to cure any disease. In Chinese medicine, ginseng is said to replenish the bodies vital energy and promote longevity. There has been a substantial amount of scientific research on this herb since the 1960s, and a lot of ginsengs traditional uses have been explained and backed up by modern scientific research. 

Ginseng is classified as an adaptogen. Its uses are broad and non specific, and seem to work through multiple body systems to promote the health of the body overall. It's been shown to enhance cell metabolism, which may explain much of its traditional uses of increasing the bodies vitality. 

Although much of ginsengs actions have been exaggerated over the years, it's still an incredibly useful tonic herb. Perhaps the best use of this plant is for the elderly to improve energy levels, and promote longevity.

Those with a "hot" constitution would benefit more from American ginseng as it's less stimulating and has a much more "yin" action in terms of Chinese medicine. 


Botanical Name

Panax ginseng

Family

Araliaceae

Part Used

Roots

Herbal Actions:

  • Adaptogen
  • Tonic
  • Immunomodulator
  • Cardiotonic
  • Anticancer
  • Anti Diabetic
  • Mild stimulant
  • Hypoglycemic
  • Nootropic
  • Male tonic

Dosage

Decoction

1-10 g/day dried root equivalent

Liquid Extract (1:2)

1-6 mL/day

Tablets (5:1)

200 mcg/day

A note on long term dosing

Long term usage is acceptable, preferably at lower doses (less than 2 mL/day). [1, 5].

Recommended Source

Indications:

[1, 2, 4, 5, 6]

  • Fatigue
    • Cancer related
    • Stress related
    • ICF
    • Age related
  • Low libido
  • As a longevity tonic
  • Improve focus and concentration
  • Congestive heart failure
  • High cholesterol
  • Cancer
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Male infertility
  • Diabetes (type 2)
  • Menopause (psychological symptoms)
  • As an antioxidant

Common Names:

  • Ginseng
  • Asian ginseng
  • Panax ginseng
  • Korean ginseng
  • Man root
  • Ren Shen (China)
  • Ninjin (Japan)
  • Insam (Korea)
  • Schinsent
  • Ninjin
  • Jintsam
  • Jen shen (China)

Traditional Uses:

Asian ginseng has a wide history of use in the traditional Chinese medical system where its main use was to tonify Qi, promote longevity, and generate fluid. (see below for more). [1]. 

In western herbal medicine, it was used as a mild stomachic, tonic, and stimulant for anorexia and digestive complaints. It was also useful for mental exhaustion [1]. 

The British herbal pharmacopoeia lists ginseng as a thymoleptic, sedative, demulcent, stomachic, and aphrodisiac. It is indicated for neurasthenia, neuralgia, insomnia, and hypotonia. [3]. 

The eclectics used ginseng for cerebral anemia, asthma, convulsions, paralysis, and urinary gravel. [1]. 

The traditional uses included: 

Prostration, heart conditions, asthma, cold limbs, poor circulation, digestive complaints, anxiety, neuralgia, low libido, fatigue, liver disease, infertility. [1, 4, 7]. 


    Botanical Description:

    Asian ginseng is a perennial, long lived, slow growing herb with 4-5 leaflets and red berries. [1]. 


    Habitat Ecology, and Distribution:

    Asian ginseng originated from the mountainous regions of China, Japan, Korea, and the Soviet Union [1, 7]. 


    Harvesting Collection, and Preparation:

    Due to some serious over harvesting of ginseng from the wild, the majority of ginseng root on the market is farmed ginseng. Although generally regarded as weaker than wildcrafted ginseng, the chemical makeup is extremely similar and is an acceptable substitute. Farming ginseng is no easy venture, and thus the cost of the root is still quite expensive despite large scale farms. Cultivation requires a substantial amount of labour, and roots must be at least 4 years old before any sort of profit can be made. 

    There are a lot of stories around ginseng wildcrafters from the past. Many of which described the amazing ability for ginseng to hide from foragers. It is an extremely modest plant, with even the oldest herbs only growing 4 leaflets. They seemed to blend right in to the surrounding foliage, and often times a forager could be standing in an entire plot of ginseng and not even notice.


    Constituents:

    Asian Ginsengs main components are triterpene glycosides, including the famous ginsenosides or panaxosides [2]. There are reportedly over 200 ginsenosides and non saponin constituents contained within Panax ginseng [1]. The main ginsenodsiedes of Panax ginseng includes Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Rd, Re, Rf, Rg1, Rg2. As ginseng ages, the level of ginsenosiedes increase significantly, which explains why natural harvested roots are generally preferred as they are generally much older. [1]. 

    The ginsenosides are suggested to become activatedby intestinal bacteria through deglycosylation and esterification [8]. 

    Protopanaxadiol (Rb1, Rb2, Rc, and Rd) and protopanaxatriol glycosides (Re, Rf, Rg1, and Rg2) are absorbed into blood or lymph and transported to target tissues to become esterifiedwith stearic, oleic, or palmitic fatty acids [8].  

    The ginsenoside content difference between American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) and Asian ginseng (panax ginseng) can be seen through a difference in the ginsenoside ratios of Rg1 and Rg2.

    Asian ginseng also contains glycans, and a volotile oil [2], as well as saponins, polysaccharides, amino acids, glutamine, argentine, and sesquiterpenes. 


    Pharmacology and Medical Research:

     

    Adaptogenic

    Asian ginseng, as well as American ginseng (but less so), is able to increase the bodies ability to resist and withstand stress, by acting through the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HP-Axis). [1, 9]. 

     

    Toxicity

    • Ginseng has a very low toxicity. [1]. 
    • Ginseng has been reported safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding and in fact is suggested as a tonic for nursing mothers [1]. 
    • Contraindicated during acute asthma, signs of heat, excessive menstruation, nose bleeds, hypertension, and acute infection. 

     

    Cautions:

    • Avoid simoultaneous use with stimulants such as amphetamines or caffeine to avoid overstimulation [5]. 
    • Panax ginseng may interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) such as phenelzine as well as warfarin. Use caution if using these medications [5]. 
    • Excessive ginseng intake may result in overstimulation and ginseng abuse syndrome (GAS). 
      • GAS is defined as hypertension alongside nervousness, euphoria, insomnia, skin eruptions, and morning diarrhea [5]. 

    Traditional Chinese Medicine:

    (Ren Shen)

    Taste: Sweet, bitter [3]

    Energy: Warm [3]

    Channels: Spleen. lung, heart [3]

    Actions: Tonifies Qi, generates fluids, tonifies the lungs and stomach, strengthens the spleen, calms the spirit (shen) [1, 3]. 

    Indications: Collapsed Qi, 

    Dose: 1-10g decocted for 3 hours or more [3].

    Contraindications: Hot conditions (use American ginseng instead), acute inflammatory conditions [2], yin deficiency with heat or fire, damp-heat, ascendant liver yang with hypertension [3]. 


    Synergy:

    Combines well with gingko for memory. 


    Author:

    Justin Cooke

    The Sunlight Experiment

    Updated: June 2017


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    References:

    1. Bone K, Mills S. (2013). Principles and Practice of Phytotherapy. Elsevier health. China. (Pg. 628-648).
    2. Hoffmann, D. (2003). Medical herbalism: The science and practice of herbal medicine. Rochester, VT: Healing Arts Press. (Pg. 570).
    3. Hempen, C. H., & Fischer, T. (2009). A Materia Medica for Chinese Medicine: Plants, Minerals, and Animal Products. (Pg. 723-724). 
    4. British Herbal Medicine Association. (1983). British Herbal Pharmacopoeia. Bournemouth, UK: Author.
    5. Bone, K. (2003). A clinical guide to blending liquid herbs: Herbal formulations for the individual patient. Edinburgh [u.a., MO: Churchill Livingstone.
    6. Blumenthal, M., Brinckmann, J., & Wollschlaeger, B. (2003). The ABC clinical guide to herbs. Austin, TX: American Botanical Council.
    7. Panax ginseng. Monograph. (2009). Alternative Medicine Review : A Journal Of Clinical Therapeutic, 14(2), 172-6.
    8. Hasegawa H. Proof of the mysterious efficacy of ginseng: basic and clinical trials: metabolic activation of ginsenoside: deglycosylation by intestinal bacteria and esterification with fatty acid.J Pharmacol Sei 2004;95:153-157.
    9. Kiefer D, Pantuso T. Panax ginseng. Am Fam Physician 2003:68:1539-1542.

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