Asian Ginseng Summary:
Asian ginseng is one of the most 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 wide 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, with effects ranging from glucose regulation, to HPA axis modulation.
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 increase energy and promote longevity.
- Anti Diabetic
- CNS Stimulant (Mild)
- Male tonic
1-10 g/day dried root equivalent
Liquid Extract (1:2)
A note on long term dosing
Long term usage is acceptable, preferably at lower doses (less than 2 mL/day). [1, 5].
- Congestive heart failure
- High cholesterol
- Chronic heart failure
- Metabolic syndrome
- Age related cognitive decline
- Low libido
- Poor focus & concentration
- Erectile dysfunction
- Male infertility
- Diabetes (type 2)
- Menopause (psychological symptoms)
Korean Red Ginseng
Ren Shen (China)
Jen Shen (China)
+ Western Herbal Medicine
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 .
The British herbal pharmacopoeia lists ginseng as a thymoleptic, sedative, demulcent, stomachic, and aphrodisiac. It is indicated for neurasthenia, neuralgia, insomnia, and hypotonia. .
The eclectics used ginseng for cerebral anemia, asthma, convulsions, paralysis, and urinary gravel. .
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].
+ Traditional Chinese Medicine
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). .
Pin Yin: (Ren Shen)
Taste: Sweet, bitter 
Energy: Warm 
Channels: Spleen. lung, heart 
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 .
Contraindications: Hot conditions (use American ginseng instead), acute inflammatory conditions , yin deficiency with heat or fire, damp-heat, ascendant liver yang with hypertension .
Asian ginseng is a perennial, long lived, slow growing herb with 4-5 leaflets and red berries. .
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.
Asian Ginsengs main components are triterpene glycosides (dammarane saponins), including the infamous ginsenosides or panaxosides . There are reportedly over 200 ginsenosides and non saponin constituents contained within Panax ginseng . 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. .
The ginsenosides are suggested to become activatedby intestinal bacteria through deglycosylation and esterification .
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 .
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 , as well as saponins, polysaccharides, amino acids, glutamine, argentine, and sesquiterpenes.
Panax ginseng is an inhibitor of CYP1A2, CYP2A6, CYP2C9, CYP2D6, CYP3A4, UGT2B15 (Anderson et al., 2003).
Pharmacology and Medical Research:
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, 10].
+ Blood Glucose Regulation
P. ginseng demonstrated hypoglycemic effects after just a single dose of 200mg and 400mg ginseng extract .
P. ginseng extract was demonstrated in a clinical trial to significantly reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure over a 3 month period .
- Ginseng has a very low toxicity. .
- Ginseng has been reported safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding and in fact is suggested as a tonic for nursing mothers .
- Contraindicated during acute asthma, signs of heat, excessive menstruation, nose bleeds, hypertension, and acute infection.
- Avoid simoultaneous use with stimulants such as amphetamines or caffeine to avoid overstimulation .
- Panax ginseng may interact with monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAO inhibitors) such as phenelzine as well as warfarin. Use caution if using these medications .
- 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 .
Combines well with gingko for memory.
The Sunlight Experiment
Updated: June 2017
Recent Blog Posts:
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- Rai, D., Bhatia, G., Sen, T., & Palit, G. (2003). Anti-stress effects of Ginkgo biloba and Panax ginseng: a comparative study. Journal of pharmacological sciences, 93(4), 458-464.
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- Reay, J. L., Kennedy, D. O., & Scholey, A. B. (2005). Single doses of Panax ginseng (G115) reduce blood glucose levels and improve cognitive performance during sustained mental activity. Journal of Psychopharmacology, 19(4), 357-365. [RCT].
- Rhee, M., Kim, Y., Bae, J., Nah, D., Kim, Y., Lee, M., & Kim, H. (2011). Effect of Korean red ginseng on arterial stiffness in subjects with hypertension. Journal Of Alternative And Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.), 17(1), 45-49. doi:10.1089/acm.2010.0065 [RCT].