Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng)


Asian Ginseng

Asian ginseng is a very useful herb. It acts as a regulator for the endocrine system, offering long-term secondary benefits on the cardiovascular and neurological systems.

It's considered a Qi tonic in traditional Chinese medicine, withing which ginseng has had a long history of use.

Ginseng works from the top down as an adaptogen. It primarily supports the metabolic, reproductive, neurological, and cardiovascular systems.

The main problem with ginseng is its high price.

Ginseng root takes a long time to grow and was nearly eliminated from its natural environment by wildcrafters looking to harvest and sell the expensive root. This means that the bulk of ginseng root available has been farmed, which is in itself a lengthy and costly process.

The roots must reach an age of at least four years before they can be sold, and requires very labor intensive farming practices to shade and harvest the crop.

This has kept the price of ginseng root high for the past quarter century.


+ Indications

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Dementia
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Generalised Anxiety Disorder GAS
  • HIV
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hypertension
  • Menopause
  • Metabolic Syndrome
  • Poor cognitive function
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis

+ Contraindications

  • Hypoglycemia
  • Hypertension
  • Pregnancy

Herbal Actions:

  • Adaptogen
  • Immunomodulator
  • Cardiotonic
  • CNS Stimulant (Mild)
  • Hypoglycemic
  • Nootropic
  • Male tonic

What Is Asian Ginseng Used For?

Ginseng is mainly used as an adaptogen to increase energy, regulate blood glucose levels, and improve the ability to respond to and resist stress. It's a popular adjunctive therapy with cancer therapies to increase energy, and alongside metabolic syndrome or diabetes to help with glucose regulation in both type I and type II diabetics.

Ginseng is and always has been a popular herb for male-specific problems, especially those associated with age. Erectile dysfunction, cognitive decline, low libido, male infertility, and cardiovascular disease are all common uses for ginseng, especially in Asia where the plant originates.

Some of the more modern uses of ginseng revolve around its use as a cognitive performance enhancer. The ginsenosides prevalent in the plant have been well studied for use in nootropic formulas. As a result, we are beginning to see an increase in the use of ginseng for this application.


Traditional Uses

+ Western Herbal Medicine

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

The British herbal pharmacopeia lists ginseng as a thymoleptic, sedative, demulcent, stomachic, an aphrodisiac. It's 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].

+ Traditional Chinese Medicine

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

Pin Yin:

Ren Shen


Sweet, bitter [3]


Warm [3]


Spleen. lung, heart [3]


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


Collapsed Qi,


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


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


Weekly Dose

Part Used


Family Name



Asian ginseng originates from the mountainous regions of eastern Asia, including China, Korea, Russia, and Japan.

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Constituents of Interest

  • Ginsenosides (RG1 and RG2)

Common Names

  • Ginseng
  • Korean Red Ginseng
  • Man Root
  • Ren Shen (China)
  • Ninjin (Japan)
  • Insam (Korea)
  • Shinsnet
  • Jen Shen (China)




Warm, Sweet, Bitter


Not recommended with pregnancy.

Duration of Use

  • Long term us is acceptable.

Botanical Information

Ginseng is a member of the Araliaceae family of plants, otherwise known as the ivy family. This family comprises some 254 species (some report as much as 700 species), including several well-known medicinal species. Some of the most notable species include:


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 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 labor, and the roots must be at least four years old before any profit can be made.

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


Pharmacology & Medical Research

+ Adaptogenic

Asian ginseng, as well as American ginseng (but less so), increases the body's 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 [12].

+ Hypertension

P. ginseng extract was demonstrated in a clinical trial to significantly reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure over a three month period [13].



Asian Ginsengs main components are triterpene glycosides (dammarane saponins), including the infamous 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 activated by 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 esterified with 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 volatile oil [2], 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).


Clinical Applications Of Asian Ginseng:

The adaptogenic qualities of ginseng are useful for states of convalescence, and chronic fatigue, but should not be used with those who are already overstimulated, or are in the first or second stages of GAS.

The glucose regulating activities of ginseng make is useful for conditions like metabolic syndrome, and both type I and type II diabetes.



Avoid ginseng with conditions that are already SNS dominant as ginseng is failry stimulating as far as adaptogens go.

Ginseng has been reported safe during pregnancy and breastfeeding and in fact is suggested as a tonic for nursing mothers [1].

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].



Combines well with gingko for memory.


Justin Cooke, BHSc

The Sunlight Experiment

(Updated November 2018)


Recent Blog Posts:


  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.

  10. 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.

  11. Scaglione, F., Ferrara, F., Dugnani, S., Falchi, M., Santoro, G., & Fraschini, F. (1990). Immunomodulatory effects of two extracts of Panax ginseng CA Meyer. Drugs under experimental and clinical research, 16(10), 537-542.

  12. 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].

  13. 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].