The Healing Power Of Ginseng
4th March, 2020
What is Gingseng?
Ginseng refers to various herbal plants belonging to the Panax genera, from the Araliaceae family. The Araliaceae family comprises around 700 plant species which are native to Southeast Asia and tropical America. Within the Panax genera there are 221 plants which have been identified and scientifically named, although approximately only 11-13 of these Panax species have been approved.
To keep things simple, ginseng is a root herb which has been traditionally sourced from Panax ginseng, the ‘original’ type which is also known as ‘Korean ginseng’ and originates throughout Asia. An immediate relative which is also widely recognised today is Panax quinquefolius, also known as ‘American ginseng’ and is native to North America. These 2 species are the main forms of ginseng root which are readily available today and have been used in traditional medicine systems for years. Panax ginseng is the prototype root which accounts for the many variants that are clustered under ‘Asian ginsengs’. Some examples from the Asian variety of ginsengs may include: Panax japonicas, Panax notoginseng, Panax vietnamensis, Panax zingiberensis and also Panax pseudoginseng.
There have been numerous herbs identified as a form of ginseng, although they have been falsely named as they do not belong to the appropriate kingdom order, falling under the Panax genera as required. These herbs have become popularised commercially due to the similarity in herbal properties, although are not true ginsengs in nature. Examples include: Eleutherococcus senticoccus (Siberian ginseng) used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Withania somnifera, (Ashwanghanda) used in Ayruvedic medicine and Lepidium meyenii (Maca) used throughout Peruvian medicine.
Historical Use of Gingseng
In TCM, Gingseng is referred to ‘jen sheng’ or ‘ren sheng’, which translates to the “root of heaven”. The word Panax is derived from the Greek word ‘panakeia’, meaning “all healing” and the TCM understanding is that ginseng can nourish all systems and tonify the vital 5 organs (5 viscera) of the body. The traditional Chinese herbology textbook ‘Bencao Gangmu’ (1596) illustrated ginseng and found that it resembled the human body, finding another fitting description and later being referred to as the ‘man root’. Throughout TCM P. ginseng is known as “the ultimate elixir of life, a symbol of strength and long life, the source of happiness, a tonic and an aphrodisiac”.
The Shennong Bencao Jing written during ~100 C.E. contains the first known record of ginseng as a medicinal plant. It was described to have sweet and cold properties, which when combined have an effect that calms nervous agitation. Actions included supplementing the 5 viscera, eliminating evil qi and also to “brighten the eyes, open the heart and sharpen the wit” which expresses an interesting perspective; the eyes are the windows, heart is the residence and wits are the expression – of the mind. In this manner, ginseng is taken to prevent from the nature of an unbalanced state of mind. Ginseng has also been used as a culinary ingredient, identified in 42 recipes during the Ming dynasty.
Publications dating back to the Song Dynasty during 1110 C.E. contained imperial herbal formulas. Ginseng was listed as a primary ingredient in the famously known ‘Si Junzi Tang’ or in western terms, the ‘Four Gentlemen Decoction’ formula alongside the later developed and also widely recognised formulas ‘Buzhong Yiqi Tang’ and ‘Guipi Tang’ which are decoctions used for tonifying and restoring. These traditional Chinese herbal formulas were commonly prescribed to aid with digestive functions and were primarily fitted to a person who is debilitated by prolonged illness, particularly those that have risen from poor habits such as: overwork without adequate rest, irregular eating and anxiously worrying without the productive completion of tasks, resulting in mental agitation and insomnia. During the Han Dynasty ~1644 C.E., precisely trained ginseng hunters searched the forests of North-Eastern China for Wild ginseng to use in these formulas and throughout medicine for centuries after.
Although wild ginseng can still rarely be sourced, the majority of ginseng produced today is cultivated. In-fact some countries such as Russia or China consider ginseng as a protected plant and wild harvesting is prohibited. Ginseng is a perennial shrub growing 50-80cm, bearing inconspicuous flowers that later mature into berries. The plant begins flowering at ~4 years and may require ~7 years to mature for harvesting. The turnip-shaped taproot is prized medicinally as it contains the therapeutic active constitutes. Ginseng root variations include: white (unprocessed, naturally sun-dried) and red (processed, steam-heated). The root can be prepared for consumption, with popular options including: herbal tea, freshly grated, soups, stir-fry, infusions or powdered. To achieve therapeutic doses and attain the medicinal benefits, standardisation of the root is the customary.
Benefits of Gingseng
The active constituents which provides majority of the health benefits are the ‘Ginsenosides’. The actions provided by Ginsenosides such as its adaptogenic, aphrodisiac and antioxidant properties support areas such as the immune system, the brain and nervous system and the reproductive system. The health benefits of ginseng for modern-day usage may include:
- Support physical stamina, maintaining energy levels and supporting vitality
- Supports the nervous by improving resistance to non-specific stressors, maintaining a healthy stress response and promoting body adaptation to stress
- Support mental performance and maintaining cognitive functions or learning abilities such as concentration and memory, while also supporting a healthy mood and emotional balance
- Support the health and function of the immune system
- Support both female and male reproductive health, such as sexual functions and libido
- Helps to support general health and wellbeing while improving quality of life
Caruso’s Ginseng 5500 for energy contains a combination of Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng), Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng) and Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng). These herbs are also standardised to their active constituents (Ginsenosides and Syringaresinol diglucosides).
For more information, please contact one of our friendly naturopaths from Carusos on 1300304480. Always read the label and follow directions for use. If symptoms persist, worsen or change unexpectedly, talk to your health professional. This medicine may not be right for you. Read the warnings before purchase.