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Ginseng

Botanical name(s):

Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolius (American ginseng, an endangered species), Panax repens. Family: Araliaceae

Other name(s):

American ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, man-root, Schinsent

General description

Ginseng is a very popular herb. A common name for ginseng, "man-root," because of its humanoid appearance, implies that it has benefits for the whole body. The medicinal part consists of the dried main and lateral root and root hairs.

Ginseng commonly refers to Panax quinquefolius L. (American ginseng) or Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer (Korean ginseng). Siberian Ginseng is derived from a slightly different family than Panax and is referred to as Eleutherocossus Senticosus Maxim. Both families of ginseng share similar chemical constituents. Panax ginseng contains saponin glycosides that are also known as ginsenosides, whereas Siberian ginseng does not contain ginsenosides but another class of compounds called eleutherosides. In all cases, they are referred to as adaptogens.

Medically valid uses

Animal studies have demonstrated that ginseng improves stamina and possibly increases the activity of the immune system. There are no clearly established uses for ginseng in humans. Ginseng has also been shown to decrease fasting blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes, when taken two hours before a meal.

Unsubstantiated claims

Please note that this section reports on claims that have NOT yet been substantiated through scientific studies.

Ginseng has been claimed to possibly improve immune function, improve physical and mental performance, strengthen the adrenal and reproductive glands, and speed convalescence. Ginseng possibly acts as an adaptogen (improves the body's ability to adapt to stressful situations), anti-depressant, and vasodilator (widens blood vessels, which lowers blood pressure). Ginseng may help ease withdrawal from cocaine, protect against the effects of radiation exposure, prevent upper respiratory infections, and inhibit blood coagulation.

Dosing format

Unless otherwise directed on the label, ginseng may be taken in doses of 1 to 2 grams of root or equivalent preparations three to four times a day, over three to four weeks.

Ginseng can be found in the form of tea, dried herbs, powder, or capsules.

Side effects, toxicity, and interactions

Occasionally, the use of ginseng causes headaches and sleep problems.

Women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should consult a physician before taking any herbal medicines. Children also should use ginseng only with a physician's recommendation.

Do not use ginseng if you suffer from hypoglycemia, high blood pressure, or heart disorders.

Use ginseng cautiously if you are taking medications to lower your blood sugar, as it may cause further decreases and lead to hypoglycemia.

There are no other known significant food or drug interactions.

Additional information

Click here for a list of reputable websites with general information on nutrition.

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