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Panax quinquefolius, T. ginseng
Other names: Five-fingers, Red berry, American Ginseng, Chinese Ginseng, Korean Ginseng, Oriental Ginseng
The word ginseng is said to mean ‘the wonder of the world.’
Ginseng is the root of two different herbs from opposite sides of the world, American ginseng (P. quinquefolius) and Asian ginseng (P. ginseng). American ginseng is wild-harvested and grown in eastern North America. Asian ginseng, which includes both Korean and Chinese ginseng, is cultivated in China, Korea, and Japan.
Panax, the generic name, is derived from the Greek Panakos (a panacea), in reference to the miraculous virtue ascribed to it by the Chinese, who consider it a sovereign remedy in almost all diseases.
The roots are called, by the natives of China, Jin-chen, meaning ‘like a man,’ in reference to their resemblance to the human form. The American Indian name for the plant, garantoquen, has the same meaning.
According to a Harvard University botanist, the earliest mention of ginseng is in the 2,000-year-old herbal of Shen Nong:
“It is used for repairing the five viscera, quieting the spirit, curbing the emotion, stopping agitation, removing noxious influence, brightening the eyes, enlightening the mind and increasing wisdom. Continuous use leads one to longevity with light weight. Ginseng use has changed little in 2,000 years.”
Ginseng as an Herb for Medicinal Uses
The medicinal part of ginseng is the dried root. Ginseng is the most respected tonic herb in the world.
In China, both varieties are used particularly for dyspepsia, vomiting and nervous disorders. A decoction of 1/2 ounce of the root, boiled in tea or soup and taken every morning, is commonly held a remedy for consumption and other diseases.
In the last thirty years, Asian ginseng (but not American ginseng) has been extensively studied for medicinal purposes. Recent studies have focused on antiviral and metabolic effects, antioxidant activity, and effects on nervous and reproductive systems.
Ginseng has a long-term anti-stress effect and improves physical and mental performance, memory, and reaction time. It enhances mood, relieves hangover symptoms and improves alcohol clearance. Ginseng improves short-term stamina, blood circulation to the heart, and balances cholesterol and blood sugar.
Ginseng can even lessen the symptoms of menopause, including vaginal atrophy. Oriental (Panax ginseng) and American (Panax quinquefolius) are almost identical species that happen to grow on different continents and are therapeutically equivalent. Eleuthro (Eleutherococcus senticosus), commonly know as Siberian ginseng, is not really a ginseng and has a long-term stimulant effect.
Mild American Ginseng helps to reduce the heat of the respiratory and digestive systems, whereas the stronger Asian ginseng is a heat raising tonic for the blood and circulatory systems.
In Germany, Asian ginseng products may be labeled as tonics to treat fatigue, reduced work capacity, lack of concentration, and convalescence. Ginseng also plays a role in diminishing depression symptoms by helping balance mood-regulating chemicals (serotonin and dopamine) in the brain.
Asian ginseng is available as whole root, powder, and in various forms including “white” and “red” ginseng. White ginseng is simply the dried root; translucent, rust-colored red panax ginseng is made by steaming the roots for three hours, then drying them; it is considered stronger than white ginseng.
Ginseng is the only herb currently known to stimulate testosterone production.
Culinary Uses of Ginseng
Due to the herb’s medicinal attributes, exotic recipes that have either incorporated the herb with original ingredients, or introduced the herb into the recipe, ginseng has gained popularity in the culinary arena.
Beyond ginseng tea, panax now adds flavor to chewing gum, chicken soup, porridge, seven-up and sprite, jelly, honey and even wine.
Use at normal dosage levels is generally not associated with side effects; however, some persons have experienced overstimulation or gastrointestinal upset and some women have reported breast tenderness or menstrual problems with long-term use. If you have high blood pressure, use ginseng with caution. Avoid ginseng during pregnancy.
Avoid if asthma, emphysema, inflammation, infection, colds, flu, or any acute disease is present.
Overuse or inappropriate use can lead to headache, insomnia, heart palpitations, rise in blood pressure.
Do not take with stimulants like coffee.
Avoid if on insulin or heart medications.
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