Ginseng, also known as Man's Health, Five Fingers and Tartar Root, is a creeping perennial plant that enjoys the cooler climates of the northern hemisphere. Chinese ginseng, also referred to as Asian ginseng, is native to eastern Asia. American ginseng, as the same suggests, is exclusive to northeastern North America. Both species are harvested for their roots, which are slowly dried and sometimes powdered. In addition to taking either in capsule form, ginseng root is used to make teas and liquid extracts, or is added directly to foods.
American ginseng is a member of the Araliaceae family and is an erect, perennial, forest herb with a single stem 20-61 cm (8-24 in.) tall. At the top of the stem is a whorl of 1-4 leaves; each leaf is palmately divided into 3-5 stalked leaflets. Each leaflet is obovate in shape, has a toothed margin, and a narrowly pointed tip. The small, greenish flowers are arranged in a solitary stalked umbel that rises above the leaves. In late summer, the umbel produces a cluster of red, berrylike fruits.
Chinese red ginseng refers to the unpeeled root of Panax ginseng, also known as Asian or Korean ginseng. The roots and thin offshoots of the plant are left intact but are steamed before drying.
The powdered root is usually taken in capsules or used to produce liquid extracts and tinctures.In China, ginseng has been a vital herb for over 7 millenia. Wars have been won and lost in order to have control over the production of this beneficial plant. It's been
used in Europe since the 800s. It became popular in the Western
Hemisphere in the 1700s. Common names & nomenclature The English
word ginseng derives from the Chinese term rénshēn. Rénmeans "man" and
shēn means "plant root"; this refers to the root's characteristic forked shape,
which resembles the legs of a man.Safety: Do not take more than the
recommended dose of Ginseng. Don't take for more than six weeks to
avoid becoming dependent on ginseng. Do not take if pregnant. Don't use
caffeine when using ginseng. Consult your health care provider before beginning use of any herb.
The root is most often available in dried form, either whole or sliced. Ginseng leaf, although not as highly prized, is sometimes
also used; as with the root, it is most often available in dried form.
Folk medicine attributes various benefits to oral use of American ginseng and Asian ginseng (P. ginseng) roots, including roles as an aphrodisiac, stimulant, type II diabetes treatment, or cure forsexual dysfunction in men. Ginseng may be included in small doses in energy drinks or herbal teas, such as ginseng coffee. It may be found in hair tonics and cosmetic preparations, as well, but those uses have not been shown to be clinically effective.
Ginsenosides, unique compounds of the Panax species, are under basic and clinical research to investigate their potential for use in medicine. Much research has been done on Ginseng with varying results. A study showed taking Siberian Ginseng daily can increase the number of white blood cells including activity of the T cells as well as the cytotoxic T cells and natural killer cells that eliminate invading cells and those that have been virally infected. A double blind-study with 93 volunteers with herpes simplex virus 2 (which can lead to genital herpes) found that there was a reduction (of 50%) in the number of outbreaks. Those that did occur were less severe and did not last as long. Ginseng is known to contain phytoestrogens.
A common side effect of P. ginseng may be insomnia, but this effect is disputed. Other side effects can include nausea, diarrhea,headaches, nose bleeds, high blood pressure, low blood pressure, and breast pains. Ginseng may also lead to induction of mania in depressed patients who mix it with antidepressants. Ginseng has been shown to have adverse drug reactions with phenelzine and warfarin; it has been shown to decrease blood alcohol levels.