Panax ginseng (Asian)
Other Common Names
True Ginseng, Five Fingers, Tartar Root, Red Berry, Man’s Health, Ren Shen, Man Root, Finger Root
Ginseng is taken to improve stamina and concentration, for debility, ageing, sexual inadequacy, diabetes, insomnia, stress and many other real or imaginary ailments. Extensive research is being carried out into the pharmacological effects of ginseng. From old texts in history: The prepared root was chewed by the sick to recover health, and by the healthy to increase their vitality; it is said to remove both mental and bodily fatigue, to cure pulmonary complaints, dissolves tumors and prolongs life to a ripe old age. From more recent findings: Used for dyspepsia, vomiting, and nervous disorders. A decoction of ˝ oz root, boiled in tea or soup and taken every morning, is commonly held a remedy for consumption and other diseases. In Western medicine, it is considered a mild stomachic tonic and stimulant, useful in loss of appetite and in digestive affections that arise from mental and nervous exhaustion.
Although ginseng is taken so widely, fatalities are unknown. However despite it being so safe, side effects are well documented and include estrogenic (having an action similar to that of an estrogen) effects, hypertension, irritability and related symptoms.
History and Folklore
Biblical references: Ezekiel 27:17 25-130 Panax is derived from the Greek Panakos (a panacea), in reference to the miraculous virtue ascribed to it by the Chinese Tartary, but now is known to be also a native of North America, from whence Sarrasin transmitted specimens to Paris in 1704. The word Ginseng is said to mean “the wonder of the world”. The name of this herb by native Chinese and Native Americans meant “like a man” referring to the root’s resemblance to the human form.
Panax Ginseng, from Asia, could be one of the
most significant restorative tonics ever known partly because of its remarkable
effect on the body as well as Ginseng’s legendary reputation. Its reputation
prompted a wealth of scientific study that launched its current popular use in
the western hemisphere. In China it was known as “man root” because when the
plant is harvested the root usually has two long parts that look like legs with
smaller roots appearing above like arms with even smaller rootlets as fingers.
Ginseng native to North America is highly regarded by Asians and Westerners
alike. The Cherokee Indians also called Ginseng “little men”.
Traditional Chinese Medicine described
Ginseng as tonifying to the spleen,
calming irritation and nourishing for the body. It was actually thought
to benefit all the vital organs but more specifically Ginseng greatly improved
the function of the spleen to draw nutrients out of food and distribute them to
other organs. It is interesting to note that Chinese medical views regarding the
internal organs were based on theories of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements.
The organs did not always correspond exactly to Western anatomical science.
essence spirit and settling the ethereal and corporeal soul
was also attributed to this amazing root. The essence spirit refers to
the mind and Ginseng’s ability to quiet excessive mental chatter. Ethereal and
corporeal souls, fundamental forces in the body, were thought to reside within
the liver and lungs. Ethereal soul in
the liver was thought to influence or control dreams and corporeal
soul in the lungs was believed to maintain the health of the physical
body. Chronic degenerative diseases developed from what was called
“scattering” which often resulted from being frightened of the corporeal
soul. So the belief was that ginseng
soothed the anxious mind and strengthened the body.
According to ancient medical texts, Ginseng eliminated evil qi. Evil energy or qi referred to forces in
the environment that cause disease. Ginseng protected the body by making it
strong enough to prevent disease and helped the body recover if already overcome
Ginseng calmed the
which was thought to be the resting place of the spirit. Balance could be
restored with Ginseng which was especially helpful during times when fright,
worry and anxiety caused heart palpitations. Included also in Chinese medicine
concepts were the eyes as windows to the mind, the mind lives in the heart and wits were the
expression of the mind. In this case it meant by taking Ginseng the mind
would not become dull for when the heart is open and the mind calm, a person can
feel his true purpose, will and courage to then achieve great things.
The popular publications today offer uses of
Ginseng sometimes quite different than the original Chinese medical concepts for
this herb. In recent years this herb has enjoyed a wealth of scientific study
which has documented its benefits for the immune system, high blood pressure,
normalizing high and low blood sugar, normalizing red and white blood cell
count, managing pain, fevers & inflammation. Ginseng has this unique ability
to either thin blood or increase its clotting ability depending on the need.
From around the world studies have shown Ginseng to strengthen the heart, aid
recovery from surgery and serious infectious disease. One of the most useful
aspects for most of us with busy schedules is Ginseng’s help in overcoming the
effects of stress. The list of benefits attributed to this historical root goes
on and on.
Generally considered a safe herb
but unfortunately in the past has suffered from poorly conducted medical
research. Uses of standardized products were more likely to cause hypertension
imbalance and undesirable effects in extremely stressed out people. Use of whole
root products is thought to be safer.
From 3 weeks to 3 months is the
generally suggested length of time to take Ginseng. From the following whole
root preparations that are not standardized, one could take for example 3
capsules twice a day or drink 1 to 3 cups of tea made from powdered root in a
day or take the liquid extract 1 to 3 times a day. Keep in mind that strength of
liquid extracts vary but for example the dose could be from 15 drops to as much
as a dropperful or two, 1 to 3 times a day. Your body size and sensitivity to
things in general should factor into a proper dose for you. Everybody is
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Grieve, Mrs. M. A Modern Herbal, Vol. 1, Vol. 2. New York: Dover Publications, Inc. 1971.
Dharmananda, Subhuti. The
Nature of Ginseng. Austin, Texas: American Botanical Council, HerbalGram.
Keville, Kathi. Ginseng.
New Canaan, Connecticut: Keats Publishing. 1996.
Reid, Daniel P. Chinese
Herbal Medicine. Hong Kong: CFW Publications. 1987.
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