Ginseng is known as an adaptogenic herb. An adaptogen is an herb that regulates and helps the body handle stress and maintain vitality. Adaptogens are used for long term revitalization and not for immediate energy like central nervous system stimulants such as caffeine.
Ginseng is grown in many parts of the world. The roots are the part of the plant used for all Ginseng products. Each variety has its own health benefits. Ginseng benefits are cumulative. Taking the herb for several months to a year is far more effective than short-term doses. Ginsengs are used in many Eastern formulas to complement other herbs.
Ginseng in general provides energy to all body systems, is a stimulant for brain and memory centers, helps lower cholesterol and regulates sugar use in the body. Ginseng also promotes regeneration from stress and fatigue. All Ginsengs contain measurable amounts of germanium, a trace mineral also in mushrooms.
Panax Ginseng, (Also known as Asian Ginseng, Korean Ginseng, Chinese Ginseng, Ren Shen, Xi Yang Shen, or Say Yang Sum), grown in Korea is the broadest spectrum of all adaptogenic herbs. It is also considered one of the most prized and expensive herbs. Panax ginseng stimulates both long and short-term energy, so is know as a yang tonic replenishing Qi (energy.)
Panax is rich in phyto-hormones for both men and women’s problems. For men it helps in the formation of testosterone and for women it protects against breast cancer, hence the term adaptogenic (it will adapt to the needs of the body no matter what is needed and no matter what sex.) For this reason, Panax also fits into the aphrodisiac category. Panax Ginseng is used for enhancing the immune system, impotence and premature ejaculation, poor sleep and nervous exhaustion. It is especially useful for older bodies with debilitating conditions.
Contraindications: Panax, meaning panacea, is NOT universally applicable in every illness like its name implies. Yang Ginsengs should not be taken during acute inflammatory disease or for bronchitis. Use the yin American Ginseng for bronchitis. The yang Ginsengs are used in combination with other herbs to temper their powerful nature.
American Ginseng (Also called Panax quinquefolius, Xi Yan Shen) is a yin tonic. Yin tonics are cooling and slowing in nature. American Ginseng is used in China for fevers and for exhaustion due to chronic wasting diseases. It is also used for coughs related to lung weaknesses (such as tuberculosis, bronchial infections or asthma.)
Siberian Ginseng (also called Eleuthero or Eleutherococcus senticosus) comes from China. It is known for its long-term energy effects on the adrenal glands and circulation. In this day and age, most of our American population is overtaxing their adrenal glands with excess stress. There are just too many tasks enticing us to utilize our available time. We are spending less and less time with our families and doing what nourishes us (our Life Purpose or God Path.) Siberian Ginseng is a yang tonic herb, so it stimulates fast, hot, male energy type of function. Siberian Ginseng has been used for rheumatic complaints, low vitality, and weak liver and kidney energy for about 2000 years. It is considered less heating (less yang) than the Panax varieties (therefore safer.)
I use Siberian Ginseng in my “Old Dog Formula” to increase the circulation to the butt muscles and lower spine. I once had a client who came in regularly for Old Dog Formula for their two very aged shelties. I noticed that they came in a bit more regularly than they should for the dosage I had recommended. When I asked them about it, they confessed that they were also using the product with fabulous results. I like it too and use it occasionally for gardening season.
Panax notoginseng (Also known as Pseudoginseng or San Qi) is grown in China and is used as an analgesic and to stop internal and external bleeding. It is also added to treatments for coronary heart disease and angina. Quite interestingly, San Qi was used extensively by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War to increase recovery rates from gunshot wounds. Avoid this one during pregnancy. It could harm the fetus.
Wild Ginseng, from Manchuria, is considered the best, but is extremely expensive. For centuries in the East, top-grade Ginseng roots have been valued more than gold.
Ginseng comes in two varieties, red and white. Red Ginseng is cured by steaming which gives it its color and yang attributes.
So, next time you go to the health food store, don’t just ask for Ginseng, be specific.