Common names: Korean ginseng, Chinese ginseng

Asian ginseng is a member of the Araliaceae family, which also includes the closely related American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius, and less similar Siberian ginseng, Eleutherococcus senticosus, also known as eleuthero. Asian ginseng commonly grows on mountain slopes and is usually harvested in the fall. The root is used, preferably from plants older than six years of age.

Asian ginseng has been a part of Chinese medicine for over 2,000 years. The first reference to the health-enhancing use of Asian ginseng dates to the first century A.D., in which the writer mentions ginseng’s use as follows: “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 was commonly used by elderly persons in the Orient to improve mental and physical vitality.

Active constituents of Ginseng

Ginseng’s actions in the body are due to a complex interplay of constituents. The primary group are the ginsenosides, which are believed to increase energy, counter the effects of stress, and enhance intellectual and physical performance. Thirteen ginsenosides have been identified in Asian ginseng. Ginsenosides Rg1 and Rb1 have received the most attention. Other constituents include the panaxans, which help lower blood sugar, and the polysaccharides (complex sugar molecules), which support immune function.

Long-term intake may be linked to a reduced risk of cancer. A double blind study has confirmed Asian ginseng’s blood sugar lowering effects in patients with adult diabetes. Human studies have mostly failed to confirm the purported benefit of Asian ginseng for the enhancement of athletic performance. Some studies suggest it may help those in poor physical condition tolerate exercise better. It does appear to effectively reduce fatigue in double blind studies. A double blind study has confirmed it is helpful for relief of fatigue and possible stress.

How much Ginseng is usually taken?

The best researched form of ginseng is standardized herbal extracts that supply approximately 5–7% ginsenosides; more concentrated extracts may be less effective due to reduction of panaxan levels. People often take 100–200 mg per day. Nonstandardized extracts require a higher intake, generally 1–2 grams per day for tablets or 2–3 ml for dried root tincture three times per day. Ginseng is usually used for two to three weeks continuously, followed by a one to two week “rest” period before resuming.

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