Ginseng Benefits: The “Man Root” Explained

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Do You Know What Ginseng Really Does?

Practically everyone has heard of the many ginseng benefits. 

You can get Ginseng is many different forms:

  • Raw
  • Herbal supplements
  • Teas
  • Skincare products
  • Haircare products

But, do you know what ginseng really is and exactly what it does?

Many of the herbal formulas we use at Natchez Trace Veterinary Services contain ginseng as one of the main ingredients.

So, we thought you may be interested in Ginseng’s history, use, and effects.

The ancient Chinese believed that the root of the plant was the crystallization of the essence of the earth in the shape of a man and that this plant had rejuvenating, recuperative, and curative action. -Symmetry Herbal

Ginseng’s History

Ancient Easterners discovered Chinese ginseng over 5,000 years ago in the mountains of Manchuria, China.

A mature root is shaped like a human, earning it the name “Ren Shen” which means “Man Root” in Chinese.

The ancients believed that its human shape was a powerful symbol of divine harmony on earth.

And, they believed the herb had strength-giving and rejuvenating powers.

A little later, a Jesuit priest working among the Iroquois Indians discovered what we now call American Ginseng.

The priest had heard reports of the amazing herb that the Chinese were using.

And, deducing that the French Canadian environment was similar to that of Manchuria, started searching for a  North America version of the same herb.

Soon after, “American Ginseng” discovered growing near Montreal, Canada.

 

The Many Faces of Ginseng

The term “ginseng” actually refers to all eleven of the species within Panax.

Panax is a genus of slow-growing perennial plants with fleshy roots of the family Araliaceae.  

Medicinal ginseng is broken into two main species in herbal medicine and Traditional Chinese Medicine. They are Chinese Ginseng and American Ginseng, each with its own unique effects on the body.

The differences between American and Asian ginsengs are well documented not only by Chinese traditional doctors, but also by modern scientists, It is found that the differences in the active, constituents may account for the differing medicinal uses of American and Asian ginseng. Shibata’s group and Staba and his colleagues found that the types of saponins in American ginseng are similar to those in Asian ginseng, the exceptions that ginsenosides Ra and Rf found in Asian ginseng are absent from American ginseng. There are some differences in quantity of ginsenosides Rg and Re groups between American ginseng and Asian ginseng. Furthermore, the relative abundance of panaxadiols and panaxatrios differs in the two ginseng species. American ginseng contains very few ginsenosides with central nervous system stimulating activity, it is regarded as a “cooling agent”. – Symmetry Herbal

Two Main Types of Ginseng

There are two different types of Ginseng available on the market today. 

Even though they are both labeled as Ginseng, they have different properties and health benefits.

Chinese Ginseng or Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng)

Asian Ginseng (Panax Ginseng) is considered “warming” and is named Ren Shen in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

It is a Qi tonic found in many herbal formulas and has been found to strengthen the lung, spleen, and stomach.  

This herb especially helpful for those suffering from:

Panax ginseng helps with:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Immunity
  • Certain cystic fibrosis infections 

You should not use Asian Ginseng constantly, but on a schedule of two months of taking the herb then two weeks without.

The side effects or overdose symptoms of Asian Ginseng are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Insomnia
  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations

Eastern physicians often recommend Mung Bean Soup to treat the overdosage symptoms of Asian Ginseng.

American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolium)

American Ginseng (Panax Quinquefolium) is “cooling”.  Its Chinese medicine name is Xi Yang Shen.

Formulas for Yin Deficiencies often utilize American ginseng, as it helps by strengthening the lungs, heart, and kidneys.

This herb especially helpful for those with:

  • Insomnia
  • Night sweats
  • Nervousness
  • Hot hands and feet.

The side effects or overdosage symptoms of American Ginseng are:

  • High blood pressure
  • Headaches
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety

General Ginseng Benefits

Both Chinese and American varieties of Ginseng are adaptogenic herbs.

Adaptogens are substances that help the body restore itself to health without side effects.

Both types of ginseng:

  • Improve illness recovery time and health
  • Increase well-being and stamina
  • Improve mental performance
  • Improve physical performance
  • Lower cholesterol
  • Increase energy
  • Increase endurance
  • Reduce fatigue
  • Reduce the effects of stress
  • Help prevent infections
  • Alleviate some effects of aging
  • Decrease degeneration of the blood system
  •  Increase mental capacity
  •  Increase physical capacity

Ginseng Benefits for Pets

The Center for Integrative Animal Health considers ginseng to be the supreme tonic in Chinese medicine.

They feel ginseng increases:

  • Longevity
  • Energy
  • Bone strength
  • Muscle tone

Their top choice for older pets and female pets American (Panax) ginseng.

According to CIAH, you calculate the dosage by weight from the human products used to the weight of your pet.

“For instance, if it is in a capsule and the recommended dosage is two to three capsules twice a day for an adult person and you have a fifty pound older dog, one may give one capsule twice a day. If you are administering tinctures, be careful with cats, because they often times have too high an alcohol content for cats, so you would want to boil off the alcohol before administering or dilute it greatly. Again, consult with a naturally trained veterinarian. If you are using ginseng long term, use for only two to three months at a time and then give a break and stop it for a few weeks.” 

Ginseng Warnings

The University of Maryland Medical Center notes that while ginseng side effects rarely occur, they might include high blood pressure, headaches, insomnia and anxiety. Talk with your doctor before taking any type of ginseng supplement if you suffer from type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure or bipolar disorder. American ginseng might interact with the effectiveness of anticoagulant medications and certain kinds of antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors, or MOAIs. Asian ginseng might affect calcium channel blockers and increase the effects of stimulants. -Livestrong

Sources:

  •  http://www.csiginseng.com/history.htm
  •  http://www.naturaltherapypages.com.au/article/ginseng
  •  http://www.go-symmetry.com/info/ginseng.htm
  • http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-1000-GINSENG%20PANAX%20(GINSENG,%20PANAX).aspx?activeIngredientId=1000&activeIngredientName=GINSENG%20PANAX%20(GINSENG,%20PANAX)
  • http://www.livestrong.com/article/225529-panax-quinquefolius-panax-ginseng-compared/

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