Panax ginseng

Botanical Name : Panax ginseng
Family: Araliaceae
Subfamily: Aralioideae
Tribe: Aralieae
Genus: Panax
Species: Panax ginseng
Kingdom: Plantae
Subkingdom: Tracheobionta
Division: Magnoliophyta
Class: Magnoliopsida
Subclass: Rosidae
Order: Apiales

Synonyms : Aralia ginseng. Panax chin-seng. Panax verus.

Common Name : Ginseng, Chinese ginseng

Habitat : Panax ginseng is native to E. Asia – China, Korea.(Manchuria, Chinese Tartary and other parts of eastern Asia, and is largely cultivated there as well as in Korea and Japan.) It grows on mountain forests.
Description:
Panax ginseng is a smooth perennial herb, with a large, fleshy, very slow-growing root, 2 to 3 inches in length (occasionally twice this size) and from 1/2 to 1 inch in thickness. Its main portion is spindle-shaped and heavily annulated (ringed growth), with a roundish summit, often with a slight terminal, projecting point. At the lower end of this straight portion, there is a narrower continuation, turned obliquely outward in the opposite direction and a very small branch is occasionally borne in the fork between the two. Some small rootlets exist upon the lower portion. The color ranges from a pale yellow to a brownish color. It has a mucilaginous sweetness, approaching that of liquorice, accompanied with some degree of bitterness and a slight aromatic warmth, with little or no smell. The stem is simple and erect, about a foot high, bearing three leaves, each divided into five finely-toothed leaflets, and a single, terminal umbel, with a few small, yellowish flowers. It is hardy to zone (UK) 6. The flowers are hermaphrodite (have both male and female organs) The fruit is a cluster of bright red berries.

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Cultivation:
Requires a moist humus rich soil in a shady position in a woodland. Ginseng is widely cultivated and also collected from the wild in the Orient for its root which is commonly used as a medicine. The root is prepared in a number of different ways, including by steaming it for 4 hours in wicker baskets over boiling water.

Propagation :
Seed – sow in a shady position in a cold frame preferably as soon as it is ripe, otherwise as soon as the seed is obtained. It can be very slow and erratic to germinate. Prick out the seedlings into individual pots when they are large enough to handle and grow them on in a shady positi
Edible Uses: ...Root – chewed. This probably refers to its medicinal uses. A tea is made from the root.

Medicinal Uses:
Ginseng was considered for generations to be a panacea by the Chinese and Koreans, although there are some disorders, such as acute inflammatory diseases, for which it is not recommended. It usually is not taken alone, but combined in formulas with other herbs. One of ginseng’s key investigators, Russian I.I. Brekhman, coined the term “adaptogen” to describe ginseng’s ability to regulate many different functions. It can have different responses, depending on what an individual needs. Studies show that ginseng increases mental and physical efficiency and resistance to stress and disease. Psychological improvements were also observed according to Rorschach. Studies done at the Chinese Academy of Medical Science in Beijing, China, showed that the ginsenosides increase protein synthesis and activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. They are also probably responsible for ginseng’s dual role of sedating or stimulating the central nervous system, depending on the condition it is being taken to treat. Studies also show that ginseng improves carbohydrate tolerance in diabetics. When volunteers were given 3 grams of ginseng along with alcohol, their blood alcohol level was 32% to 51% lower than that of the control group.

Ginseng appears to stimulate the immune system of both animals and humans. It revs up the white blood cells (macrophages and natural killer cells) that devour disease-causing microorganisms. Ginseng also spurs production of interferon, the body’s own virus-fighting chemical, and antibodies, which fight bacterial and viral infections. It reduces cholesterol, according to several American studies. It also increases good cholesterol. Ginseng has an anticlotting effect, which reduces the risk of blood clots. It reduces blood sugar levels. Ginseng protects the liver from the harmful effects of drugs, alcohol, and other toxic substances. In a pilot human study, ginseng improved liver function in 24 elderly people suffering from cirrhosis. Ginseng can minimize cell damage from radiation. In two studies, experimental animals were injected with various protective agents, then subjected to doses of radiation similar to those used in cancer radiation therapy. Ginseng provided the best protection against damage to healthy cells, suggesting value during cancer radiation therapy.

Asians have always considered ginseng particularly beneficial for the elderly. As people age, the senses of taste and smell deteriorate, which reduces appetite. In addition, the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients declines. Ginseng enjoys a reputation as an appetite stimulant and one study showed it increases the ability of the intestine to absorb nutrients, thus helping prevent undernourishment. This is a yin tonic, taken in China for fevers and for exhaustion due to a chronic, wasting disease such as tuberculosis. It can help coughs related to lung weaknessIn the 1960s, a Japanese scientist, Shoji Shibata, at the Meiji College of Pharmacy in Tokyo, identified a unique set of chemicals that are largely responsible for ginseng’s actions. They are saponins, biologically active compounds that foam in water. Ginseng’s unique saponins were dubbed “ginsenosides.”

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Research reveals that ginseng can have beneficial effects on metabolic function, immunity, mood, and physiological function at the most basic cellular level. It does not benefit everyone; recent studies of elite athletes reveal that it has no demonstrable effects on athletic performance. Yet in older people, studies show that it reduces fatigue, improves performance, and boosts mood. This makes sense in classic terms because why would world-class athletes, with superior yang energy, want to take a root for people with “devastated ” yang? But if you are recovering from a drawn-out illness, feeling fatigued, or feeling the effects of age’ if you are experiencing a “collapse” of your “chi”, ginseng may be right for you.

As an adaptogenic, ginseng’s action varies. In China, ginseng is best known as a stimulant, tonic herb for athletes and those subject to physical stress, and as a male aphrodisiac. It is also a tonic for old age, and is traditionally taken by people in northern and central China fro late middle age onward, helping them to endure the long hard winters.

Ginseng has been researched in detail over the past 20-30 years in China, Japan, Korea, Russian, and many other countries. Its remarkable “adaptogenic” quality has been confirmed. Trials show that ginseng significantly improves the body’s capacity to cope with hunger, extremes of temperature, and mental and emotional stress. Furthermore, ginseng produces a sedative effect when the body requires sleep. The ginsenosides that are responsible for this action are similar in structure to the body’s own stress hormones. Ginseng also increases immune function and resistance to infection, and supports liver function.

In Asian countries, ginseng has long been recognized as effective n reducing alcohol intoxication and also as a remedy for hangovers. A clinical experiment demonstrated that ginseng significantly enhanced blood alcohol clearance in humans. In regards to cancer, a number of experiments have shown that ginseng can help restore physiological balance within the system and significantly reduce the side effects when used along with anticancer drugs. For diabetes, when patients are treated with ginseng at the early stages, conditions can return to normal. In advanced stages, the blood glucose level is significantly lowered. When combined with insulin, insulin requirements are reduced while still effectively lowering blood glucose level. Other symptoms such as fatigue and decreased sexual desire are also alleviated.

There is some evidence that ginseng, taken in small amounts over a long period of time, improves regulation of the adrenals so that stress hormones are produced rapidly when needed and broken down rapidly when not needed. Whole root is best. Extracts, even those that contain specific guaranteed-potency ginsenosides, don’t have some of the other compounds in ginseng that may be beneficial. Its not recommended to take even good quality extracts for more than 2-3 weeks at a time, but the whole ginseng root, in small amounts can be taken every day for a year or more.

At the Institute of Immunological Science at Hokkaido University in Sapporo, Japan, researchers have been studying a ginsenoside, Rb2. In mice given lung tumors,’ oral administration of ginsenoside Rb2 caused a marked inhibition of both neovascularization and tumor growth,’ they write. Neovascularization, also called angiogenesis, is the tendency of tumors to create tiny blood vessels that feed their malignant growth.

A case-control study in Korea compared about 2,000 patients admitted tot eh Korea Cancer Center Hospital in Seoul to another 2,000 noncancer patients. Those with cancer were about half as likely to use ginseng as those without cancer. Cancer risk was lower with those who took ginseng for a year but much lower for those who took ginseng for up to 20 years. Fresh ginseng, white ginseng extract, white ginseng powder, and red ginseng were all associated with reduced cancer risk.

Known Hazards : Side effects include inability to fall asleep, increase in heart rate and blood pressure. Overuse or prolonged use may cause over stimulation (diarrhoea, nervousness, skin eruption). Caution with other stimulants needed. Avoid in patients with psychosis and manic disorders. Not recommended during pregnancy and breast feeding

Disclaimer : The information presented herein is intended for educational purposes only. Individual results may vary, and before using any supplement, it is always advisable to consult with your own health care provider.

Resources:
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panax_ginseng
http://www.hardingsginsengfarm.com/botgin.htm
http://www.herbnet.com/Herb%20Uses_FGH.htm
http://www.pfaf.org/user/Plant.aspx?LatinName=Panax+ginseng

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