Chinese Ren Shen, 'root of heaven,' Panax ginseng, Asian ginseng, is native to Manchuria and Korea and is cultivated in China, Korea and Japan. The ginseng plant requires 5-7 years to mature from seed. Ginseng has a sweetly aromatic flavour. Its root has long been regarded by the Chinese as a panacea for illness, though it was usually used by them in a prophylactic (preventive) rather than a curative manner.
Many Native American tribes used American ginseng, Panax quinquefolia. Medicinal uses ranged from digestive disorders to sexual problems.
The Chinese began to use American ginseng after it was imported during the 1700s. The traditional applications in China are somewhat different from those for Panax ginseng (Asian ginseng), American ginseng being considered a better stomachic.
The type and ratio of ginsenosides are somewhat different in American and Asian ginseng, but not radically different. Pharmacologically, ginseng is nonspecific in its effects and is capable of a normalizing action irrespective of the pathological situation.
Ginseng's ginsenosides 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 Rgl and Rbl 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.
Numerous double-blind studies have confirmed Chinese tradition, objectively demonstrating Asian ginseng's ability to lower blood sugar, reduce fatigue and stress, and support the normal function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the hormonal stress system of the body.
Ginseng's support of the brain's production of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) appears to improve mental performance, learning, and memory and sensory awareness, exactly as Chinese tradition has always maintained.
The 1997 Commission E on Phytotherapy and Herbal Substances of the German Federal Institute for Drugs, reflecting the opinion of modern scientific herbalism, recommends Ginseng root (Panax ginseng) 'As tonic for invigoration and fortification in times of fatigue and debility, for declining capacity for work and concentration, also during convalescence.'
'Daily dosage: 1 - 2 g of root; equivalent preparations. Mode of Administration: Cut root for teas, powder and galenical preparations for internal use. Duration of Administration: Generally up to 3 months. A repeated course is feasible.'
'Action: In various stress models, e.g., an immobilization test and the coldness test, the resistance of laboratory test animals (rodents) was increased.'
Grieve's classic 'A Modern Herbal': 'In China, both varieties (Asian Panax ginseng & American Panax quinquefolia) are used particularly for dyspepsia, vomiting and nervous disorders. A decoction of ½ oz. of the 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.'
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