Ginseng is known all over the world for its medicinal properties. It is the tuberous roots of Panax Genus plants found in cooler climates. The roots are used in Japan, Korea and China for more than five thousand years to cure variety of diseases.
Ginseng is used as a dietary supplement, complementary medicine and for adjuvant therapeutics worldwide. It is popular rejuvenating and revitalizing tonic that improves physical, mental and sexual health.Ginseng is used for getting relief from stress, anxiety and to increase energy, stamina, vigor and mental functions. It has strong antioxidant action and gives longevity.
Ginseng is used traditionally as a hemostatic to stop bleeding in conditions such as vomiting and coughing up of blood, blood in the urine or stool, epistaxis etc. It is used in cases of dyspepsia, palpitation, asthma, amnesia, headache, convulsions, stress, debility, and sexual disorders of males.
Ginseng belong to plant Genus Panax and family Araliaceae.
The word Panax is derived from Greek word, Pan (= all) and Axos (= cure) and literally means one which cures all diseases. The word Ginseng is derived from Chinese words Jin-chen / Jen-schen / RenSheng / Schin-sen, which means like human body.
Ginseng is aromatic herbaceous perennial plant growing to a height of 2 feet with tuberous roots and red berries. Leaves are palmately compound, serrated at the apex of the stem and arranged in a single whorl. The leaves are oblong-obovate to obovate, 6-15 cm, and conspicuously serrate. In young plants leaves may consist of only three leaflets. With maturity of plant more sets of leaves appear.
The stems solitary, 2-6 dm, and with one flower umbel per stem. The greenish–white flowers appear in the summer. There have two styles and five stamens. The fruits are berry-like, bright red drupes, 1 cm thick containing up to three seeds. Seeds remain dormant for well over a year, germinating in the second spring season.
Mature red fruits of American Ginseng are collected in August or September. The seeds are stored moist and sown during autumn. American ginseng is typically found throughout the mountain areas of the Eastern United States and Canada.
Roots are fleshy white or light colored tap roots, and variably branched. Fresh roots possess a strong taste that is bitter yet also sweet and a prominent, characteristic aroma that is gradually lost on storage.
In India, Panax pseudoginseng / Aralia pseudoginseng is found growing in Himalayas and North East states. All Ginseng belongs to plant family Araliaceae. Below is given taxonomical classification of plant.
- Kingdom: Plantae – Plants
- Subkingdom: Tracheobionta – Vascular plants
- Superdivision: Spermatophyta – Seed plants
- Division: Magnoliophyta – Flowering plants
- Class: Magnoliopsida – Dicotyledons
- Subclass: Rosidae
- Order: Apiales
- Family: Araliaceae – Ginseng family
- Genus: Panax L. – ginseng
Species of Ginseng
There are several species of plant belonging to genus Panax which are known as ginseng. For example, Panax quinquefolius is American Ginseng whereas Panax ginseng is Korean Ginseng.
Panax ginseng is considered true ginseng and is found throughout Korea, China, Japan and Russia.
Two species of Panax (P. quinquefolius and P. trifolius L.) are native to North America. The latter species is much smaller and rarely used for medicinal purposes.
In India, Panax pseudoginseng, an endangered plant is found in North Eastern states and Himalaya.
Three most commonly medicinally used varieties are Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolius and Panax pseudoginseng.
1. Panax ginseng C. A. Meyer (Chinese, Korean or Oriental ginseng or Asian Ginseng)
2. Panax japonicus C. A. Meyer (Japanese ginseng / Chikusetsu ginseng)
3. Panax notoginseng (Burkill) F. H. Chen (Sanchi ginseng)
4. Panax pseudoginseng Wallich (found in Himalayas and N.E. India, especially Sikkim, Arunachal Pradesh, Manipur and Meghalaya between altitudinal ranges of 2900 – 4000 m)
5. Panax quinquefolius L. (American ginseng, native to North America )
6. Panax sinensis J. Wen
7. Panax stipuleanatus H. T. Tsai & K.M. Feng
8. Panax trifolius L. (Dwarf ginseng, native to North America)
9. Panax wangianus Sun
10. Panx zingiberensis C.Y. Wu & K.M. Feng (Ginger ginseng)
11. Panax vietnamensis Ha et Grushv. (Vietnamese ginseng)
Synonyms of Panax pseudoginseng Wall:
Aralia pseudoginseng (Wall.) Benth. ex C.B. Clarke, Aralia quinquefolia Decne. & Planch. var. pseudoginseng (Wall.) Burkill, Panax schinseng var. nepalensis Nees, Panax sikkimensis R.N. Banerjee.
Synonyms of American ginseng:
Panax quinquefolium (L.) Alph.Wood, Aralia quinquefolia (L.)Decne. & Planch.,Ginseng quinquefolium (L.) Alph.Wood, Panax americanus (Raf.) Raf., Panax cuneatus Raf.
Common names: American ginseng, five finger root, sang, tartar root, redberry, man’s health, root of life, dwarf groundnut, garantogen, jinshard, ninsin, little man, garent-oquen
Part(s) used for medicinal purpose: Roots
Plant type: Herb
Distribution: Different species are found all over the world in cooler climates.
Habitat: It is found in soils having deep humus in thick Conifer-Oak and Birch forests of temperate zone.
Propagation: By seeds
Varieties: Red and White varieties of Asian ginseng. The difference of color is due to processing. The roots which are steamed with solution of herbs are Red in color, whereas the simply dried roots are White in color.
Red Ginseng is more warming compared to white ginseng. White ginseng is used in summers.
Constituents of Ginseng
The main active component of ginseng is ginseng saponins, which are called ginsenosides.
More than 30 kinds of ginsenosides have been isolated and identified. They are classified into two groups, dammarane-type and oleanane-type saponins, on the basis of the chemical structures of their aglycones. The dammaranes are further divided into two types, protopanaxadiol and protopanaxatriol saponins.
Panax ginseng contains triterpene glycosides, or saponins, (commonly referred to as ginsenosides), amino acids, alkaloids, phenols, proteins, polypeptides, and vitamins B1 and B2.
Important Medicinal Properties
Ginseng is rich in medicinal properties. The understanding of these properties will help us to better utilize this herb. For example, it has estrogen like effect.
Estrogen is found in both male and female. It is produced by the ovaries and in smaller amounts by the adrenal cortex. Estrogen is female sex hormones and is essential for growth and development of female secondary sexual characteristics such as breasts, pubic and armpit hair, endometrium, regulation of the menstrual cycle and the reproductive system. In males, estrogen plays a role in normal male reproductive processes, spermatogenesis, formation and maturation of sperm.
- During menopause reduction of estrogen causes various symptoms such as depression, menstrual irregularity, libido loss and mood swings. Intake of ginseng in estrogen deficient conditions gives relief in symptoms.
- Below is given medicinal properties along with the meaning.
- Adaptogen: Help the body adapt to stress.
- Anti–stress: Reduces stress.
- Anticonvulsant: Prevent or reduce the severity of epileptic fits or other convulsions.
- Anti–diabetic: Preventing or alleviating diabetes
- Antiobesity: Reducing or controlling obesity
- Antipyretic: Used to prevent or reduce fever.
- Antiulcer: Tending to prevent or heal ulcers.
- Aphrodisiac: Stimulates sexual desire.
- Cardioprotective: Protects heart.
- Cytotoxic: Toxic to living cells.
- Demulcent: Relieving inflammation or irritation.
- Expectorant: Promotes the secretion of sputum by the air passages, used to treat coughs.
- Estrogen / oestrogen like: Work like estrogen.
- Hypoglycemic: Reducing level of the sugar glucose in the blood.
- Hepatoprotective: Prevent damage to the liver.
- Immunomodulatory: Modifies the immune response or the functioning of the immune system.
- Neuroprotective: Protects nerve cells from degeneration.
- Tonic: Restore or improve health or well-being.
Health Benefits of Ginseng
Ginseng is a general health tonic.
- It contains B vitamins (B1, B2) and minerals such as iron, phosphorus, manganese, copper, and sulphur.
- It protects against free radicle damage due to strong antioxidant action.
- It causes sweating and cures fever, cough and cold.
- It reduces stress, depression and anxiety.
- It has sedating and relaxing effects.
- It elevates mood.
- It gives relief from exhaustion from overwork.
- It has aphrodisiac action and cures loss of libido.
- It improves overall health and gives longevity.
- It is a digestive stimulant.
- It treats sluggish nervous system and strengthen the circulation.
- It has anti-cancer properties and inhibits proliferation of cancer cells.
- It has Estrogen-like activity.
- It assists memory improvement.
- It suppresses food intake and body weight gain.
- It shows beneficial effects on renal damage associated with diabetic nephropathy.
- Ginseng is good for heart. It has cardioprotective, anti–ischemic, antioxidant, calcium channel blocking and platelet aggregate moderating effects. It increases vasodilation. It reduces plasma cholesterol and stiffness of arteries.
- It reduces fasting blood glucose level in diabetes and modulates insulin secretion.
- It improves quality of life by improving physical and mental functions.
- It improves blood circulation.
- It improves alertness, cognitive functions, brain funcions, by improving blood circulation to brain.
Benefits of Ginseng for Men:
Ginseng is a very good sex tonic for men.
- It stimulates male sexual functions.
- It improves sexual behavior and testicle functions.
- It helps in erectile dysfunction.
- It improves libido, sexual desire, rigidity, performance, and overall satisfaction.
- It increases sex hormones production.
- It enhances erection.
- It improves quality and quantity of sperms.
- It promotes sperm production.
- It protects testis from chemicals.
- It stimulates hormone secretion.
- It improves male fertility by modulating the neuronal and hormonal systems.
- It protects male fertility during diseases.
- It is beneficial in diabetes induced sexual dysfunction.
- It stimulates various endocrine functions.
Benefits of Ginseng for Women:
- It has estrogen like function.
- It gives relief in menstrual disorders such as pain and irregularity.
- It improves sexual arousal in menopausal women.
- It has aphrodisiac action.
Diseases in Which Ginseng Is Useful
- Ginseng is used in treatment of variety of diseases. The roots of plant have man-like appearance and according to Doctrine of Signatures or Similitudes, it is accepted as a tonic, and a panacea. It is especially known to treat impotence and loss of sexual drive.
- Anxiety, depression, stress, fatigue from work
- Adjuvant for patients on cancer therapies, HIV
- Diabetes, increased blood sugar level
- Erectile dysfunction, low sperm count, impotence
- Frigidity, Loss of libido, loss of appetite, Low immunity
- Loss of memory and concentration
- Lack of energy, restlessness
- Symptoms of menopause
- Tonic for liver, lungs, heart, spleen and kidneys
- Weakness of body and mind
Dosage of Ginseng
Ginseng dose varies according to diseases to be treated.
Ginseng root powder is taken in dose of 1-2 gram. In some cases more 3-10 grams root powder is also indicated.
The decoction of root is prepared by boiling, 3-6 grams of roots in 750-1000 ml water for 45 minutes.
The tincture of root is taken in dose of 2-4 ml, thrice a day.
The Ginseng root extract is available in 200mg, 500 mg and 1000 mg. The recommended dose is 1-2 capsules or as prescribed by physician.
Ashwagandha the Indian Ginseng, Withania somnifera is commonly known as Indian Ginseng due to the similarity of properties and therapeutic uses to Panax ginseng. It is the Ginseng of India with powerful rejuvenating and revitalizing properties.
Ashwagandha is used in treatment of infertility, fatigue, breathing difficulties, hay fever, allergic rhinitis, convalescence, nervous exhaustion, stress, insomnia, anxiety, ADHD, multiple sclerosis, emaciation, skin problems, paralysis, rheumatism/arthritis, anemia, and male sexual dysfunctions.
It is nervine tonic, nutritive, rejuvenative, anti-inflammatory, anticancer, adaptogen and antioxidant. Asgandh increases sperm quality, quantity and motility. It cures oligospermia, poor sexual performance and impotence. It is used in menstrual imbalance of female.
Ashwagandha is known as Indian Ginseng and is comparable to Panax Ginseng due to following properties:
- Both are aromatic roots of plant bearing red fruits.
- The external appearance of both are same.
- Both are used for aphrodisiac property.
- Both restore sexual vigor.
- Both are immune-boosting and brain tonic herbs.
- Both are antidepressant has sedative effects on mind.
- Both are mood stabilizer in clinical conditions of anxiety and depression.
- Both helps in nervous weakness, fainting, giddiness and insomnia.
- Both produces estrogen like effect in body.
- Both have anti-proliferative and anti-cancer properties and helps in breast cancer, prostrate cancer and other tumorous growth in body. Ashwagandha is used in Ayurveda to decrease the growth of tumor in human.
- Both give strength to body and mind. Ashwagandha Powder is given in dose of 4 grams with milk, thrice a day for few months for Parkinson’s, weakness of muscles and pain while walking.
- Both are adaptogenic tonic for exhaustion.
- Both modulate immune function.
- Both relieve impotence and increases sperm count.
Ginseng Medicines Available in India
- Schwabe Ginseng 1X Tablets
- Revital H
- Nutrilite Siberian Ginseng with Ginkgo Biloba
- Modicare Korean Red Ginseng Tablets
- NOW Foods Panax Ginseng
- Nature’s Way Korean Ginseng Root
- Vista Nutritious Ginseng 500 mg Capsules
- Zenith Nutrition Ginseng 500 mg Capsules
Side-effects, Contraindications, Warning
- Short-term use of ginseng at recommended doses is safe for most people.
- Ginseng may interact with medicines such as ACE inhibitors / blood pressure medications, Calcium channel blockers, Blood-thinners, blood sugar lowering medicines, immune suppressing medicines etc.
- It is better to avoid this herb in large doses because of a possible corticosteroid effect.
- Excess dose is harmful.
- It can cause allergic reactions.
- It may lower blood sugar level.
- It may increase blood pressure.
- It may increase heartbeat.
- Avoid in conditions caused by acute inflammation or high fever or irritability.
- Avoid in pregnancy and as it may cause hormonal imbalance.
- Avoid intake during breastfeeding.
- It is stimulants and may cause nervousness or sleeplessness.
- Excess intake of Ginseng can increase menstrual flow, worsen PMS and alter periods.
- Few side effects are shown in long- term study such as morning diarrhea, gastrointestinal disturbance, skin eruptions, sleeplessness, nervousness, hypertension, and edema.
- In few women it can cause breast pain or vaginal bleeding.
- Do not be take continuously for longer periods. Take periodic breaks.
- Do not use in constipation and obesity.
- It affects sex hormones, and therefore must not be given to children.
- It should not be taken cautiously in autoimmune diseases as it stimulates immune functions.