My father used to say if you take ginseng, eat garlic and drink a glass of red wine every day, you’ll live forever. Unfortunately, it seems he was not exactly right in the forever part, but still, all three elements of his advice are proven to have a remarkably strong effect on the human body.
In a old South Korean folk tale it is told that the King of the Diamond Mountain had lost all his powers and no doctors could help him. There came a wise man advising the King to take the ‘man-like root’ which is greater than death. The drink made from it cured the Kumgan.
It is important to note two things about ginseng root: First, it is a very strong, effective herbal medicine, so usage should be under control or with precaution. Second, there are dozens of other plants commonly referred to as ginseng which are actually not. Having different active agents even with similar effects or the same agents though in various qualities and concentration and going through totally different manufacturing processes. So, to find the ideal one for your therapy may take some time.
This article is solely about the so-called Panax ginseng. In Chinese it is, so ‘rén shen’, which does not mean longevity or immortality as you can read at various places, it translates as ‘man and her’ together as one mark. Panax as name derives from the Greek ‘healing all’, taking into consideration the Chinese medical uses, not too deeply known at that time in Europe.
This post is written uniquely about the species having ginsenosides in them as this molecule is probably responsible the root’s complicated and widely known effects. The level of the active Ingredient varies greatly throughout the different species. What does this mean? For example it is known the Panax ginseng has a ‘lifting effect’, so it generally increases the blood pressure, the heart rate, but contrary to this, the so-called ‘Siberian’ ginseng is usually and traditionally used to reach the adverse effect: calming the organism by reducing heart rate, blood pressure and so on. This is probably due to the fact it has no ginsenosides inside, instead another type of agent known as eleutherosides.
Other agents are for instance: panaxin- tonificant; panax-acid: improving the metabolism; panax-vilon gkycoside enhances and harmonises the functionning of our glands; panacen essential oil can stimulate the cerebospinal system.
So, what is the famous Panax ginseng good for?
In China the root has been used for thousand of years in very different forms (tea, wine, ointment, pills, alcoholic extract…) mainly aginst fatigue, impotency, demency, and „head problems”.
The Western experiments the root has undergone since 1947 officially, proved its traditional Eastern uses. The ginseng’s active agents empower the brain functions, without affecting the emotions. The root can increase the vitality in general. The agents can improve bodily and pshycological status, can be highly effective in conditions after bigger surgeries, or recovering from diseases. The root positively affects the genitals, heart and lung functions. It has positive effect on the glands and based on recent studies it can be a good help in type2 diabetes mellitus (anti-hyperglycemic effect). Its traditional uses in case of curing elderly people was shown to be real, ginseng can mean a good way to slow down demency. It can help in chronic asthma, can increase general resistance to infections. In chronic bronchitis the ginseng root may increase the bacterial clearance of the lungs. Many empirical studies suggest that ginseng may increase the effects of certain chemotherapy drugs (proven on gastric carcinoma), some speculations go even further: ginseng might be a powerful weapon in the war aginst cancer. This still requires specification and more experiments.
In general it is advised to be used in spring/autumn therapies: take pills/extracts daily for 2-3 weeks, no more, it can improve your health, immune system and stimulate the organism.
However, it is not at all advised to be taken in high blood pressure conditions, inflammations, acute asthma, bleeding, pregnancy, type 1 diabetes mellitus. It may cause – especially in overdose or when taken together with caffeine, other stimulating agents or herbs2 – headache, migrene, insomnia, anxiety and manic state in case of clinical depression. So, it might overstimulate the sympathetic nervous system.
Matsunaga H, Katano M, Saita T, et al. Potentiation of cytotoxicity of mitomycin C by a polyacetylenic
alcohol, panasytriol. Cancer Chemo. Pharm., 33(4):291-297, 1994
Suh SO, Kroh M, Kim NR, et al. Effects of red ginseng upon postoperative immunity and survial in patients
with stage III gastric cancer. Am. J. Chin. Med., 30(4):483-494, 2002
Shin HJ, Kim YS, Kwak YS, et al. Enhancement of antitumor effects of Paclitaxel (Taxol) in combination
with red ginseng acidic polysaccharide (RGAP). Planta Med., 70:1033-1038, 2004
Brinker, Francis N.D.: Herbal Contraindications
& Drug Interactions
plus Herbal Adjuncts with Medicines 4th edition; Eclectic Medical Publications, Oregon USA, 2010
History: Dr. Oláh Andor – A természet patikája; 1989, Kossuth Kiadó; Budapest, Hungary. (‘Andor Oláh M.D.: The pharmacy of nature’)
By Eva Mercz.
Many dietary supplements contain different kinds of ginseng, the effects can be adverse, the effectsa of interactions questionnable. Other supplements may contain ginko biloba or guarana, or even caffeine. These herbs/agents can push ginseng’s effects to overdose with all the sideeffects mentionned above.Bewae of these kind of products, try to use single-agent/herb-kind of supplements, to avoid unwanted heath problems.