Ginseng, American

Panax quinquefolium

Origin - Canada, eastern US, Wisconsin, China

Part of the plant used - Root

Edible Parts American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) is a deciduous perennial shrub whose fleshy root requires 4 years of cultivation to reach maturity. Traditionally the wild root was consumed by Native Americans as a general tonic, as a natural restorative for weak and wounded, and to help the mind. American ginseng is now used as a natural preventive and restorative remedy and valued for its adaptogenic properties. American ginseng is more sedative and relaxing and increases "yin" energy while Korean ginseng is more stimulating and increases the "yang" energy. American ginseng is suitable for females and young people as well as males and older people.

Pharmacology - The main active ingredients of ginseng are the more than 20 saponin triterpenoid glycosides called ginsenosides whose names relate to their chromatographic position (Ra, Rb, etc.). American ginseng is rich in the Rb1 group of ginsenosides which have more sedative and metabolic effects on the central nervous system, compared to the Rg1 group of ginsenosides which are more arousing and stimulating. Rb1 Ginsenosides have CNS-depressing activity, have weak anti-inflammatory action, and increase digestive tract peristalsis. Laboratory animals given Rb1 ginsenosides have improved stamina and increased learning abilities. Other studies have shown that Rb1 ginsenosides also have antifatigue, anticonvulsant, antipyretic, antipsychotic, analgesic and ulcer protective effects.

Historical Uses:

Medicinal Uses - American ginseng has been used for stress and fatigue characterized by insomnia, poor appetite, nervousness and restlessness. The root has been used for conditions of weakness, convalescence, low resistance, poor immunity or debility due to chronic disease. Scientific support is now emerging for its use in the regulation of various metabolic disturbances including blood sugar and lipid levels.

Toxicity, Cautions & Contra-indications - Used at the recommended dosage, ginseng is generally safe. In rare instances, it may cause over stimulation and possibly insomnia. Consuming caffeine with ginseng increases the risk of over stimulation and gastrointestinal upset. Persons with uncontrolled high blood pressure should not use ginseng. Long-term use of ginseng may cause menstrual abnormalities and breast tenderness in some women. Ginseng is not recommended for pregnant or lactating women.

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