Origin - Asian mountain forests, Korea
Part of the plant used - Root
Description - Panax ginseng is a deciduous perennial shrub whose fleshy root requires four to six years of cultivation to reach maturity. Traditionally, the wild root was consumed to vitalize, strengthen, and rejuvenate the entire body. Widely cultivated, ginseng is now used as a natural preventive, restorative remedy and valued for its adaptogenic properties. Korean ginseng is more stimulating and increases the "yang" energy while American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) increases the "yin" energy. Korean ginseng is most suitable for 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.). Rb1 group of ginsenosides have more sedative and metabolic effects on the central nervous system, while the Rg1 group of ginsenosides are more arousing and stimulating at low doses. Rb1 Ginsenosides have CNS-depressing activity, have weak anti-inflammatory action, and increase digestive tract peristalsis. Other studies have shown that Rb1 ginsenosides also are anticonvulsant, antipyretic, antipsychotic, analgesic, and ulcer protective. These activities contrast with those of Rg1 ginsenosides which have weak CNS-stimulating activity, protect against fatigue, and cause an increase in motor activity. Panax ginseng (Korean) contains higher amounts of the more stimulating Rg1 ginsenosides compared to American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium) which has a higher amount of the more sedative Rb1 ginsenosides. Both Rg1 and Rb1 ginsenosides act on the adrenal and pituitary glands and help them respond to stress more rapidly.
Historical Uses - Adaptogen, general tonic
Medicinal Uses - Korean ginseng is used for conditions of fatigue, weakness, debility, convalescence, low resistance, aging, stress, poor metabolism, and lack of concentration. Ginseng extracts have been shown to have antioxidant activity and to protect against radiation damage. European clinical trials have found an increase in reaction times, alertness, concentration, and visual and motor coordination.
Toxicity, Cautions & Contra-indications - No reported adverse effects. May cause a slight insomnia if taken at bedtime. A report by Siegal, entitled The Ginseng Abuse Syndrome, has been shown to have no merit.
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