GinsengIn old Chinese medicine, Panox ginseng (also called Asian, Chinese or Korean ginseng) has been used for thousands of years as a means of longevity and improving the quality of life. American ginseng grows mainly in the Middle West of the US and is exported to China. Siberian ginseng which, as its name says, originates from Siberia, is a distant relative of these kinds.

For medical purposes a slow growing ginseng root is used, which is harvested after four to six years, when the active ingredient (ginsenoside) content is at its peak.

There are a total of 13 different ginsenosides. Chinese ginseng also contains panax, which can reduce blood glucose levels, and complex carbohydrate compounds (polysaccharides) that enhance immunity. ”White” ginseng is the name for the root of these plants, and ”red” ginseng, which is mainly of Korean origin, is dried ginseng. In the vast majority of studies, the effect of white Chinese ginseng was investigated. Siberian ginseng contains eleuterozides, whose properties are similar to ginsenosides.

How does it work?

The main beneficial effects of ginseng are its antioxidant properties, the ability to enhance the function of the immune system and the beneficial effect of protecting our body in stress conditions.

PREVENTION: all three types of ginseng can help with some diseases. They stimulate the production of special NK cells (white blood cells) that destroy harmful viruses and bacteria.

Researches shows that Chinese ginseng may slow cell growth of some types of cancer. A large study conducted in Korea has shown that the incidence of cancer in people who took Chinese ginseng was less than half the size of a group that did not. It has been shown that ginseng in powder form or tincture forms reduces the risk of cancer, as opposed to the fresh root of ginseng, juice or tea.

ADDITIONAL USEFUL EFFECTS: ginseng can help people who suffer from chronic fatigue and stress as well as those who are recovering from some illness. This plant equilibrates the levels of stress hormone and helps the hormone secreting organs; these are the pituitary gland,  hypothalamus and the adrenal glands.

As Chinese ginseng expands blood vessels, it can help treat impotence as it boosts erection. Studies conducted on animals show that it increases testosterone levels and sperm production, which can help men with infertility problems.

Many runners and bodybuilders take ginseng to increase stamina. Herbalists believe that this plant strengthens vitality and helps with fatigue. Chinese ginseng is more useful to men, while the Siberian is better for women, especially to those with irregular menstrual cycles. American ginseng is considered to be an excellent tonic, and is traditionally used to treat gastrointestinal disorders. Other properties and uses do not differ significantly in these three kinds of ginseng.

How to take it?

DOSAGE: for general health and fatigue: take 100 to 250 mg of Chinese (or 300 to 400 mg of Siberian) ginseng once or twice a day.
For support in stress conditions or during recovery: take that dose twice a day.
For male infertility and impotence: take the recommended dose twice a day.

USE GUIDELINES: start with lower doses, which you can increase over time. Some experts recommend a one week pause every two to three weeks, after which ginseng can be taken again. In some cases ginseng is taken alternately with another plant (like arum) that strengthens the immune system.

Possible side effects

Side effects are not common in people who take recommended doses. According to some reports, nervousness, insomnia, headache and stomach problems sometimes appear; the dose should be reduced if that happens. A combination of ginseng and caffeine can streghten side effects. In some women, menstrual bleeding is intensified or their breasts are sensitive if they take large doses of Chinese ginseng; try Siberian ginseng if that happens to you.

IMPORTANT: if you have an uncontrolled high pressure or an irregular heart rate, avoid ginseng completely. Pregnant and breastfeeding women should not take any form of ginseng. Do not take ginseng if you are taking medicines for treating depression.