April 5, 2011

All About Ginseng To Know

Ginseng is one of eleven distinct species of slow-growing perennial plants with fleshy roots, belongs to the Panax genus in the family Araliaceae. This article discusses the Panax ginseng series, that are the adaptogenic herbs, principally Panax ginseng and P. quinquefolius. Ginseng is characterized by the existence of ginsenosides.

Siberian ginseng is not a real ginseng, however a different plant that was renamed as Siberian ginseng as a marketing ploy; instead of a fleshy root, it has a woody root, and instead of ginsenosides, eleutherosides are the active compound

Besides Panax ginseng, there are a lot of other plants which are also popular as or mistaken for the ginseng root. The most commonly well known examples are Xiyangshen, also popular as American ginseng, Japanese ginseng, prince ginseng, and Siberian ginseng. Even though all have the name ginseng, each plant has distinctively different functions. However, true ginseng plants belong to the Panax genus.

Both American ginseng  and Asian ginseng roots are taken orally as adaptogens, aphrodisiacs, nourishing stimulants, and in the treatment of type II diabetes, as well as for sexual dysfunction in men. Ginsenosides are the active compounds that distinguish the Panax species.

Many studies have been conducted with varying results using only ginseng extracts. But, when ginseng is used in variation with other traditional Chinese herbs, the synergistic effects had many more definitive and positive results.

In research, it has been difficult to either verify or quantify the exact medicinal benefits of ginseng using science, as there are contradictory results from different studies, possibly because of the wide variety and quality of ginseng used in the tests. High-quality studies of the effects of ginseng in the United States are rare.

American ginseng, similar to Panax ginseng in that they both contain the active component ginsenosides, is distinguished in traditional Chinese medicine theory by having a cold property while the property of ginseng is warm.

Japanese ginseng, although the same species as ginseng, is considered to have cooling properties similar to American ginseng because of  the difference in cultivation environment.

A recent study at the University of Hongkong has identified ginseng to have anti-inflammatory effects.  A randomized, double-blind pilot study noted Ginseng appeared to reduce fatigue in cancer patients.

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