Ginseng grows mainly in the mountainous terrains of Eastern Asia. It has been used as a popular ingredient in early folk medicines.
Classifications of the Herb
Today, you can find different varieties of Ginseng, of which the popular ones include the:
- Panax Ginseng, otherwise called the Asian Ginseng.
- Panax Quinquefolius, commonly known as the American Ginseng.
- Gāolíshēn, popularly known as the Korean Ginseng.
However, only harvested ginseng should be used for clinical purposes. Based on the herb’s harvesting period, it is classified into three types.
- Fresh ginseng – It needs a harvest period of only four years or less.
- White ginseng – The plant has a harvest period of four to six years from its cultivation.
- Red ginseng – This variety is reaped after six years or more.
Each variety offers unique benefits. For instance, the American ginseng proves to be an excellent relaxing agent, while the Asian ginseng produces an invigorating effect. The difference in each variety lies in the difference in concentration of its two active compounds:
The Numerous Health Benefits
The plant, in general, is known to enhance general well-being. Here are some of the benefits that Ginseng has to offer.
1. Helps to boost Energy Levels – Findings reveal that extracts help the body to fight off fatigue and keep tiredness at bay. It is also proven to be efficient in enhancing one’s physical activities by increasing the production of energy and reducing the oxidative damage in the cells.
2. Reduces Inflammation – Ginseng extracts with its active compound ginsenosides help in reducing inflammation by serving as a potent antioxidant. The results of which have been recorded in the “Journal of Translational Medicine”. Further, research reveals that extracts of red ginseng aid in fighting oxidative stress because its antioxidant properties.
3. Proves to be Beneficial in patients suffering from cancer – Several types of research conducted show that the herb helps to prevent the possibility of certain types of cancers by reducing the inflammation of the cells and by increasing the antioxidant effect in the body. The ginsenoside compounds also help the body’s cell cycle to inhibit abnormal growth and production of malignant cells.
Further, studies reveal that patients undergoing cancer treatment cope with fatigue better and are in an improved state of physical and mental health if they take the plant regularly. However, the results remain inconclusive and no significant change is observed in patients who have already completed their treatment.
Other Health Benefits
4.Prevents Flu by Increasing Immunity – A recent survey showed that adults who consumed American ginseng regularly had 48 percent lesser chances of falling sick due to viral respiratory illness. It also showed that the herb was found to be effective in reducing recurrent colds, as it helped stimulate the body’ immune system to ward off infections.
There have been several other research carried out in this front. For example, a study on mice injected with Ginseng extracts suggested its capability to avert viral infections such as influenza. For this, the Red Ginseng is the best, as it helps in reviving the infected epithelial cells present in the lungs.
5.Improves Brain Functioning – the herb is closely associated with enhanced brain development such as improved cognitive function, better moods, improved memory, and better thinking processes. Results published in the “Cochrane Library and the Journal of Dairy Science” proves this.
6.Helps in Reducing Blood Sugar – the plant has the ability to control blood sugar not only in people suffering from diabetes but also in those who do not. Thanks to the active compound ginsenoside, which helps in enhancing the pancreatic function in the body by increasing the production of insulin and enhancing sugar uptake in the tissues.
Studies also prove that the antioxidant effect of the plant helps it to lower the concentration of free radicals present in the cells of diabetic patients. However, this is achievable only with the help of standardized plant roots, intensive research, and deduction of specific herb dosage.
7.Helps in the Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction – the herb supplements are recommended to men suffering from erectile dysfunction. Asian ginseng, in particular, is known to improve sexual performance and sperm production. Further, active compounds present in all the extracts help the tissues and blood vessels present in the penis to carry out regular functions.
A study in Korea, using the red Korean ginseng, showed a 60 percent improvement in men suffering from erectile dysfunction.
Adverse Effects of using the herb
Ginseng derived from natural plant source is considered safe when taken internally. However, there have been instances where people have experienced certain side effects on excessive or abusive usage of the herb. The complete list of side effects of Ginseng is not known but you may experience the following effects:
- Mild to severe headaches that may be persistent
- Problems associated with your sleep patterns
- Problems of the stomach and digestion
- Cases of diarrhea
- Occasional bloating or edema
- Internal bleeding of the blood vessels
- Irritability and mood swings
- Nervousness or feeling jittery
- Blurred vision or impaired visibility
- Cases of dizziness
Other uncommon side effects of the herb include damage to the liver, heart problems, mental disorders, skin rashes, and other allergic reactions.
Medical Interactions of Ginseng with Other Substances
Health professionals advice caution while consuming the herb mainly because of the interactions of its active compounds with other substances.
1. With Caffeine – Caffeine is known to pump energy into the body, thereby accelerating the nervous system. This could increase your heartbeat and make you feel jittery.
Ginseng also produces a similar effect. Thus, consuming both caffeine and the plan could cause both your heart rate and blood pressure to increase abnormally high, which could be fatal. Hence, avoid taking caffeine with Ginseng.
2. With Medications – Studies show that Ginseng has the ability to regulate blood pressure and blood glucose. Hence, doctors do not recommend taking the herb with medications prescribed for diabetes, high blood pressure, and other heart conditions, as it could lead to internal bleeding and other effects as mentioned above.
For this, Ginseng should not be taken along with calcium channel blockers, namely Amlodipine (Norvasc), Felodipine and others.
3.With Antidepressants – Medical doctors strictly advise patients not to mix any variety of Ginseng with antidepressants, especially MAOIs, medically known as Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors. Consuming ginseng and antidepressants could lead to manic episodes and mild to severe tremors.
Although there is no clear evidence pointing towards the plant’s true nature, Ginseng continues to be a natural healer. Despite claims from health professionals who question Ginseng’s medicinal properties, the herb is widely used for its many wonderful health benefits.
Today, Ginseng is readily available as a medicinal supplement and in different product forms that vary in its quality, active compound concentration, and properties. Hence, ensure to check the ingredients before buying ginseng supplements.
While some products contain only traces of Ginseng extracts, others may include unwanted substances that are not needed or might be harmful to the human body.
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