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Ginseng is Good For You, But Do Not Overuse

Ginseng is a perennial herb that starts flowering in its fourth year. It grows in the United States, Canada, & the mountainous forests of eastern Asia. The translucent, yellowish brown roots are harvested when plants reach between 3 & 6 years of age. This herb has been used in the Orient for 5000 years as a tonic. According to traditional Chinese medicine’s philosophy of opposites, American ginseng is a cool or yin tonic used to treat hot symptoms such as stress, insomnia, palpitations, & headache.

In parallel, Asian ginseng is hot or yang & is used to treat cold diseases. In the Orient, ginseng is considered a cure all. This stems from the Doctrine of Signatures, because the root is said to resemble a man’s appearance & is therefore useful to treat all of man’s ailments. Throughout history, the root has been used as a treatment for asthenia, atherosclerosis, blood & bleeding disorders, colitis, & relief of symptoms associated with aging, cancer, & senility. Ginseng is also widely believed to be an aphrodisiac.

Ginseng is classified as an ‘adaptogen’, helping the body to adapt to stress, improving stamina & concentration & providing a normalizing & restorative effect. It is also widely promoted as an aphrodisiac. The Korean root is highly prized & the most expensive. Long term use of ginseng can lead to symptoms similar to those of corticosteroid poisoning, including hypertension, nervousness & sleeplessness in some subjects, yet hypotension & tranquillizing effects in others. The benefits of ginseng treatment are by no means confirmed at the pharmacological level.

One promising example of cancer preventive effects that are not specific to any organ is Panax ginseng, an herb with a long medicinal history. The genus name of ginseng, Panax, is derived from the Greek pan (all) akos (cure), meaning cure-all. No single herb can be considered a panacea, but ginseng comes close to it. Ginseng is a tonic herb that helps to improve overall health & restore the body to balance, & helps the body to heal by itself. Its protective influence against cancer has been shown by extensive preclinical & epidemiological studies.

Ginseng is a very slow growing perennial herb, reaching about 2 ft in height. The older the root, the greater is the concentration of ginsenosides, the active chemical compounds; thus the ginseng becomes more potent with time. More than 28 ginsenosides have been extracted from ginseng, & might be associated with a wide range of therapeutic actions in the central nervous system, cardiovascular, endocrine systems. Indeed, ginseng promotes immune function, metabolism, possesses antistress & anti-aging activities. Several ginsenosides were proven to be nonorgan-specific tumor suppressors & to improve learning & memory in patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

Consumer Reports revealed that the amount of ginsenosides in Ginsana®, the ginseng market leader in the United States, is well standardized. The manufacturer claims that each Ginsana capsule contains 100 mg of standardized, concentrated ginseng. A study of the Swedish Ginsana product revealed consistency in ginsenoside content between batches. Ginsana is available in the United States in soft gel capsules & chewy squares. The capsules are green because chlorophyll is added. Other forms of ginseng are most commonly available in capsule or tablet form & are usually brown. Dosage strengths normally range between 50 mg & 300 mg of Panax ginseng extract per capsule or tablet. Also, several combination products are available. For example, Ginkogin® is a combination of Panax ginseng, Ginkgo biloba, & garlic. There are other types of ginseng on the market including Siberian, Brazilian, & Indian ginseng. These are not of the genus Panax & do not contain ginsenosides.

However, two studies have also suggested that administration of ginseng and ginkgo biloba has no effect on cognition or mood. Hartley and colleagues evaluated the effects of a 6 or 12 week course of a ginkgo & ginseng combination product (Gincosan®) on the mood and cognition of postmenopausal women. Subjects were administered a battery of mood, somatic anxiety, sleepiness, and menopausal symptom tests.

No improvement in memory performance evaluated by eight separate tests was noted in either the group receiving ginseng or the group receiving ginkgo biloba. Thus, it appears that conflicting results still exist as to the ability of ginseng to improve memory and cognition; however, even in those studies demonstrating a positive effect, the enhancement was generally small in magnitude.

If ginseng are being over consume or overused symptoms of toxicity such as hypertension, shortness of breath, dizziness, inability to concentrate, a loud palpable fourth heart sound, thrusting apical pulse, and hypertensive changes on examination were reported in a 39-year-old man who had taken various ginseng products for 3 years. His blood pressure measured 140/100 mmHg on three occasions over 6 weeks, and when referred for management of his hypertension it was 154/106 mmHg. He was advised to discontinue the ginseng products and 3-month later, his symptoms had resolved.

In addition, A 72-year-old woman experienced vaginal bleeding after taking 200 mg daily of a Swiss-Austrian geriatric formulation of ginseng (Geriatric Pharmaton, Bernardgrass, Austria) for an unspecified time. In a similar case, a 62-year-old woman had undergone a total hysterectomy 14 years previously and had been taking Rumanian ginseng alternating with Gerovital® every 2 weeks for 1 year. The patient derived a marked estrogenic effect from the product based on microscopy of vaginal smears as well as the gross appearance of the vaginal and cervical epithelium.

So the bottom line is ginseng comes pretty close as one of the best natural remedy that promotes various healthy well being. It is a fantastic option for longevity but just be aware that too much of a good thing might not give you desirable result. Use ginseng in moderation & you will enjoy the great benefit of this ancient perennial herb.

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