Ginseng roots, revered in China as ‘the root of life’, resemble the human body in shape and are a general panacea, improving vitality, stamina and performance. Several species are grown worldwide and their medicinal use dates back 7000 years.
Ginseng roots, revered in China as ‘the root of life’, resemble the human body in shape and are a general panacea, improving vitality, stamina and performance. Several species are grown worldwide and their medicinal use dates back 7000 years. Four belong to the Araliaceae plant family, sharing similar tonic and rejuvenating properties:
Korean and American ginseng are both Panax species with a similar chemical composition, while Tienchi ginseng (notoginseng or pseudoginseng) is another Panax with haemostatic and adaptogenic properties. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is another adaptogen with different active compounds to Panax.
From a different plant family (Solanaceae) Indian ginseng (Withania somnifera), also known as Ashwagandha, shares many similar properties with the true ginsengs.
Peruvian ginseng is another name for Maca root (Lepidium peruvianum chacon) from yet another plant family, cruciferae.
All types of ginseng are:
- Tonic (adaptogenic)
- Memory and cognition enhancing
- Immune stimulants
- Adrenal agents
- Blood sugar regulators
- Heart tonics
- Nervine tonics
Korean ginseng is highly stimulating and best used early in the day. Generally more suited to men than women.
American ginseng is traditionally used to promote female fertility. Milder in action than Korean ginseng.
Tienchi ginseng is primarily used to treat haemorrhage and not as a general energy tonic.
Siberian ginseng is considered the number one aphrodisiac and treatment for impotency.
Indian ginseng is another with aphrodisiac properties for both women and men.
Peruvian ginseng is another potent adaptogen, endocrine tonic and energising herb famed for its aphrodisiac properties for both sexes.
Ginseng Side Effects and Contraindications
As all the ginsengs are stimulants, caution is advised re high dosage or long term use, and in cases of hypertension, sleep disorders, during pregnancy and breastfeeding.
The following cautions apply to Korean ginseng:
High doses can aggravate and may cause nausea, diarrhoea, euphoria, insomnia, hyper- or hypo- tension, jitters and breast pain.
Contraindicated for estrogen dominant menopausal women as its mildly estrogenic effect may increase bleeding.
Contraindicated in cases of high blood pressure, or any ‘hot’ condition such as fever, infection or headache.
Contraindicated during pregnancy.
Contraindicated for those on MAO inhibitor antidepressant drugs, and other medications – consult your health practitioner.