US Myprotein Writer
History of Gingseng
In a time before Jesus asked us to lift heavy weight for his sins, close to 3,000 years even, not many herbal medicines were so highly regarded and praised for being a cure all, and even less are still around today. One plant that has stood the test of time though is ginseng.
Known in ancient times for its almost magical ability in all things health, including: promoting immune system, overall energy, reverse aging, lengthen life and treat many ailments including depression, diabetes, fatigue, inflammation, internal degeneration, nausea, tumors, pulmonary problems, dyspepsia, vomiting, nervousness, stress, and ulcers.
It was in Manchuria, China where Panax ginseng, also known as Korean ginseng, was first discovered and harvested. Because of its supposed ability to cure all illnesses it was valued highly by emperors and those of high wealth, and was used in soaps, lotions, creams and more. Ginseng, however, wasn’t documented for thousands of years, until around 220 A.D.
It wasn’t until 1716 when a priest living in Canada learned of the existence of ginseng and its numerous health benefits. He was determined to find the plant in North America, more specifically parts of French Canada (which were environmentally similar to Manchuria) because of the outrageous price he had to pay since it had to be imported from Asia. After months of searching he found a plant that was almost identical to Korean ginseng in Montreal, and appropriately named it American ginseng (also known as Panax quinquefolius).
Ever since then the trade of ginseng from the U.S. to China exploded as botanists discovered the plant was extensively plentiful throughout the eastern coast of North America. Unfortunately ginseng was overharvested in the mid 70s leading to it becoming endangered. In a response to this American farmers have dedicated entire farms to cultivating ginseng, to hopefully someday remove it from the endangered species list (which they are successfully doing).
Benefits of Ginseng
Since it was so widely used thousands of years ago and is still regarded as a healthy herb today, there has to be something special to this plant right?
Some believe so, while other think the placebo effect is in full drive since ginseng was first discovered. The lack of peer reviewed, professional studies make ginseng an iffy herb to list benefits that haven’t been definitively proven. Regardless, some of the most likely (and positive) benefits for ginseng, especially the American variety, include the ability to improve memory, help lessen the side effects of diabetes/prevent contracting the condition by increasing insulin sensitivity, can help suppress cancerous tumor growth, can help prevent the contraction of a cold/flu, as well as boost the overall immune system to fight off countless ailments.
With some of the same health benefits, Korean ginseng has additional benefits including:
✓ Heart health (due to anti-hypertensive properties)
✓ Can help treat neuro-degenerative diseases including Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and Huntington’s, as Ginseng’s antioxidant properties can have an anti-inflammatory effect
✓ Help in preventing a deadly stroke for those at an elevated risk
✓ Can improve mental performance including alertness and concentration
✓ Some evidence that Korean ginseng can help men with erectile dysfunction.
A third type of ginseng does exist, which you might’ve heard of called Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). But this name is misleading, as Siberian ginseng is not actually part of the same species the other two are. But like the Panax variety, Siberian ginseng also helps strengthen the immune system, increase energy, and can actually be used as an anti-viral to prevent outbreaks of certain diseases.
How to Supplement with Ginseng
After you determine which variety of ginseng will help benefit you the most (whether you choose to use one, none or all three), it is important to know how much to take and to understand the symptoms of an overdose/allergic reaction. The general dose for all varieties that is recommended lies around 200 mg-400 mg a day, although higher doses around three grams daily is used for male libido and even up to nine grams to help Alzheimer’s patients.
Most multivitamins can have anywhere from 40 mg (which has been shown to still have minimal bioactive benefits), to up to over a gram, which is most than likely enough for a healthy individual not using ginseng for a specific purpose, rather overall health.
Possible Side Effects With Gingseng
The most common side effect when taking ginseng is insomnia, or trouble sleeping. Because the herb decreases fatigue and stimulates the mind it will have a caffeine like effect on your brain if taken too soon before bed. To prevent this, use the rule of thumb that it should be only taken the same times you would take caffeine, i.e. only in the morning through noon. Other side effects that individuals have experienced range from headaches, an elevated heart rate, and nausea. A very small amount of people are actually allergic to ginseng and if you experience a rash, itching/swelling of the face/tongue, severe dizziness, or trouble breathing then its use should be discontinued.
Ginseng also shouldn’t be combined with certain medication such as antidepressants as it might reverse the effects of the medicine. Heart and blood pressure medications are at risk of being altered negatively when taken with ginseng. Lastly don’t take ginseng with any blood clotting medication such as warfarin or aspirin as it could increase the risk of bleeding. If you are on any other medication I advise asking your doctor or pharmacist if you can take ginseng with your medication safely.
Take Home Message
As you can see ginseng is not far from the miracle Asian herb that we once thought. While it isn’t as magical as our ancestors thought it was, the health benefits are there and can be utilized by most of the population (yes even you). Ginseng (Korean, American or Siberian) can be taken in the morning along with a good multivitamin to help support overall health as well as maybe prevent you from getting the flu this season. Thank you for reading my article about ginseng to the end and I hope you learned something valuable!