Ginseng is a perennial plant that grows between 7 to 21 inches in height when wild. Each plant takes over 5-6 years to grow but the roots can live for over 100 years. The root is creamy yellow or white resembling a parsnip with rootlets that branch off sometimes in the shape of a person. It grows naturally on the slopes of ravines and shady, well drained, mountainous, hardwood forests. The root is the part that is consumed. Ginseng is the most widely used herb in the Orient.
Ginseng is found in three types. American and Siberian ginseng are popular in North America. American ginseng grows from Quebec to Minnesota and to the south to Georgia and Oklahoma. The third kind, oriental or Korean ginseng, is the most widely used ginseng in the world. Some claim that American ginseng roots have a cooling quality while oriental ginseng warms the body. Siberian ginseng is not a true ginseng but has similar effects. The Chinese named the herb from two words meaning “Man Plant” since the root often gives the form of a person.
The benefits of ginseng have been known for thousands of years. The benefits include being used as an adaptogen, which means it stabilizes physical functioning as needed. Ingredients in ginseng include 27 ginsenocides that enable ginseng to balance and counterbalance the effects of stress. It can be used to lower high blood pressure and also to raise low blood pressure. Ginseng also increases performance and energy levels in people that are constantly exhausted. Those who are recovering from an illness, people with a heavy work load or those that always feel run down are first to praise the effects of the herb.
Ginseng tea and the powder contain vitamins A, B-6 and Zinc which helps in the functioning of the immune system. Ginseng is used to increase estrogen levels in women and to treat menopause symptoms. It is also used to stimulate the heart and blood vessels. This improves memory as well.
A list of things ginseng is used to treat might include colds, coughs, rheumatism, neuralgia, gout, diabetes, anemia insomnia, stress, headache, backache and double vision. Women find it helpful in normalizing menstruation and easing childbirth. Ginseng was used effectively as a mouth wash against Periodontal Disease which is a progressive destruction of the supporting structures of the teeth. Ginseng also counteracts fatigue without caffeine, and improves stamina. Medically, ginseng stimulates the immune system by also spurring the production of the body’s own virus fighting chemicals.
Traditionally, ginseng has been used to enhance sexual desire by promoting sex hormone production. Recent research shows that regular use of Ginseng is helpful in the slowing down of the aging process. Ginseng’s value is mainly as a preventative though it is also used by some in cures. It should be taken over a long period of time to stimulate rejuvenation and virility.
Root slices can be brewed slowly in a tea pot (silver or glass) for one hour. Generally a bitter tasting root indicates higher potency. Root slivers can also be added to soups or other dishes. In some preparations it is desirable to first grind your ginseng. The resulting powder can be used in meals or can be placed under your tongue where the high concentrations of blood vessels allow the ginsenocides to be absorbed directly into the blood stream. Also, try chewing the dried root like a piece of hard candy. A quick five minute soak in boiling water will make the root more palatable. The optimal dosage of ginseng is two or three grams a day. Ginseng tends to kick in after six weeks or so, and the most significant results can be seen after six months of use. This is especially true in people with pale unhealthy skin, lassitude, and depression.
Ginseng appears to be relatively safe. Korean ginseng is the most potent of the three types, so overdose of it is most possible. Most side effects, such as nervousness, dizziness, mood changes, insomnia, headache and loss of appetite are from people who take more than the recommended dosage. Some say to avoid ginseng if you are pregnant or nursing but others say it is safe for everyone. Of course, always remember to consult your physician before taking this or any other supplement.