Panax ginseng is a member of the genus Panax and the family, Araliaceae. Another common type of ginseng is American ginseng or Panax quinquefolius. Ginseng can be found in the cooler regions of Northern Hemisphere, mainly in North America, China, and Korea. Panax ginseng has a long history of being used as a traditional medicine in China. Its extract is mainly derived from the fleshy root of the ginseng plant.
The main active ingredients found in ginseng and its herbal extract are the 'ginsenosides'. The ginsenosides are believed to possess several important medicinal properties, and provide a number of health benefits, a few of which are enlisted below.
- Ginseng is mainly used as an adaptogen, i.e., as a substance that can enhance the body's ability to cope with stress, fatigue, and anxiety. It can help minimize the negative effects of stress on the body.
- Ginseng can boost heart health. It can help lower the levels of triglycerides and LDL cholesterol in the body. This in turn, may lower the risk of several cardiovascular diseases.
- Ginseng may help increase the level of HDL cholesterol. HDL cholesterol is the good cholesterol that can help improve the health of the heart and the cardiovascular system.
- Ginseng extracts can help regulate the level of blood sugar. So, individuals with diabetes may benefit from this herbal extract.
- It can boost the immune system and enhance its functions. It has been observed that ginseng can prove beneficial in improving the ability of the immune system to fight against bacteria and viruses.
- The herbal extract prepared from the root of the ginseng plant can improve sexual health in both men and women. It may prove helpful in conditions like erectile dysfunction as well.
- Ginseng is known to possess anticancer properties. In some studies, it has been observed that ginseng extracts can lower the risk of certain types of cancer.
- It can also reduce a few uncomfortable menopausal symptoms, such as mood swings, anxiety, and sexual problems.
- It can stimulate the brain, and enhance memory, mental alertness, clarity, and concentration.
When taken in excess, ginseng can cause a few side effects, such as upset stomach, headaches, diarrhea, and insomnia. This herbal extract prepared from ginseng can also lower the blood sugar level and cause changes in blood pressure. Other less common, but serious side effects include, rapid heartbeat, vaginal bleeding, changes in menstrual cycle, nosebleed, male breast enlargement or gynecomastia, breast tenderness, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, and palpitation. Individuals allergic to this herb can experience breathing problems or shortness of breath, skin rash or hives, itching, and unusual swelling and wheezing.
Ginseng extracts can be found in the form of pills, as well as liquid. As far as the dosage is concerned, this herbal extract is usually used in the dosage of 200 mg per day in various clinical studies. So, 200 mg per day is considered as the standardized dose.
If taken excessively, ginseng can cause a few side effects. So, it is better to take this herbal extract only in the recommended dosage. People having any kind of chronic disease, as well as those taking medications for a specific health condition should take this herb only under the supervision of a physician or health care provider.
Disclaimer: This HolisticZine article is for informative purposes only, and should not be replaced for the advice of a medical professional.