Ginseng is a perennial plant that belongs to the genus Panax and family Araliaceae. There are eleven species of this plant, out of which the American, Asian, red, and wild ginseng are the most commonly used varieties. It has been one of the most important herbal medicines used in Chinese alternative treatment for almost 5000 years. It is believed to have several beneficial effects on the mental and physical well-being of individuals. Recently, it has become a subject of several studies and research for its presumed effects on alleviating a number of ailments. The results of such studies have thrown light on the various aspects of ginseng, and helped explain the ways in which it can affect our body.
» Both American and panax or Asian ginseng, and especially their roots, have been in use as adaptogens and aphrodisiacs. Adaptogens play an important role in reducing the level of stress and aphrodisiacs are used for enhancing libido. Taking it orally has shown a beneficial effect on mental performance by improving memory and thinking and arithmetic abilities.
» It contains a compound known as ginsenoside, that can directly affect the central nervous system and tissues of the reproductive organs. The compound ginsenoside can also affect the insulin level and hence can be effective in reducing the level of blood sugar.
» It also contains phytoestrogens, which explains its ability to relieve menopausal symptoms.
» It is known for its antioxidant properties which can protect the body against the oxidative damage by free radicals, and thus reduce cell damage, improve cardiovascular health, and delay aging.
» It contains polysaccharides, which explains its immune system augmenting effects. It affects metabolism by increasing body heat and converting fat into muscle.
» It has anti-clotting effects, and can thus lower the risk of arterial blood clotting.
Uses of Ginseng
» Ginseng is traditionally used for treating a number of diseases including stress, impotence, anemia, insomnia, type 2 diabetes (by lowering fasting blood sugar), erectile dysfunction, male infertility, gastritis, fever, fluid retention, and several respiratory tract infections like the common cold and influenza.
» Though there is not enough evidence, many believe that it may be effective in treating attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue and even in HIV/AIDS and various types of cancer like skin, ovarian, lung, and liver cancer.
» It can considerably alleviate conditions like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) by improving the functions of the lung.
» Nowadays, it is also used in a number of weight loss formulas, for its presumed effect on lowering cholesterol. It prevents the full absorption of fat and its conservation, and can be therefore helpful in the treatment of obesity.
Despite all the health benefits of ginseng, it can produce several side effects in some individuals as indicated by scientific studies.
» It may produce severe rashes and allergic reactions in some individuals, while an overdose may damage the liver.
» Diarrhea, insomnia, headaches, palpitations, nervousness, hypertension, itching and vaginal bleeding in women are some other side effects.
» It is especially not recommended for pregnant and lactating women.
» Besides these, ginseng can clash with certain medications like warfarin, depression and diabetes medications, if taken together.
» People who suffer from any autoimmune disease should not take it without consulting a doctor. It should not be given to children and infants as its effects have not been fully studied in them.
To sum up, ginseng is considered a herb suitable for the overall well-being of an individual, as it can improve the quality of life by enhancing both physical and mental stamina. However, before taking any kind of herb, it is important to consult a health care professional to avoid any possible side effects.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.