Nature is abundant with medicinal herbs and plants that provide amazing natural health benefits. Ginseng is one of those herbs. Known to have astounding healing properties, ginseng has been used as a popular herbal medicine for thousands of years. In fact, when most herbs only treat one ailment, ginseng is known for its potential to do so much more. Thought of as the “elixir of life,” ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for centuries and is currently one of the most widely used herbal products throughout the world. It has the ability to help prolong life, promote vitality and treat many health issues, from stress and depression to diabetes and inflammatory conditions.
TYPES OF GINSENG
Not all ginseng is alike, however. There are around 13 different plants associated with the herb, but only a few are used for therapeutic purposes. Ginseng that falls under the botanical name of genus Panax is most commonly used for the purpose of treatment. Panax derives its name from the Greek words pan (meaning “all”) and akos (meaning “healing”), as named by the botanist Carl Meyer. It is the root that packs the most powerful medicinal punch. Also called Asian or Korean ginseng, it is native to China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam.
Not to be confused with American ginseng (panax quinquefolius), panax ginseng is more potent than its American cousin. Also, there is a distinct difference in the chemical composition of panax ginseng and American ginseng – panax ginseng has warming properties and American ginseng has cooling properties. In addition, Siberian ginseng, known as Eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus), is a completely different species. These three herbs – Panax, American and Eleuthero – are not interchangeable.
Botanical Name – Panax Ginseng
Other Common Names – C.A. Meyer Araliaceae, Asian ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Japanese ginseng, Korean ginseng, Guigai, Ninjin, Panax schinseng, Oriental ginseng.
Habitat – China, Japan, Korea and Vietnam
Description – Panax ginseng grows best in cooler regions of the Northern Hemisphere. The plant has yellow-green umbrella-shaped flowers that grow in a circle around its stem. It blooms in midsummer and grows to a height of about one foot. Its fruit is a bright red berry about the size of small peas.
The medicinal properties of panax ginseng are found in both the leaf and its light tan gnarly-looking root. The root sometimes resembles a human body form, with stringy shoots that look like arms and legs. You can tell how old a plant is by looking at the wrinkles around the neck of the root. A mature root is two to four inches long and around one inch thick. It takes five to seven years for a root to become fully mature.
GINSENOSIDES IN PANAX GINSENG
Besides proteins and carbohydrates, ginseng also contains amino acids, vitamins, fatty acids, volatile oils and something called ginsenosides (ginseng saponins). Ginsenosides are the major active ingredients in ginseng and have the highest medicinal value. The amount of ginsenosides differs among the variety of species, with 38 ginsenosides being identified in panax ginseng alone.
Saponins are healthy chemical compounds or plant steroids that occur in a wide range of herbs, seeds and vegetables. They contain anti-inflammatory and immune-stimulating properties. More specifically, saponins help defend a plant or animal’s body. For example, concentrated saponins in animals, such as snake venom, protect the animal from predators, but are harmful to humans. Plant saponins (including ginsenosides), on the other hand, are healthy and beneficial to the human body. When consumed by humans, they are absorbed by the body intact. In medicine, they’re used in vaccine formulations to regulate immune function.
Many studies conducted over the years confirm the health benefits of saponins. They may – among other things – help reduce cholesterol levels, kill disease-causing bacteria, inhibit tumor growth and prevent and treat obesity. Not only do they exhibit anti-inflammatory and immune-boosting effects, but they also offer antibacterial properties.
The ginsenosides in panax ginseng are also known to have the capacity to soothe the nervous system, balance metabolism, decrease blood sugar and stimulate the endocrine system. Research has shown that panax ginseng is effective in restoring and maintaining the cell’s capacity to function, making it potentially useful as an anti-aging treatment.
Panax ginseng is considered an adaptogen. It supports and normalizes the body’s functions by reducing fatigue and increasing its resistance to physical, chemical and biological stress.
Age, root weight, soil fertility, light and location of growth are all factors that can affect ginsenoside content in panax ginseng. The method of processing and extraction can also alter the amount and concentration of ginsenosides in panax ginseng.
TYPES OF PANAX GINSENG
Fresh panax ginseng that is harvested at less than four years has very few medicinal properties. It may be used as a cooking ingredient. When the root of panax ginseng is harvested after 5 years, it contains up to two times the functional health benefits than younger roots.
The content and composition of available ginsenosides in the roots of panax ginseng also vary with the processing methods. Panax ginseng for medicinal use and health benefits is made into white and red panax ginseng.
- White Panax Ginseng – Produced by peeling and sun-drying a four- to 6-year-old root.
- Red Panax Ginseng – Harvested at 6 years or older, the fresh root is steamed for two to three hours and then dried to a moisture content of less than 15 percent. This process turns the root a dark brownish-red color.
BENEFITS AND USES OF RED PANAX GINSENG
Not only does the steaming and drying process prolong red panax ginseng’s shelf life (it can be stored up to 10 years), but it also increases the healthy, active components that exist in its roots. Red panax ginseng contains significantly higher biological effects and fewer side effects compared to fresh or white ginseng.
The steaming and drying process locks in the healthy molecules for later absorption by the human body, where the nutrients would normally degrade in fresh ginseng over time. Steaming also transforms ginsenosides and makes them even more bioavailable to humans, allowing red panax ginseng to have better medicinal functions. Moreover, the nutrient-dense processed red ginseng contains specific ginsenosides not found in other ginseng. These three saponins help support immunity, memory and liver functions.
The proper use of red panax ginseng extract can help greatly increase a person’s quality of life. Following are some uses and benefits of this remarkable herb for your mind and body:
- ADHD – An 8-week study was performed on 70 children diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder. After being given one gram of red panax ginseng extract twice a day for 8 weeks, half of the subjects showed significantly decreased inattention/hyperactivity scores compared to the control group. The results suggest that red panax ginseng extract may be safe and effective as an alternative treatment for ADHD.
- Alcohol Intoxication – When red panax ginseng extract is taken after increased alcohol consumption, it can lower the blood alcohol level and reduce absorption by the stomach.
- Alzheimer’s Disease – Since it is an antioxidant and adaptogen, the root protects vulnerable brain cells from free radical damage. Also, it prevents memory loss and protects against age-related mental decline. When 15 Alzheimer’s patients were treated with high doses of red panax ginseng for 12 weeks they showed improved functional and cognitive performance compared to an untreated, control group.
- Anti-Aging – Historically, ginseng has been thought to prolong lifespan. Red panax ginseng is capable of reducing free radicals and increasing antioxidant potential, thus stabilizing how your body reacts to antagonizing stress. It also helps supply blood flow to internal organs through capillaries that normally shrink as we age. This allows for better bodily performance and organ health.
- Very often, the aging process is most visible in the skin. Genetics, environmental stress, hormones and metabolism can all lead to changes in the skin’s function and appearance – causing it to become dry, thin and lose its elasticity. Red panax ginseng extract and its ginsenosides has shown to prevent aging of skin, increase collagen and decrease facial wrinkling.
- Asthma – Red panax ginseng extract is known to create a relaxing effect on muscles in the lungs, resulting in airway expansion. This may help relieve symptoms of asthma and other lung conditions caused by constricted airways. Via anti-inflammatory functions of the ginsenosides and the increased bioactivity of red panax ginseng, the herb shows promise in preventing and treating not only asthma, but other inflammatory diseases, as well.
- Cancer – Several studies have been conducted in Asia with outcomes to suggest that ginseng intake can reduce the risk of cancer – in particular, red panax ginseng. Because a Western diet may alter the metabolism of ginseng, this might not be the case in non-Asian countries. Ginseng contains anti-tumor properties and offers protection against certain types of cancer, such as stomach, ovarian, pancreatic, liver and lung. It may also provide better outcomes for patients with breast cancer, especially with quality of life and improved rates of survival.
- Cancer-related fatigue is the most common symptom in patients. Red panax ginseng appears to be effective in preventing or treating cancer-related fatigue and improving quality of life. It can increase energy, improve appetite and promote sleep.
- Diabetes – Red panax ginseng extract has been found to improve glucose control in patients with type 2 diabetes. Test subjects who consumed a 5-gram red panax ginseng capsule daily for 12 weeks showed significant decreases in serum glucose levels. There were also major decreases in serum insulin and C-peptide concentrations. The herb may help with the treatment and management of type 2 diabetes and possibly high cholesterol.
- Energy/Well-Being – One of the most well-known health benefits of ginseng is its ability to boost energy. It has been used to enhance stamina and strength for hundreds of years. Red panax ginseng is beneficial for healthy people who want to boost their performance, as well as for those coping with disease-based fatigue. The mental energy created by ginseng is unlike that from coffee or other caffeinated beverages, it won’t make you jittery or crash. It is a useful herbal remedy for Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, and helpful in treating both depression and anxiety.
- Heart Health – As we age, changes and complications occur in cardiovascular structure and function. The heart enlarges and has to work harder. Ginseng has been shown to be cardio-protective because of its anti-oxidative, anti-arrhythmic and anti-inflammatory properties. It helps reduce heart rate and blood pressure, as well as decrease harmful LDL cholesterol levels.
- Another positive effect on cardiovascular health is ginseng’s ability to keep arterial blood vessels from thickening and reducing blood flow. Red panax ginseng extract can help regulate the inner lining of the blood vessels, aiding in increased blood flow.
- Immunity/Inflammation – The immune response is the most important defense system that protects our bodies from attacks by microorganisms and toxic chemical compounds. The ginsenosides in red panax ginseng have shown to control and prevent a variety of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as arthritis, pulmonary disease, cancer, diabetes, neurological and autoimmune disease.
- Several studies on ginseng’s positive effects on the immune system show the importance of this herb’s ginsenosides. Taking 100 milligrams daily enhanced the effectiveness of the influenza vaccine. Those taking ginseng had a lower incidence of flu and colds and higher antibody titers. In another study, patients with acute exacerbation of chronic bronchitis were treated with both ginseng and antibiotics. Compared to those treated with only antibiotics, they showed faster recovery.
- Menopause – Red panax ginseng helps relieve post-menopausal symptoms, such as hot flashes and improves emotional balance. The ginsenosides also help improve well-being, cognitive function, memory performance and attention.
- Mental Clarity – Taking 200 milligrams daily is known to improve cognitive function and performance. It can also help with enhanced concentration, especially in middle-aged adults. Red panax ginseng acts as a brain protector and booster.
- Sexual Vitality – Ginseng has long been touted as a tremendous aid in improving sexual function and libido in both men and women. The herb is considered an aphrodisiac and can help restore sexual function in men. Red panax ginseng is especially helpful for men with erectile dysfunction. It promotes healthy blood circulation and increases stamina. Its ability to help with fatigue, anxiety and depression also makes ginseng an ideal assistant for sexual health support.
- Stress – Red panax ginseng effectively regulates the immune response and hormonal changes due to stress, helping to maintain homeostasis. It is also able to suppress both stress-associated psychological diseases, such as anxiety and depression, as well as stress-induced physiological diseases. When stress increases beyond a certain level, it leads to adverse health effects and ginseng’s antioxidant properties can help relieve symptoms. The ginsenosides in red panax ginseng can regulate the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis and improve a person’s response to stress. It provides a potential treatment for those suffering from stress-related diseases, such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder.
- Wound Healing – Red panax ginseng extracts have been used clinically for years as topical treatments for atopic dermatitis, wounds and skin inflammation. Specific ginsenosides in red panax ginseng are also beneficial when it comes to burn wound healing. Also, orally administered red panax ginseng extract stimulates the repair of skin ulcers in patients with diabetes mellitus.
- Other Uses and Benefits of Red Panax Ginseng – Red panax ginseng extract, with its immune-boosting abilities, can help relieve symptoms of and support those suffering with certain diseases and disorders, such as multiple sclerosis, cystic fibrosis, gastritis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), HIV/AIDS and fibromyalgia.
- Red Panax ginseng is also used for fever, hangover, loss of appetite, vomiting, gallstones, bad breath, insomnia, nerve pain, dizziness, headache, convulsions and disorders related to pregnancy and birth.
- Potential Uses for Red Panax Ginseng – Researchers are looking at possible ginseng treatments for brain and nervous system disorders – due to its effectiveness with Alzheimer’s Disease. In a study of rats with spinal cord injuries, those given the extract healed faster. Another study showed that rats infected with the dangerous pneumococcal strep bacteria had higher survival rates when they were treated with red panax ginseng.
FORMS OF RED PANAX GINSENG EXTRACT
Red panax ginseng extract is primarily sold as a liquid in small vials or bottles that are available in 10- to 30-vial packages. It is also available in powdered form and in capsules and tablets.
RED PANAX GINSENG EXTRACT DOSAGES
The typical recommended daily dosage of fresh panax ginseng root is 1,000 to 2,000 milligrams, containing four to 7 percent of helpful ginsenosides. The recommended dose of red panax ginseng extract in liquid form is 200 to 600 milligrams daily – used for two weeks followed by two weeks without taking it. There are a variety of ginsenosides in panax ginseng, so different products may deliver different quantities, resulting in varied effects.
Always use only standardized red panax ginseng products, and always consult a healthcare professional before taking red panax ginseng extract.
POTENTIAL SIDE EFFECTS OF RED PANAX GINSENG EXTRACT
In general, red panax ginseng extract is safe to take for individuals in good health. For some, however, the herb may cause an elevation in blood pressure, tremors, nervousness, headache, vomiting, insomnia and nose bleeds.
For patients with heart disease who are taking certain medications, such as Digoxin, the use of panax ginseng may cause falsely abnormal blood tests.
Red panax ginseng should be avoided if you are consistently taking aspirin, Warfarin/Coumadin, oral hypoglycemic agents, insulin, Phenelzine, ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen (Aleve).
Red panax ginseng is not recommended for use during pregnancy or for those suffering from manic disorders or psychosis.
Again, always consult with your doctor when deciding to add red panax ginseng extract – or any new supplement – to your healthcare regiment.
FINAL DISCUSSION ON RED PANAX GINSENG EXTRACT
The “all-healing” powers of panax ginseng have been known and used for thousands of years. Steaming and drying the root – creating red panax ginseng extract – has allowed for more of its beneficial ginsenosides to take effect. It seems as if the health and wellness benefits of red panax ginseng extract are endless. Used properly, red panax ginseng extract is safe and tolerable for long-term use. It stands up to being called “the elixir of life” and may be able to help you feel improvement in your overall health and well-being.
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