Ginseng is a common herb found more in the northern hemisphere, typically in cold areas such as Siberia. It has been used as a flavour in cooking but it has a reputation for wonderful health benefits. There is evidence from Traditional Chinese Medicine for centuries now that it has been used to relieve stress, assist in nutrition and with digestive pain. It is said to affect the “chi” (energy) and is used to treat too much “yang” which is an imbalance in the energy in the body.
The benefits of Ginseng include the stimulation of the nervous and immune system, assisting in reaching adequate levels of blood sugar and blood pressure. It has also been known to help in handling erectile dysfunction, illnesses such as Hepatitis C, to combat deficiencies in the spleen and kidney and even menopausal symptoms.
The wide spectrum of illness that Ginseng has helped with is possibly due to its chemical properties which are called saponins. These compounds vary in concentration from one geographical zone to another. In Siberia Ginseng is sometimes used to increase energy and immunity as well as stimulate appetite and memory. In Russia it is has been known to be used for stress relief. So different countries add different things to the geographical use of this herb.
Generally speaking though Ginseng assists the body with stress, fatigue and illness. These saponins have anti-inflammatory properties. They also relieve pain and help with convulsions. Furthermore, they are associated with the regulation of cholesterol and blood sugar levels. Ginseng also contains polysaccharides which boost the immune system and lower blood sugar levels. Ginseng can be found in many stores in the form of capsules, teas, creams and poultices.
Ginseng is an adaptogen. An adaptogen herb is a herb that can work in different and opposite ways. It can help to either lower or raise blood pressure. It can be also used for calming a stressed person or stimulating someone who is tired. This is the reason it needs to be used with care.
New investigations have reported that taking Ginseng can help with the body dealing with heat exposure, cold, exhaustion, viruses, bacteria and extremes of noise and pollution. Research also shows that it can help with memory and concentration, colds and flu, increase muscle strength and help the elderly to be more alert. Other studies show that it helps with lesions in herpes simplex virus by lowering frequency and severity of outbreaks.
Later studies are on the interaction of Ginseng with other drugs with the slant of using herbs to treat chronic lung infection, high sugar levels and Alzheimer’s disease. The problem though is that some people are not tolerant to Ginseng and it can cause headaches, sleep and gastrointestinal problems. Others could have allergic reactions such as breast tenderness, higher blood pressure and it may affect your menstruation. In diabetics it may lower their blood sugar levels so if you are on insulin you need to be careful how you use it. It also interacts with bitter melon and Fenugreek which also lower blood sugar. It should not be used if you snore (sleep apnoea), have narcolepsy or if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
So Ginseng can be a handy herb to have around. It is easily found in the health food store or supermarket but the best way is to ask your natural practitioner if it is right for you as they are specially trained to know if Ginseng will do the job or if another natural product will do a better job in a different way. Never self-diagnose for what you need.