Ginseng is a commonly used herb by people to treat many types of health problems. The term ginseng refers to several species of the genus panax. Ginseng’s medical properties date back thousands of years. The Chinese and other Oriental cultures have widely use ginseng not only as a healing substance but also as a preventive aid. The two most common species of ginseng used as health supplements are the Asian and American ginseng. The wild Asian ginseng is now rarely available because of widespread cultivation. There is also the Siberian ginseng which is being promoted as a cheaper version with identical benefits. However, Siberian ginseng has been found to have no health benefits and in fact is more likely to induce allergies

When should one use ginseng?

Because if it’s anti oxidant properties some experts recommend daily intake of ginseng for treatment of certain heart disorders. There is some evidence to suggest that ginseng can help lower blood cholesterol levels. However, it is not known if in the long term ginseng usage can help maintain this benefit. Anecdotal reports exist that people who take ginseng rarely get heart attacks.

There are several studies which show that ginseng may lower blood sugar levels in type 2 diabetics. The other great benefit of ginseng is that the lowering of sugar is not drastic and it does not cause hypoglycemic attacks like many diabetic drugs. Ginseng has not been well studied in type 1 diabetics as yet.

Reports also indicate that daily intake of ginseng may help boost the immune system. People who take ginseng on a daily basis claim that they do seem to have lower incidence of the flu, common cold and other upper respiratory tract infections.

Asides from the above three disorders, there are many other disorders where the manufacturers claim benefits of ginseng but in reality there are no clinical data to support these statements. The disorders where there is no clinical evidence for ginseng include aplastic anemia (damage to bone marrow), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder, asthma, cancer treatment or prevention, chronic hepatitis B, COPD, emphysema, congestive heart failure, dementia, fibromyalgia, impotence, kidney stones, liver cirrhosis, and urinary tract infections.

Because there are many formulations of ginseng, standardized dosing does not exist. In general one should take ginseng continuously for 2-4 weeks and not exceed 1 gr dry root daily, it is recommended that one take a break of 1-2 weeks in-between each cycle.

Ginseng is available as a capsule, tincture, solution, gel and tea. The ginseng paste has been claimed to treat erectile failure when applied to skin.

Ginseng should be avoided by individuals who have allergies to the panax species of plants. Signs of allergy include skin rash, itching and shortness of breath. In general, the herb is well tolerated. The most common side effects include skin rash, diarrhea, sore throat, loss of appetite, anxiety, headache, fever, rapid heart rate, leg swelling and mania. There are also rare reports of seizures and nose bleeding when taking certain ginseng products.

While ginseng has not been thoroughly studied in pregnancy, it has found to be safe when used by breast feeding individuals and in pregnancy

Today, there are hundreds of varieties of ginseng formulas available and for the consumer label reading is essential. Only buy the American or Asian ginseng to be on the safe side.

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