Saturday, November 20, 2010

Ginseng, the Root of Heaven

Eisha Sarkar
Posted on Hello Wellness on  Nov 20, 2010
 
Think of Chinese medicine and you think of ginseng. Described in 4000-year-old Shen Nung Pen Ts'ao Ching (The Book of Herbs by Shen Nung), the ginseng root is now finally getting the recognition it deserves as a healing herb.  Ginseng is characterized by the presence of active compounds called ginsenosides, a class of steroid glycosides, and triterpene saponins that work:

  • To vitalize, strengthen, and rejuvenate the entire body
  • As carminatives to prevent or relieve flatulence (gas in the gastrointestinal tract) and, in infants, help in the treatment of colic
  • As expectorants by promoting or facilitating the secretion or expulsion of phlegm, mucus, or other matter from the respiratory tract
  • As demulcents to relieve pain in inflamed or irritated mucous membranes
  • As stimulants and tonics that increase physiological activity
  • To stimulate as well as relaxes the nervous system
  • To promote the secretion of hormones
  • To enhance stamina
  • To lower blood sugar and cholesterol
  • To increase immunity against diseases
  • In the treatment of sexual dysfunction
  • In the treatment of debility by old age or illness, appetite loss, insomnia, stress,  and shock

Old remedy for new woes
In the West, ginseng is studied for a number of purposes, from treating stress to increasing levels of alertness and mental clarity. Ginseng is noted for being an adaptogen (a product that increases the body's resistance to stress) due to its anti-carcinogenic and anti-oxidant properties. It is often used in combination with other traditional Chinese herbs such as in Si Jun Zi Tang that has been shown to protect from harmful effects of radiation.
Is ginseng safe?
Ginseng, if used in correct dosages, has minimal side-effects. The most common are insomnia and nervousness, especially in people who take ginseng consistently in large dosages. Ginseng also appears to interfere with the action of blood-thinning drugs such as warfarin. A number of drugs such as aspirin and ibuprofin may be rendered ineffective or combine dangerously with ginseng.

Pregnant women should not take ginseng because the ginsenoside Rb1 it contains may harm the growing foetus. Consult your doctor before taking any herbal remedy.

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