Ginseng is a very popular herb in Asia, where it features not just in the cuisine but also as an all-purpose, life-giving herbal remedy. It has been used for centuries but Western medicine is yet to fully understand its abilities.
Traditionally ginseng has been used to reduce stress on the body, increase the strength of the immune system and delay the effects of aging. However, more recently it has been found to help with Diabetes, low libido and even cancer.
Similarly to ginger, ginseng is a rhizome, or a horizontal underground stem that gives rise to shoots above the ground. It is grown mostly in Asia, specifically China and Korea.
Its technical Latin name, Panax, literally translates to “all-heal”. This recognizes the importance that doctors placed on ginseng in ancient times as a cure for many ailments around the body.
As an ‘adaptogen’, ginseng reduces stress on the body. Asian herbologists believe that this leads to increased longevity, good health and youthfulness. Ginseng is a particularly popular herb amongst the elderly.
Ginseng is used by many sufferers of reduced libido. A 2002 study found that both American and Asian ginseng tended to increase libido and sexual performance. This may be due to the fact that it contains ginsenosides, chemicals that have been shown to strengthen male erectile tissue. It has been used both as an aphrodisiac and as a cure for Erectile Dysfunction (ED).
Ginseng is believed to have a boosting effect on the immune system. Taken in Asia as a tonic to strengthen the body, many people find that ginseng keeps colds and flu at bay.
A 2000 study found that Ginseng can help to control blood sugar levels, and in some cases reduce them as much as 60%. As such it is a useful supplement for sufferers of Type II diabetics, who frequently suffer a sugar spike after consuming glucose. A low 3g daily dose was found to have the same effect as a higher 6g dose. Diabetics should only take ginseng after consulting their doctor.
Some herbologists claim that ginseng can reduce the occurrence of cancer. However insufficient research has been completed to back up this claim. As with many herbal remedies, the pharmaceutical companies have not committed the time or money to investigate this properly. This is primarily because they would not be able to patent the resulting medicine.
Ginseng is a popular ingredient of much Asian cuisine, including Chinese, Japanese and Korean. In Europe and North America it appears more often in commercially available energy drinks. However the dosage in these drinks is thought to be too low to have any effect.
Ginseng herbal remedies are prepared using the ginseng root. It usually comes in a powdered form, which is either mixed with water or consumed in a capsule. The standard dosage ranges from 1g to 5g daily depending on the quality of the root.
Side effects of ginseng can include headaches, nausea and diarrhea, although it is generally a very safe and common herb. Some users also report that ginseng’s energy-giving qualities can result in insomnia. Sufferers of very low or very high blood pressure should also be careful as in different people it can result in either a spike or drop in blood pressure.
Of course, always consult your doctor before starting a course of herbal medicine.