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Ginseng
 
 

History

 

Ginseng, or Panax quinquefolium in North America, was discovered over 4000 years ago in the mountains of Northern China. It quickly became popular for its strength-giving, rejuvenating powers, and its human shape became a powerful symbol of divine harmony on earth.  “Seng Nong Herbal Classic”, a 2000-year old Chinese medicinal book, described "Ginseng is a tonic to the five viscera, quieting spirit, stabilizing the soul, preventing fear, expelling vicious energy, brightening eyes, improving vision, opening up heart, benefiting understanding, and if taken for long will prolong life."

The commercial harvesting of North American ginseng began in Canada in 1710s after a Jesuit priest heard of the root from Chinese. He began searching for this wondrous herb and discovered North American ginseng growing near Montreal. Thus he began a vigorous export of ginseng to China.  By the end of the 19th century, however, the wild root was near extinction due to over-harvesting. At this point, farmers in North America began cultivating the sensitive plant.

 

Ginseng and Health

 

Clinical research has demonstrated that ginseng improves psychological function, immune response, and conditions associated with diabetes. The main active components of ginseng are ginsenosides, which have been shown to have a variety of beneficial effects, including anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects.  Ginseng is widely used to improve overall energy and vitality, particularly during times of fatigue or stress, to stimulate immune function, to treat male impotence, and to improve memory.

 

North American and Asian ginseng differ in their chemical composition and each appears to have distinct biological effects. From a traditional medicine point of view, these two types of ginsengs are thought to be complementary. The Chinese perceive North American ginseng to be more “Yin”, meaning it is used to reduce ‘Heat’ in the body. In comparison, Asian ginseng is thought to be more “Yang”, meaning it is used to raise ‘Heat’ in the body.

 

References

 
  1. Dharmananda S. The nature of ginseng: traditional use, modern use, and the question of dosage. Herbalgram 2002;54:34-51.
  2. Keum YS, Park KK, Lee JM, et al. Antioxidant and anti-tumor promoting activities of the methanol extract of heat-processed ginseng. Cancer Lett 2000;150:41-8.
  3. Leung AY, Foster S. Encyclopedia of Common Natural Ingredients Used in Food, Drugs and Cosmetics. 2nd ed. New York, NY: John Wiley & Sons, 1996.
  4. Hiai S, Yokoyama H, Oura H, et al. Stimulation of pituitary-adrenocortical system by ginseng saponin. Endocrinol Jpn 1979;26:661-5.
  5. Robbers JE, Speedie MK, Tyler VE. Pharmacognosy and Pharmacobiotechnology. Baltimore, MD: Williams & Wilkins, 1996.
  6. Tode T, Kikuchi Y, Hirata J, et al. Effect of Korean red ginseng on psychological functions in patients with severe climacteric syndromes. Int J Gynaecol Obstet 1999;67:169-74.
  7. Kim SH, Park KS. Effects of Panax ginseng extract on lipid metabolism in humans. Pharmacol Res 2003;48:511-3.
  8. Shin HR, Kim JY, Yun TK, et al. The cancer-preventive potential of Panax ginseng: a review of human and experimental evidence. Cancer Causes Control 2000;11:565-76.
 
 
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