Nourish - What’s the Scoop on: Ginseng
Ginseng is a herbal plant with a history of use for thousands of years in Chinese medicine. It is one of the most prized Chi (Qi) tonics used in Chinese herbalism.
According to the principles of Chinese medicine, this beautiful herb supports:
- the kidney Qi (strengthens, life-prolonging)
- cools the fire (fever)
- increases the earth (strengthens spleen and stomach)
- brings gold (helps the lungs)
- opens the heart
- increases knowledge
- works against all diseases
Often referred to as the “king of herbs”, it is well-known around the world for its energizing and immune-modulating properties. Today, let’s dive in a little deeper to find out what else this ancient plant can do for your health..
What is Ginseng?
The English word “ginseng” originates from the Chinese term renshen. Ren meaning “person” and shen meaning “plant root”. This is because the root of the ginseng plant looks similar to the legs of a person.
This root has more than 2000 years of history, with the first traces of its description found in the famous Chiu-zhang text, the Chinese depiction of the creation story.
What are the different types of Ginseng?
There are two main types:
- Asian ginseng, also called red or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng)
- American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius).
These are also known as ‘true ginsengs’ as they both originate from the Panax genus. They are known as this because only the panax genus contains the active ingredient ginsenosides.
Fun Fact: The genus Panax takes its name from Panacea, the Greek all-healing goddess. It is made up of pan, which means “everything,” and akos, which means “healing,” that is, a “panacea.”
But what about Siberian Ginseng?
Siberian ginseng (Eleuthero root)
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is actually not a true ginseng but comes from a totally different plant genus. This herb contains eleutherosides as opposed to ginsenosides and is more of a fibrous woody root than the fleshy soft root of the Panax species.
You will also find it called Eleuthero root and is very common in formulas using Panax ginseng.
Let’s delve in a little deeper shall we….
Asian / Red / Korean ginseng root (Panax ginseng)
Asian ginseng, also called red or Korean ginseng is considered the most potent and popular variety in the world.
In traditional Chinese medicine, Korean Panax is believed to stimulate yang energy, which improves:
- increases blood flow
- revitalizes the body
- aids recovery from weakness after illness.
It’s commonly used to help:
- increase vitality and stamina
- combat fatigue
- strengthen the immune system
- improve cognition
- help restore sleep cycles
- enhance libido
Korean ginseng typically grows in colder climate zones and is harvested after six years, at which time it is steam-cured before drying. This process produces reddish-brown roots and preserves the plant’s active compounds, called ginsenosides.
American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolius)
American ginseng grows primarily in parts of Canada and North American regions and has a milder effect than Asian ginseng.
This herb tends to be calming, relaxing, nourishing and more cooling in comparison to Korean red ginseng. [Please note that we do not stock American Ginseng].
Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)
Siberian Ginseng is native to North Eastern Asia and is often referred to as Eleutherococcus or eleuthero.
Though not a true ginseng, but rather a distant cousin to the Panax types, it has a wide history of use in Chinese medicine for thousands of years. This is because although Siberian ginseng is not related, it has very similar benefits, which is what earned it the name of ginseng.
Since eleuthero boasts very similar properties to Asian ginseng (which is how it got its name after all!). I will list the health benefits that they both provide below. The term ‘ginseng’ used below refers to both Asian and Siberian in this case.
No. 1 Adaptogen
Adaptogens are herbs or botanical substances that help to balance the body’s physiological systems. This includes the adrenals and the nervous system. Adaptogens help the body to better adapt to internal and external stressors. These can include environmental toxins and pollution, stress, poor sleeping habits, insomnia, anxiety, extreme nervousness or depression to name a few.
Importantly, adaptogens calm and nourish the adrenal glands and support all the processes that are controlled by the adrenals. This includes blood sugar and immune system regulation to hormones and blood pressure.
Since ginseng strengthens the adrenal glands themselves, it is especially important for those suffering from chronic stress.
Chronic stress is harmful to both our emotional and physical wellbeing. Unfortunately, it often contributes to a variety of health conditions including:
- sleep issues
- digestive problems
- cognitive impairment
- heart disease
- weight gain
- inflammation and more.
Adaptogens have different effects depending on the state of health in that moment. For example, if one is stressed out and anxious, they will likely find ginseng to be calming. On the other hand, if one is depleted and exhausted, the plant will tend to have more uplifting and energizing properties.
That’s why the adaptogenic properties are so amazing. They work to bring the body into balance and harmony.
No. 2 – Immune Tonic
Ginseng is well known for its profound effects on regulating the immune system. Studies show that this particular herb enhances white blood cell activity, thus it provides support to a compromised immune system.
In addition, this herb is also linked to promoting resistance to infection because of its adaptogenic properties. That’s because stress suppresses the immune function, however, this herb helps to reduce the effect of stress on the body. The end result? A much happier immune system 🙂
No. 3 – Energy, Endurance and Strength
After its use for thousands of years in Eastern medicine, ginseng is most well known for its ability to help promote and sustain natural energy levels. Equally, it’s well known to help reduce fatigue, improve vitality levels and boost endurance and strength.
Because the energy that ginseng gives is a natural, non-stimulant induced one, it works very differently to that of say a caffeinated type of energy. The energy it gives doesn’t make you feel anxious or overstimulated like caffeine for example can.
Instead, since this herb is an adaptogen, it has dual action properties. This means the body is provided with energy while calming you at the same time. At the same time, it also means the endocrine system is not overly stimulated.
Over time artificial stimulants and caffeine often deplete the endocrine system and body. This is because it stimulates it to work harder no matter what the body’s current state. Ultimately, when done in excess, often leads to adrenal fatigue and burn out.
Korean ginseng is commonly consumed by athletes, bodybuilders and endurance runners. This is due to the fact ginseng contains certain ginsenosides that increase the conversion of arginine to nitric oxide, which is helpful for building strength and muscle mass.
No. 4 – Aphrodisiac
Equally considered a tonic and adaptogen, ginseng has centuries-old history for use an aphrodisiac for increasing sexual energies. Not only this but also as a supportive tonic for both infertility and impotence.
Furthermore, this herb is commonly used to help to enhance physical and sexual performance.
Despite ginsengs reputation as a male herb, it is actually incredibly beneficial for both men and women. In fact, it’s linked to increased libido, performance and pleasure for both men and women.
For men, ginseng’s benefits include boosted libido, increased pleasure and treatment for erectile dysfunction. Several components of ginseng appear to help sexual function by promoting the production of nitric oxide, which improves blood flow to and within the penis. Similar to prescription medications like Viagra®.
For women, increased blood flow to the sex organs and glands is one benefit. Plus, thanks to the herbs stabilizing effect on the endocrine system, it’s also helpful as a natural hormone balancer. Out of kilter hormones often play a major role in a lack of libido.
How to take Ginseng
We stock the following products here in Nourish:
- Pukka Red Ginseng (aka Korean)
- Solgar Korean Ginseng
- Solgar Korean Root Extract Standardised
- Viridian Enhanced Rhodiola Complex (contains Siberian Ginseng Extract)
- Solgar Siberian Root Extract Standardised
- A Vogel Eleutherococcus (Siberian Ginseng) 50ml
- A. Vogel Ginsavena 50ml
- Salus Siberian Ginseng Elixir 250ml
If you’re interested in more adaptogens and their benefits, check out these blog posts:
- Support Your Immune System Now with These 5 Things
- What’s the Scoop on: Chaga Mushroom
- Pancake Tuesday (with Adaptogenic Medicinal Mushrooms)
- What’s the Scoop on: Reishi Mushrooms
- What’s the Scoop on: Cordyceps Mushroom
- Candida Overgrowth – Herbs, Medicinal Mushrooms and Supplements – Part IV
- 7 Superfood Lattes You Need to Try
- What’s the Scoop on: Maca
- What’s The Scoop On: Ashwagandha
- Herbal Teas: From Sunrise to Sunset
- Natural Ways to Enhance Memory and Overall Brain Health Pt 2
That should keep you going for a bit! 🙂
Any questions? Drop into your local Nourish store to chat with our expert team and explore our full range of foods, supplements and skincare. You can also find our full product range in our online store.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication