Nourish - What’s the Scoop on: Ginseng
Ginseng is a herbal plant that has been used for thousands of years in Chinese medicine and is one of the most prized Chi (Qi) tonics used in Chinese herbalism.
According to the principles of Chinese medicine, ginseng 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 and 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, but 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.
Ginseng root has been used for more than 2000 years, with the first traces of its description being 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 of ginseng: Asian ginseng, also called red or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius). These are also known as ‘true ginsengs’ as they both originate from the Panax genus. They are known as ‘true ginsengs’ 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. Siberian ginseng contains eleutherosides as opposed to ginsenosides and is more of a fibrous woody root than the fleshy soft root of the Panax species.
It is also known as 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 circulation, increases blood flow, revitalizes the body and 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 and 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.
American ginseng tends to be calming, relaxing, nourishing and more cooling than 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.
Siberian ginseng, though not a true ginseng, but rather a distant cousin to the Panax types, has also been widely used 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 Siberian ginseng 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 ginseng in this case.
No. 1 Adaptogen
Adaptogens are herbs or botanical substances that help to balance the body’s physiological systems (such as the adrenals and nervous system) 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.
These adaptogens calm and nourish the adrenal glands and support all the processes that are controlled by the adrenals — from blood sugar and immune system regulation to hormones and blood pressure.
Since ginseng strengthens the adrenal glands themselves, this makes ginseng especially important to those suffering from chronic stress.
Chronic stress can harm both our emotional and physical wellbeing and contribute to a variety of health conditions including anxiety, depression, sleep issues, digestive problems, cognitive impairment, headaches, 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; whereas 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 ginseng enhances white blood cell activity, thus providing support to a compromised immune system. In addition, as stress suppresses immune function, the adaptogenic properties of this herb to help reduce the effect of stress on the body could even further promote resistance to infection.
No. 3 – Energy, Endurance and Strength
Used for thousands of years in Eastern medicine, ginseng is most well known for its ability to help promote and sustain natural energy levels as well as reduce fatigue, improve vitality levels and boost endurance and strength.
Since 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 ginseng is an adaptogen, it has dual action properties, meaning the body is provided with energy while calming you at the same time. It also means the endocrine system is not overly stimulated.
Over time artificial stimulants and caffeine can be depleting to the endocrine system and body because it simply stimulates it to work harder no matter what its current state. This can lead to adrenal fatigue and burn out.
Korean ginseng is commonly consumed by athletes, bodybuilders and endurance runners since 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
Ginseng is considered a tonic and adaptogen and has been used for centuries as an aphrodisiac for increasing sexual energies and as a supportive tonic for both infertility and impotence.
It has also been used to help to enhance physical and sexual performance.
Despite ginsengs reputation as a male herb, it can actually be incredibly beneficial for both men and women. Ginseng has been linked to increased libido, performance and pleasure for both men and women.
For men, ginseng’s benefits include boosting libido, increasing pleasure and treating 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 ginsengs stabilizing effect on the endocrine system, it can also be helpful as a natural hormone balancer. Out of kilter hormones can play a major role in a lack of libido.
How to take Ginseng
We stock the following types of ginseng here in Nourish:
Pukka Red Ginseng (aka Korean)
Solgar Korean Ginseng
Solgar Korean Root Extract Standardised
Solgar Siberian Root Extract Standardised
Viridian Enhanced Rhodiola Complex (contains Siberian Ginseng Extract)
If you have any questions or comments feel free to contact us via our Facebook page or email!
*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