Centuries Old Remedy
Asian ginseng is native to China and Korea and has been used in various systems of medicine for many centuries. Asian ginseng is one of several types of true ginseng (another is American ginseng, Panax quinquefolius). An herb called Siberian ginseng or eleuthero (Eleutherococcus senticosus) is not a true ginseng.
What Asian Ginseng Is Used For
Treatment claims for Asian ginseng are numerous and include the use of the herb to support overall health and boost the immune system. Traditional and modern uses of ginseng include:
- Improving the health of people recovering from illness
- Increasing a sense of well-being and stamina, and improving both mental and physical performance
- Treating erectile dysfunction, hepatitis C, and symptoms related to menopause
- Lowering blood glucose and controlling blood pressure
The body is in a constant state of adjustment to keep things regulated, and changes occur in the body daily. The more stable the systems in the body are, the more our bodily organs can function at optimal performance.
Many people are unaware that nature provides the solution in the form of herbs and nutrients called adaptogens. In fact, when analyzing the diet of many societies known for the health of their senior citizens, food high in adaptogenic and antioxidant properties is often a common factor that emerges.
The root of Asian ginseng contains active chemical components called ginsenosides (or panaxosides) that are thought to be responsible for the herb's medicinal properties. The root is dried and used to make tablets or capsules, extracts, and teas, as well as creams or other preparations for external use.
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Side Effects and Cautions
- When taken by mouth, ginseng is usually well tolerated. Some sources suggest that its use be limited to 3 months because of concerns about the development of side effects.
- The most mildly common side effects are headaches and sleep and gastrointestinal problems.
- Ginseng can cause allergic reactions.
- There have been reports of breast tenderness, menstrual irregularities, and high blood pressure associated with ginseng products, but these products' components were not analyzed, so effects may have been due to another herb or drug in the product.
- Ginseng may lower levels of blood sugar; this effect may be seen more in people with diabetes. Therefore, people with diabetes should use extra caution with Asian ginseng, especially if they are using medicines to lower blood sugar or taking other herbs, such as bitter melon and fenugreek, that are also thought to lower blood sugar.
- It is important to inform your health care providers about any herb or dietary supplement you are using, including Asian ginseng. This helps to ensure safe and coordinated care.
Important Note on Ginseng
If you take coumadin, zidovudine (an HIV drug) or phenelzine (an anti-depressant), consult a doctor before taking ginseng. Diabetics may need to adjust insulin dosages.
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