Two main types of ginseng are used as medicines.
Korean, or Panax ginseng, is one of the oldest medicinal herbs in the Far East, and has undergone considerable research. It is used short-term as a tonic to treat fatigue, low blood pressure, general and nervous weakness and mild depression, and long term to improve well-being in the elderly.
Research studies have demonstrated the following benefits for Korean ginseng:
- Ability to normalize high or low blood pressure in some individuals
- Improvements in liver detoxification function
- Improvement in overall well-being (including appetite, mood and sleep)
- Improvement in physical endurance, mental ability and concentration
- Improvements in serum total cholesterol levels
- Reduction of insulin requirements in diabetics
Korean Ginseng appears to act as an adaptogen, that is to say it has neither an excessively stimulating nor a sedating effect, but is capable of acting in either direction depending on the individual’s needs.
In Chinese medicine, Korean ginseng is used to increase deficient chi, (a type of energy which has been likened to the elusive ‘life force’), with symptoms of debility, irritability, poor circulation and prolapse of the lower abdomen. Its beneficial effects in the elderly may be related to its ability to maintain the adrenal cortex in an optimally functioning condition.
Korean ginseng should not be taken by individuals with cardiovascular disease or by women with an unstable menstrual cycle.
Also known as Eleutherococcus, Siberian ginseng is used as a ‘harmonizing’ tonic. Like Panax ginseng, Eleutherococcus is considered to be an adaptogen – adapting its effects to the indivdual’s needs. This herb has undergone much study by scientists in the former USSR. It has been found to provide the following benefits:
- Ability to improve capillary resistance
- Ability to perform physical work
- Ability to withstand motion sickness
- Adaptation to a high temperature environment
- Improvement in acute craniocerebral trauma
- Improvement in acute pyelonephritis
- Improvement in atherosclerosis
- Improvement in chronic bronchitis
- Improvement in diabetes mellitus
- Improvement in oxygen metabolism (i.e. oxygen uptake, oxygen pulse, total work and exhaustion time)
- Improvement in rheumatic heart disease
- Improvement in speed and quality of work
- Normalizing of high or low blood pressure
- Stimulation of the white cells of the immune system, especially the T-lymphocyte cell count.