Ginseng (Ren Shen)
Botanical Name: Western – Panax quinquefolius. Eastern – Panax ginseng (radix ginseng).
One of the world’s oldest and most famous herbs. It is a tonic herb that Chinese Taoists say has the strongest ability to absorb strength from the earth making it The King Herb for tonifying Qi or Lifeforce. A powerful adaptogenic herb, it is used to build strength, boost immune function, and treat a wide variety of chronic and acute conditions including diabetes, and erectile dysfunction. Be careful not to confuse Panax ginseng with American (P. quinquefolius) or Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) which while similar have their own unique characteristics and functions).
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Remember to check with your doctor before trying new medicines or herbal remedies, especially if you are taking other medication where drug interactions are possible.
Below is an overview of ginseng, combining the best of Western Science, Oriental Medicine, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Shamanism, Folklore, and a wide range of healing modalities. Gain a balanced and thorough understanding of the healing properties of ginseng.
How to take FULL advantage of Ginseng's healing powers...
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Western Name: Ginseng
Also Known As: N/A
Organs/Systems: Immune System, Endocrine System, Cardiovascular System, Nervous System, Liver
Key Actions: Adaptogen, Tonic, Relaxant, Antioxidant, Anti-inflammatory, Anticancer, Antiviral
Medicinal Uses: Herpes, chronic fatigue, wasting syndrome, AIDs, diabetes, supports cardiovascular system, endocrine tonic, central nervous system tonic, cancer recovery, erectile dysfunction, cognitive dysfunction, acute or chronic hepatotoxicity, hepatitis, hepatic fibrosis/cirrhosis, hepatocellular carcinoma, counters stress, cancer.
Also Known As: Ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Korean ginseng, red ginseng, and “King of Qi Herbs”
Meridians: Lung, Spleen
Key Actions: Tonifies Qi, Tonifies the Lungs, Tonifies the Spleen, Tonifies the Stomach, Generates Fluids, Stops Thirst, Benefits Heart Qi, Calms the Spirit
Medicinal Uses: Extreme collapse of Qi, shortness of breath, cold limbs, profuse sweating, weak pulse, lack of appetite, wasting and thirsting disorder, chronic diarrhea, eczema, erectile dysfunction, menopause, irregular menses, lethargy, infertility, anxiety, anorexia, bloating, palpitations, insomnia, forgetfulness, cognitive dysfunction, memory, restlessness due to Qi and Blood Deficiency, prolapse of stomach, uterus or rectum, promotes fluids and stops thirst due to high fever and profuse sweating.
Belongs to the legume family. Traditionally harvested when four or five years old or older with roots collected in the spring and fall. The mature plant will have four or more whorled, palmately compound leaves of five leaflets apiece. A mature plant can produce 60 to 100 seeds that ripen in August and September. They remain dormant for 18 to 20 months and then germinate in the second spring after ripening.
Native to the temperate regions of the Northern Hemisphere, such as the Korean Peninsula, Northeast China, Russia, and Canada and the Northern United States. It can be found on grassy regions and on mountainsides with lots of exposure to sun. Wild ginseng is endangered globally.
Parts Most Frequently Used: Root, Neck, Leaf
Flavors/Temps: Sweet, Slightly Bitter, Cool to Slightly Warm
Caution: Very low toxicity. Considered one of the safest Tonic herbs. Shown to have adverse drug reactions with phenelzine and warfarin. Contraindicated for Liver Yang rising and high blood pressure (systolic over 180mmHg). Generally used for several weeks at a time and then rested before starting again.
Key Constituents: Ginsenosides (aka Panaxosides includes the compounds: Panaxatriol, Panaxodiol, Panoquilon, Panaxin), Gintonin, Gensenin, Panaenic acid, Panose, Glucose, Fructose, Maltose, Sucrose, Nicotinic acid, Riboflavin, Thiamine, Saponins, Calcium, Minerals
History/Folklore: Panax ginseng is famous the world over as an adaptogenic tonic used to build strength, support the immune system, and aid recovery from many chronic or acute illnesses. It is often called Asian ginseng, Chinese ginseng or Korean ginseng (aka red ginseng). South China ginseng (P. notoginseng) is another variety of ginseng that similarly contains the ginsenosides and gintonin associated with the both P. ginseng (Chinese or Korean ginseng) and P. quinquefolius (aka American ginseng).
In the first Materia Medica (over 2000 years old), Shen Nung said of Ginseng, “Ginseng is a tonic to the five viscera, quieting animal spirits, stabilizing the soul, preventing fear, expelling the vicious energies, brightening the eye and improving vision, opening the heart benefiting the understanding, and if taken for some time will invigorate the body and prolong life.”
In Chinese, ren means “person” and shen means “plant root” referring to the characteristic shape of the roots as resembling the legs of a person. Taoists say it has the strongest ability of any herb to absorb the energy from the earth. The botanical name Panax, comes from the Greek meaning “all-healing.”
In Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), ginseng is not used as a cure-all but rather as a tonic herb for building vitality and treating chronic illnesses that have compromised an individual’s Qi (Energy). It is for extreme collapse of Qi, causing shortness of breath, weak pulse, cold limbs, prolapse, and calming anxiety, forgetfulness, and insomnia due to weak Qi and Blood. Ginseng is said to replace lost Qi to the Meridians and Organs. If any of these conditions are due to a severe loss of blood, ginseng will be used alone to refortify the system.
Ginseng is commonly used with schisandra and ophiopogon to treat shortness of breath and with atractylodes and poria to treat anorexia, diarrhea, and bloating. It is often used in formulas with aconite (Fu Zi) to treat ice-cold extremities, profuse sweating and other symptoms associated with collapse of Qi and Yang. Because good quality ginseng is expensive, it is usually decocted separately in small amounts of water in a double boiler. Freeze-drying ginseng reduces degradation of the roots saponins and may enhance potency.
Chronic use of ginseng can lead to a feeling of heaviness in the chest or heat sensations and irritability, ginseng is therefore often used with even small amounts of other herbs that help regulate and move Qi to prevent and minimize this possible side effect.
Wild ginseng is endangered globally and in some areas it is purposefully planted on mountainsides to be cultivated as a “wild” ginseng in its natural habitat.
Korean ginseng is available fresh in a non-dried raw form called “green ginseng, or dried and prepared as red or white ginseng. Red ginseng is steamed, dried and peeled. White ginseng is peeled and dried without any heating other than being sun-dried. The sun drying is what bleaches the root to a yellowish-white color. Fresh ginseng is harvested while the plant is under four years of age. White ginseng is harvested between the 4th and the 6th years, and red ginseng is harvested after 6 years of more.
In central and southern China the neck of the plant is traditionally used as a mild emetic to induce vomiting in severe food stagnation. The leaf of the plant (ren shen ye) is bitter, slightly sweet, and cold and is used to treat Summer Heat, generate Fluids, and treat Heat and Fire due to Deficiency.
Native Americans used American ginseng to heal a wide variety of ailments.
The ginsenoside compounds found in ginseng, play an important role in this herbs healing and tonifying properties. Products with higher levels of these compounds are more potent and effective.
Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus / aka Eleuthero) is in the same family but an entirely different genus than Panax ginseng. and does not contain the ginsenoside compounds associated with Chinese, Korean, or American ginseng. The compounds found in Siberian ginseng are known as eleutherosides
In Korea, ginseng is used in side dishes, soups, and alcoholic beverages.
Ginseng leaves are sometimes used in food or beverage preparations, though not as frequently as the roots.
A Woody Root
Siberian ginseng’s (Eleutherococcus senticosus) active compounds are eleutherosides and not ginsenosides. It is a different species than Panax ginseng. Instead of a fleshy root, Siberian ginseng has a woody root.
How to use Ginseng (Ren Shen) and take FULL advantage of it's healing powers!
Find out how to safely use this powerful herb and get specific recipes you can make use of immediately. Dive deep into Eastern and Western perspectives about HOW and WHY this herb works. Includes uses, benefits, essential oils, gardening tips, and much, much more.
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