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Asian Ginseng

What is Asian ginseng? What is it used for?

Asian ginseng is considered the "king of all herbs" in many countries. The scientific name of the herb (panax ginseng) is derived from the Greek words pan (all) and akos (cure), meaning that the root is a sort of panacea.

Asian ginseng is very similar in appearance to its American and Siberian counterparts. Mature plants consist of stems thatgrow from a main root; each stem contains palm-shaped leaves with greenish-white flowers and red berries. The root of the plant is used medicinally.

Ginseng has been classified as an antioxidant, helping to destroy free radicals and reduce their negative effects. The root contains substances called ginsenosides, which stimulate the immune system and fight fatigue and stress. Several dozen studies have shown that ginseng enhances physical and mental performance and improves mood and metabolic function. Other studies suggest ginseng can provide a wealth of benefits, including: improved blood cholesterol; lowered liver toxicity; lowered blood sugar levels; improved blood oxygen flow; control of asthma and other respiratory diseases; and enhanced stamina.

How much Asian ginseng should I take?

The recommended dose of Asian ginseng is 1-2 grams fresh root; 0.6-2 grams dried root; or 200-600ml of a liquid extract daily. Patients using ginseng to improve mental or physical performance should take doses in cycles of 15-20 days, followed by a two-week break.

What forms of Asian ginseng are available?

Raw, unpeeled ginseng can be found at many Asian markets and grocery stores. Dried and peeled ginseng is available in powder, capsule or extract form. When taking ginseng, make sure to use standardized products that contain at least 1.5% ginsenosides.

What can happen if I take too much Asian ginseng? Are there any interactions I should be aware of? What precautions should I take?

When used at the recommended daily dose, Asian ginseng is considered safe. The American Herbal Products Association has given Asian ginseng a class 2D rating, indicating a possible risk for patients with hypertension. Red (unpeeled, steamed before drying) ginseng may increase the effects of caffeine, antipsychotics, blood pressure drugs or steroidal medications.

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• Aphale AA, Chhibba AD, Kumbhakarna NR, et al. Subacute toxicity study of the combination of ginseng (panax ginseng) and ashwagandha (withania somnifera) in rats: a safety assessment. Indian J Physiol Pharmacol 1998;42(2):299—302.
• D'Angelo L, et al. A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical study on the effect of a standardized ginseng extract on psychomotor performance in healthy volunteer. J Ethnopharmacol 1986;16:15—22.
• Gross D, Krieger D, Efrat R, Dayan M. Ginseng extract G115 for the treatment of chronic respiratory diseases. Schweizerische Zeitschrift fur Ganzheits Medizin 1995;1(95):29—33.
• Nitta H, Matsumoto K, Shimizu M, et al. Panax ginseng extract improves the scopolamine-induced disruption of 8-arm radial maze performance in rats. Biol Pharm Bull 1995;18(10):1439—1442.
• Oh KW, Kim HS, Wagner GC. Ginseng total saponin inhibits the dopaminergic depletions induced by methamphetamine. Planta Med 1998;63(1):80—81.


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