Ginseng (Panax genus): Ginseng is promoted as an adaptogen (a product that increases the body's resistance to stress), one which can to a certain extent be supported with reference to its anticarcinogenic and antioxidant properties.
In males, ginsenosides can facilitate penile erection. This is consistent with traditional Chinese medicine and Native American medicinal uses of ginseng. It is also known to contain phytoestrogens.
Ginseng has a history of herbal use going back over 5,000 years. It is one of the most highly regarded of herbal medicines in the Orient, where it has gained an almost magical reputation for being able to promote health, general body vigour and also to prolong life.
The root is adaptogen, alterative, carminative, demulcent, emetic, expectorant, stimulant and tonic. It both stimulates and relaxes the nervous system, encourages the secretion of hormones, improves stamina, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels and increases resistance to disease. It is used internally in the treatment of debility associated with old age or illness, lack of appetite, insomnia, stress, shock and chronic illness.
The roots are harvested in the autumn, preferably from plants 6 - 7 years old, and can be used fresh or dried. A dose of 10ug/ml of ginseng saponins has been shown to be significantly radio-protective when it is administered prior to gamma-irradiation. The leaf is emetic and expectorant.
Ginseng appears to have antioxidant effects that may benefit patients with heart disorders. Some studies suggest that ginseng also reduces oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL or "bad") cholesterol and brain tissue. Better studies are needed to make a firm recommendation.
Several studies suggest ginseng may lower blood sugar levels in patients with type 2 diabetes before and after meals. These results are promising, especially because ginseng does not seem to lower blood sugar to dangerous levels. Future research should focus on the long-term effects of ginseng in managing blood sugar levels.
From the Spanimax List: "15 Top Herbs"
- Chinese Materia Medica; Stuart. Rev. G. A.
- Medicinal Plants of China Reference Publications; Duke. J. A. and Ayensu. E. S.
- Encyclopaedia of Herbs and their Uses. Dorling Kindersley; Bown. D.
- Ginseng; U.S. National Library of Medicine.
- Ginseng, sex behavior, and nitric oxide; Murphy and Lee.
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