The Ginseng root, probably the most famous of the Chinese herbal
remedies, has been acclaimed as a revitalizing cure-all for more than
5,000 years. Recently, ginseng has found a increasing number of fans
in the United States because of its many natural healing applications.

The number of species in this genus of perennials is disputed and may be three or six, depending on whether P. pseudoginseng is regarded as a single species with variants or four separate species. They are distributed in S and E Asia, and N America. Panax ginseng is an ancient Taoist tonic herb, which has been used as a qi (vital essence) tonic in Chinese medicine for about 5000 years. It was introduced to Europe several times in the 9th century onward but assumed no importance in Western medicine until studies by Soviet scientists in the early 1950's established it as an "adaptogen". To increase availability of the drug, they also searched for similar properties in related native species and discovered Eleutherococcus senticosus (See Siberian Ginseng) Panax pseudoginseng var. notoginseng was first mentioned in Chinese medical texts in the 16th century. It is primarily a healing herb and was used extensively by the Vietcong during the Vietnam war to improve recovery from gunshot wounds. Panax quinquefolius was discovered in the 18th century by Jesuit colleagues of Père Jartoux, who deduced that similar plants might exist in N America. It was first collected for export to China by backwoodsmen ("seng diggers"), and was first described in Chinese medicine c.1765. Regarded as more yin than P. ginseng, Panax quinquefolius is given to children and young people, for whom P. ginseng might not be appropriate. In appearance as well as use, the two species are very similar. Panax japonicus (Japanese ginseng, bamboo ginseng) is important in Japan, and in macrobiotic diets, often as an ingredient of tonic teas and liqueurs. The main medicinal species are now rare in the wild, and are cultivated commercially in Korea, China, Russia, and the USA (mainly in Wisconsin). An unrelated species Pfaffia paniculata (See, suma), is known as Brazilian ginseng.

Panax means "cure for all ills" and ginseng means "man root". In traditional Chinese medicine, Panax ginseng is used to strengthen the immune system, increase vitality, boost resistance to stress-related maladies, and treat chronic illnesses. Its active ingredients are the ginsenosides, which have been shown to have anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anticancer effects.

Perennial with a branched, carrot-shaped, rootstock, and upright stems, bearing a whorl of 2-5, long-stalked leaves, divided into five elliptic to ovate leaflets, to 15cm (6in) long, which have finely toothed margins. Small, yellow-green, 5-petaled flowers are produced in an umbel in spring, followed by red berries, each containing two seeds.

Common Name:
Other Names:
Chinese Ginseng, Five-Fingers, Korean Ginseng, Panax Ginseng, Red Berry, Wonder-Of-The-World
Botanical Name:
Panax ginseng
Moist, well-drained, rich soil in shade, with ample warmth and humidity during the growing season.
By seed sown 2.5cm (1in) deep when ripe. Keep seed in damp moss before sowing; do not allow to dry out. Germination is slow and erratic.
Roots are lifted from 6-7-year-old plants in autumn and used fresh or dried in decoctions, liquid extracts, pills and powders. Processing of P. ginseng varies according to product and quality. Red ginseng is steamed, heat-dried, then sun-dried; white ginseng is peeled and dried for chewing. Flowers are picked in spring and summer for decoctions.
Plant Facts:
The ginseng plant takes at least 6 years to mature and can grow up to 28 inches tall. Ginseng is distinguished by its yellow taproot (resembling a carrot), its subtle, unusual odor and its slightly spicy taste.
Almost 4,800 years ago, as Chinese legend has it, the beloved emperor Sheng Nung, "patron saint" of Chinese herbal medicine, began an oral record that detailed the healing benefits of over 250 herbs. Venerated as China's father of agriculture and popularly known as the "divine plowman" for his lifelong study of farming and nature, Sheng Nung's remarks about ginseng more than 4,000 years ago are still true today. He noted that ginseng "strengthened the mind, relaxed the nerves, and encouraged longevity." When his oral record was finally written down in 100 BCE, it became China's first herbal encyclopedia, known as Sheng Nung Ben Cao Chien (or The Herbal Classic of the Divine Plowman). By that time, Asian ginseng was commonly called ren shen, the Chinese phrase for "like a man", because the root resembles a human body. In China, Asian ginseng rapidly became the most prized—and most expensive—of all medicinal herbs. Surprisingly, though it is considered a quintessentially Chinese herb, Asian ginseng did not grow abundantly in China, though it's now widely cultivated there, and eventually much of China's ginseng was imported—from North America.
Native Location:
Korea, and NE China
Ginseng is native to Korea and parts of China. It is only rarely found growing in the wild, but is widely cultivated in much of Asia.
60cm (24in)
45cm (18in)
Parts Used:
There are two main varieties of ginseng: white and red. Only the root is used for healing purposes. White ginseng is simply the peeled, dried, bleached root. The more costly red ginseng is obtained by treating the freshly harvested roots with steam, then drying them slowly in the sun.
Roots (ren shen), processed to produce red or white ginseng as required.
Although ginseng is among the most studied of all medicinal herbs, exactly how it works is still unknown. Some researchers believe that ginseng's main effect stems from ginsenosides, constituents thought to promote protien synthesis by the liver and to break down stress-inducing chemicals in the body. Other active ingredients include essential oils, as well as thiamin and riboflavin. Ginseng also contains substances called saponosides (which help the body metabolize sugar), as well as panacene, which strengthens the cardiovascular system.
Ginseng is particularly helpful for combating exhaustion and difficulties in concentrating. Ginseng tonic is sometimes taken preventively to boost immune function. The herb also helps to speed recovery after an illness, enhance mood and lift mild depression.
A sweet, tonic herb that both relaxes and stimulates the nervous system, encourages secretion of hormones, improves stamina, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels, and increases resistance to disease.
0 The Fool
Medicinal Uses:
Internally for debility associated with old age or illness, lack of appetite, insomnia, stress, shock, and chronic illness. An ingredient in many important Chinese formulas; also taken as a "simple" (that is not mixed with other herbs), often as yang tonic before winter or a period of great stress.
To treat anxiety, nerve pain, insomnia, stomach upset, and loss of appetite.
All three ginsengs share similar therapeutic properties. They have restorative, tonic, and stimulating actions, increase endurance and stamina, raise energy levels, and nourish and strengthen the body in general. Each ginseng also has several unique properties.
The most potent and expensive of the ginsengs, Asian ginseng is considered the greatest of the tonic herbs, esteemed for strengthening the immune system and nourishing the body and mind after long, debilitating bouts with fatique, illness, or stress. Many herbalists believe that among all healing plants, ginseng comes the closest to being a universal medicine. Appropriately, the plants genus name, Panax, is from either the Latin panacea or the Greek panakos—both of which mean "cure-all". The herb is rich in a number of essential minerals and vitamins, and several of its primary chemical ingredients—the ginsenosides, panaquilon, panaxin, and panoxic acid—have singular therapeutic value. The ginsenosides strengthen the immune system and enhance learning ability. Panaquilon supports and regulates hormone function. Panaxin is a cardiotonic that stimulates the circulatory and central nervous systems. Panoxic acid supports and stimulates the body's metabolism and helps lower cholesterol. The herb also appears to encourage the growth of healthy cell tissue, fight bacterial and viral infections, increase mental clarity, stabilize blood sugar and hormone levels, and stimulate appetite and blood circulation. Asian ginseng additionally protects the body against the cell damage caused by toxic free radicals. Because Asian ginseng's stimulating effects are quite strong, it is not given to children and rarely given to young adults. Asian ginseng is taken internally for a depressed or damaged immune system, fatigue, inflammatory ailments, menopausal symptoms, stress, and viral infections.
Commercially prepared ginseng products are widely available in teas and capsules. Choose products from reputable, well-known manufacturers. Ginseng can also be found as fresh or dried root, dried powder, and rock candy. To make a decoction, boil 1 teaspoon of fresh herb or 2 teaspoons of dried herb in 1 cup of water for 15 minutes. Drink up to 2 cups a day. Ginseng may also be added to soups.
Special Note: Fresh or dried ginseng is best obtained from a qualified medical practioner or certified commercial supplier. Asian ginseng is quite expensive and not widely available. American ginseng has been harvested so extensively that it is considered an endangered species. Some products advertised as "pure" or "true" ginseng are in fact adulterated with other herbs or "filler" materials.
Dont take ginseng for longer than 3 months or at higher than recommended dosages, because doing so can cause sleep disturbances, restlessness or anxiety.
Not usually prescribed for pregnant women or patients under 40 years old, or with depression, anxiety, or acute inflammatory disease. Use is normally restricted to 6 weeks. Excess may cause headaches, restlessness, high blood pressure, and other side effects, especially if take with caffeine, alcohol, turnips, and bitter or spicy foods.
Only use ginseng under the supervision of your medical practioner. Minor side effects may include anxiety, breast soreness, headaches, jitteriness, insomnia, or skin rashes. In certain individuals, ginseng may cause asthma attacks, heart palpitations, high blood pressure, or uterine bleeding. If any of these symptoms occur, stop taking the herb and consult your practitioner immediately. If you are pregnant, or have diabetes, emphysema, hay fever, or heart disease, talk with your medical practitioner before taking ginseng. Ginseng is not a daily tonic and should be taken only on a short-term basis.
Methods of Administration:
  • Tea:
    Pour 1 cup boiling water over 1 tsp. of grated ginseng. Steep for 10 min., then strain. This tea helps to sharpen concentration, even in very elderly people.
  • Tonic:
    Take 20-30 drops of ginseng tonic (sold in health food stores) daily. It may prevent heart disease and can also raise low blood pressure.
  • Bath:
    Add grated ginseng root to your evening bath. Immersing yourself in the wate will help you to relax and ensure a restful sleep.
  • Nutritional Supplement:
    Ginseng can be found in many health-food products. Save money by adding fresh ginseng to your favorite foods. For example, sprinkling a pinch of grated ginseng root on a bowl of soup is just as effective as buying a commercial ginseng soup.
Typical Dose:
A typical dose of Panax ginseng may range from 100 to 400 mg.
Possible Side Effects:
Panax ginseng's side effects include, insomnia, nervousness, and vomiting.
Drug Interactions:
Taking panax ginseng with these drugs may increase the risk of bleeding or bruising:
Abciximab, (ReoPro)
Alteplase, (Activase, Cathflo Activase)
Antithrombin III, (Thrombate III)
Argatroban, (Argatroban)
Aspirin, (Bufferin, Ecotrin)
Aspirin and Dipyridamole, (Aggrenox)
Bivalirudin, (Angiomax)
Clopidogrel, (Plavix)
Dalteparin, (Fragmin)
Danaparoid, (Orgaran)
Dipyridamole, (Novo-Dipiradol, Persantine)
Drotrecogin Alfa, (Xigris)
Enoxaparin, (Lovenox)
Eptifibatide, (Integrillin)
Fondaparinux, (Arixtra)
Heparin, (Hepalean, Hep-Lock)
Hydrocodone and Aspirin, (Damason-P)
Hydrocodone and Ibuprofen, (Vicoprofen)
Ibritumomab, (Zevalin)
Indobufen, (Ibustrin)
Lepirudin, (Refludan)
Nadroparin, (Fraxiparine)
Streptokinase, (Streptase)
Ticlopidine, (Alti-Ticlopidine, Ticlid)
Tinzaparin, (Innohep)
Tirofiban, (Aggrastat)
Warfarin, (Coumadin, Jantoven)
Taking panax ginseng with these drugs may increase the risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar):
Acarbose, (Prandase, Precose)
Acetohexamide, (Acetohexamide)
Chlopropamide, (Diabinese, Novo-Propamide)
Gliclazide, (Diamicron, Novo-Gliclazide)
Glimepiride, (Amaryl)
Glipizide, (Glucotrol)
Glipizide and Metformin, (Metaglip)
Gliquidone, (Beglynor, Glurenorm)
Glyburide, (DiaBeta, Micronase)
Gluyburide and Metformin, (Glucovance)
Insulin, (Humulin, Novolin R)
Metformin, (Glucophage, Riomet)
Miglitol, (Glyset)
Nateglinide, (Starlix)
Pioglitazone, (Actos)
Repaglinide, (GlucoNorm, Prandin)
Rosiglitazone, (Avandia)
Rosiglitazone and Metformin, (Avandamet)
Tolazamide, (Tolinase)
Tolbutamide, (Apo-Tolbutamide, Tol-Tab)
Taking panax ginseng with these drugs may trigger agitation, headache, insomnia and tremor and may worsen depression:
Iproniazid, (Marsilid)
Moclobemide, (Alti-Moclobemide, Nu-Moclobemide)
Phenelzine, (Nardil)
Selegiline, (Eldepryl)
Tranylcypromine, (Parnate)
Taking panax ginseng with these drugs may lead to symptoms of estrogen excess (such as breakthrough bleeding or breast pain):
Estrogens (conjugated A/Synthetic), (Cenestin)
Estrogens (conjugated/equine), (Cenestin, Premarin)
Taking panax ginseng with these drugs may be harmful:
Albendazole, (Albenza)—May reduce the effectiveness of the drug.
Nifedipine, (Adalat CC, Procardia)—May increase drug levels in the body.
Lab Test Alterations:
  • May decrease fasting blood glucose concentrations.
  • May decrease glycosylated hemoglobin (HbA1c) levels and improve glucose control in those with type 2 diabetes.
  • May increase thrombin time (TT), international normalized ratio (INR) levels, plasma partial thromboplastin time (PTT), and activated partial thromboplastin time (aPTT).
  • May increase serum and twenty-four-hour urine estrogens.
  • May cause falsely increased or decreased serum digoxin levels, depending on the type of test used.
Disease Effects:
  • May worsen bleeding conditions by interfering with coagulation.
  • May interfere with attempts to control blood sugar in diabetes by lowering blood sugar too far.
  • This herb may have estrogen-like effects and should not be used by women with estrogen-sensitive breast cancer or other hormone-sensitive conditions.
  • May worsen schizophrenia if taken in large doses.
Food Interactions:
Increased stimulant effects when taken together with caffeine-containing food and drinks such as coffee, tea and caffeinated soft drinks.
Supplement Interactions:
  • Increased hypertension, central nervous system stimulation, and risk of life-threatening ventricular arrhythmias when taken with Ma-Huang.
  • Increased stimulant effects when taken with herbs and supplements containing caffeine, such as Cola Nut, Guarana, and Maté.
  • Increase blood glucose-lowering effects and risk of hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) when used with herbs and supplements that lower glucose levels, such as alpha-lipoic acid, chromium, Devil's Claw, and Psyllium.
Culinary Uses:
Fresh root can be eaten raw, fried, candied, or added to stuffings, soups, and other dishes in the same way as carrots. Whole, good-quality roots are aged in bottles of spirits or liqueurs to make tonic elixirs. Ground dried roots are made into tea.
Economic Uses:
Ginseng extracts are added to food supplements, soft drinks, herbal teas, and drinks, and chewing gum; also to skin and hair products.
The Complete Guide to Natural Healing Copyright © 1999, International Masters Publishers AB. ™IMP. Group1 Card 18
The Encyclopedia of Herbs by Deni Bown Copyright © 1995, 2001 Dorling Kindersley Ltd. pp 299-300.
The Essential Herb-Drug-Vitamin Interaction Guide by Geo. T. Grossberg,MD and Barry Fox,PhD, Copyright©2007 Barry Fox,PhD. Pp.244-246
The Herbal Tarot by Michael Tierra, Herbalist and Candis Cantin, Artist Copyright©1988 U.S. Games Systems Inc. Card 0
The Modern Herbal Primer by Nancy Burke Copyright©2000 Yankee Publishing, Inc. pp. 66-69