Ginseng: Deep-rooted gains

Ginseng is a multi-faceted herb packed with a host of health benefits

ginsengThe two most commonly used species are Asian ginseng [Panax ginseng] and American ginseng. According to traditional Chinese medicine, each type of ginseng is thought to have unique healing properties. The American ginseng has more 'cooling properties', which makes it valuable for fever and respiratory tract disorders. The Asian ginseng has 'heating' properties, which are good for improving circulation.

Benefits of ginseng

Right from ancient times, ginseng has been used not only as a preventative medicine, but also as a curative remedy for a plethora of ailments. In certain communities, ginseng is generously used as an adaptogen.

An adaptogen is one that normalises physical functioning, in tune with our specific needs, and with dual effects. Hence ginseng has the potential to lower blood pressure, and also raise it in people who have high blood pressure. It, therefore, needs to be used with supervision by hypertensive individuals.

Apart from this, ginseng:

  • Reduces mental stress and anxiety.
  • Stimulates the immune and nervous system. It contains vitamins A, B6 and zinc, which helps in the production of thymic hormones essential for the functioning of our body's defence mechanism.
  • Prevents the growth of certain types of cancer cells.
  • Lowers cholesterol levels.
  • Restores memory.
  • Improves concentration and cognitive abilities.
  • In men, it improves sexual function and blood circulation. In women, it has been shown to be effective in treating menopausal hot flushes.
  • Maintains bodily systems at their optimal level, promotes detox, increases energy and stamina, and wards off viral infections.

Ginseng is available commercially in combination with multivitamins. There are no specific dosages that are prescribed and studies are still in progress to confirm safety and efficacy of the herb. The dosage often used in research studies is 200mg a day of a standardised ginseng extract. It is best to consult a qualified nutritionist or herb specialist to check the correct dose.

Word of caution

While ginseng is a non-toxic herb, excessive and prolonged use can cause insomnia and hypertension. It is thus advised to alternate the use of ginseng. For example, take ginseng daily for 2 – 3 weeks and then take at least one week off.

If you are pregnant, nursing, taking medication, or have a medical condition, consult your physician prior to using ginseng.

So, use it in moderation to enjoy the benefits.

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