Ginseng Uses, Benefits and Side Effects

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From treating health ailments to boosting testosterone, Ginseng uses and benefits are quite popular. But does Ginseng have side effects too? Let's find out!

Ginseng has gained tremendous popularity in the arena of herbal medicines world over, with native Americans and Asians using it for general health and as a testosterone booster herb too. But what exactly is so special about Ginseng? Are Ginseng uses really that beneficial? Before we hop on to know various Ginseng uses, let's first understand what is Ginseng? 

What is Ginseng?
The Ginseng plant is a perennial one that grows slowly, has a short stem, and fleshy roots. It has five to seven compound leaves that shed off in fall to give way to yellow-green, umbrella-shaped flowers. The flowers grow to produce red, berry-like fruits born between June and July.
There are 11 different species of Ginseng that fall under the genus 'Panax'; meaning 'all heal' in Greek. The name Ginseng is used commonly for American Ginseng, as well as Asian Ginseng and translates to 'man root' highlighting the fact that the Ginseng plant has roots shaped like human legs. Surprisingly, as the Ginseng plant ages, it develops wrinkles around the neck quite like human beings.
The shape of the Ginseng roots is actually a differentiating factor between species. 

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The Panax Ginseng species are known to be a rich source of compounds called ginsenosides; which are most concentrated in the roots. The older a root, higher is a number of ginsenosides in it and better is its quality. That is why a superior quality Ginseng is one that is at least six years old and has been harvested in fall to preserve most of its beneficial properties.
While Asian and American Ginseng both contain ginsenosides; their type and quantity vary in both. The Ginseng plant is being extensively researched the world over to prove the beneficial properties of ginsenosides. However, the human race has reaped these benefits for centuries now.
Ginseng has been in use for over 2000 years now. The earliest documented Ginseng uses emerge in the records of the Liang Dynasty in China (220-589 AD). As per Chinese legend, emperors liked to use this beneficial herb not only as a medicine to cure ailments, but also, for its cosmetic advantages in lotions, soaps, and creams.

What are the types of Ginseng?
As mentioned above, there are two most popular types of Panax Ginseng - American Ginseng and Asian Ginseng. In addition to these, there is also a variety called Siberian Ginseng. However, it is not quite popular as it does not contain the beneficial ginsenosides and therefore, lacks the same effects.  
The Asian Ginseng is also known as Korean Ginseng as Korea is the largest supplier of the herb world over. It is of three types -

Korean Ginseng

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  • Fresh Ginseng – Harvested when the root is younger than four years old.
  • White Ginseng – Harvested when the root is anywhere between four to six years old. In this case the root is peeled and dried before use. 
  • Red Ginseng – This is the best Korean Ginseng that is harvested after it is six years old. It is first steamed and then dried before use. It is rich in B-vitamins, amino acids, and enzymes and offers instant energy. 

What Are the uses of Ginseng Root?
The Ginseng uses are many and endless in many ways. Be it traditional medicine or modern herbal healthcare; the plant, especially its root, finds widespread recognition and has become a popular herbal remedy world over. Native Americans and Asians have used Ginseng root to prepare herbal remedies for a headache, fever, and indigestion. It is also used to treat infertility and offers great benefits to those suffering from erectile dysfunction as well. As a stimulant, the root helps improve concentration and is used to boost memory, retention power, and general thinking. It also finds extensive use in remedies to fight depression, anxiety, and mood swings. It boosts immunity and keeps infections at bay.

Ginseng root also finds use in ancient medicines and natural remedies to fight cardiovascular diseases, cancer, hormonal disorders, auto-immune disorders and more. Asian Ginseng is said to enhance athletic performance as well.

5 Ginseng Uses You Must Know About
Ginseng uses can be in many different forms. These include -

  1. Dried Ginseng root – It is used to brew and make Ginseng tea. The root can be chewed as it is or stewed with food. It is also powdered to prepare several herbal mixes. However, having raw Ginseng root is best avoided as it is very sour.
  2. Powdered Ginseng – It is used in pure form or mixed with other herbs to make medicines and teas. 
Ginseng Tea

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  1. Ginseng tea – It is suggested to have Ginseng tea at least once a day for those above 40 as the health benefits of Ginseng tea is numerous.  This tea can be prepared from fresh Ginseng root or bought from a store. 
    To prepare Ginseng tea, boil some water in a pan. Peel some Ginseng root or take a teaspoon of Ginseng powder in a tea filter. Once the boiled water has cooled for two minutes add the filter to it and let the tea steep for three to five minutes. Drink while hot and you are sure to love the flavor.  
  2. Ginseng tablets or capsules – if you do not relish the taste of powdered Ginseng or Ginseng tea, you can also have Ginseng tablets or capsules. These are best had in prescribed dosage for general good health or as specific remedies for certain ailments.
  3. External applications – Lotions or creams are prepared from Panax Ginseng for use by people suffering from erectile dysfunction. They are applied externally and are not to be ingested.

3 Ginseng Uses for Men

  • Improves Libido - Korean Red Ginseng when taken in the powdered form in recommended dosage, has been found to improve libido in men. It also helps treat erectile dysfunction.
  • As a performance enhancer - Various researches have indicated that ginseng produces anti-stress and anti-fatigue effects by reducing the effects of stress hormone cortisol in the body, helps in boosting stamina during an intensive training program.
  • Increases Testosterone levels - It has shown an increase in testosterone levels. The active ingredient is Ginsenoside Rg1  in Panax ginseng, is responsible for the increase of testosterone levels.It is found that it increases the production of LH(Luteinizing hormone) by acting on the pituitary gland. In a clinical study, Asian Ginseng has also shown increase in LH and free testosterone levels.

Ginseng root also finds use in ancient medicines and natural remedies to fight cardiovascular diseases, cancer, hormonal disorders, auto-immune disorders and more. Asian Ginseng is said to enhance athletic performance as well.

 

Innovative Ginseng Uses - Ginseng Recipes

Ginseng RecipeIngredients and Method

Pineapple-Ginseng Smoothie with Mint 

"A refreshing drink for summers"

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  • Pinneapple- 1 cup
  • Kiwi-1 no
  • Ginseng- A pinch
  • Orange Juice-1 cup
  • Cinnamon -A pinch
  • Nutmeg- A pinch

Method:
Blend all the ingredients in a blender to make a smoothie.

 

Ginseng RecipeIngredients and Method

Chicken Ginseng Soup

"A high protein and immunity-boosting soup"

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  • Chicken Shredded -1 cup
  • Ginseng root/ Tea bags (4)-
  • Sweet corn-2 tbsp
  • Garlic-2 cloves
  • Ginger-1 inch piece
  • White pepper-a pinch

 Method

  •  Saute garlic and ginger in oil,         add chicken, water, and ginseng.
  • Bring to boil, and cook till done. 

 

Ginseng RecipeIngredients and Method

Spiced Ginseng Iced Tea

"Energy booster Ginseng Iced Tea"

 

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  • Cardamom pods-6
  • Star anise-1 no
  • Clove-3-4
  • Honey-1 tbsp
  • Ginseng tea bags- 3-4 
  • Crushed ice - 1 cup

 

  Method 

  • Boil all the spices in water and add ginseng tea bags.
  • Keep it for 5 min.
  • Cool it down. Strain and add honey and crushed ice.

 

What are the benefits of Ginseng?

Ginseng offers many health benefits which have been tested through research in the field. However, researchers believe more study is needed in the arena. Some common benefits of Ginseng are -

  1. Reduces stress and enhances the mood - two different studies have found that if added to the diet, Ginseng induces calmness and offers significant de-stressing properties.
  2. Offers anti-inflammatory benefits – One Korean study involving children suffering from cancer, has found Korean Red Ginseng to have a very stabilizing effect in the level of inflammatory cytokines responsible for transmitting brain signals post chemotherapy.
  3. Strengthens brain function – Ginseng works to stimulate the brain cells resulting in better concentration and cognitive thinking. Research has found significant improvement in patients with Alzheimer's after they took Ginseng supplements.
  4. Aids in weight loss – Ginseng acts as a natural, yet effective appetite suppressant; thus leaving one feeling satiated for longer durations. It boosts body metabolism and aids to burn fat faster.
Ginseng Benefits

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  1. Improves Lung function – Ginseng has been found to reduce bacterial lung infections and contain cystic growths. It has also shown great results in aiding the treatment of chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD). 
  2. Anti-Carcinogenic benefits - Researchers have discovered the tumor inhibiting properties of Ginseng and therefore, its anti-cancer properties too are being explored now. Being anti-inflammatory and rich in antioxidants; Ginseng is believed to mitigate growth of cancer.
  3. Natural remedy for diabetes – Studies show that Ginseng lowers blood sugar levels in diabetics and also displays glucoregulatory properties.
  4. Boosts Immunity – Ginseng offers great benefits to the immune system and aids the body to fight diseases and infections. Ginseng root, stems and leaves are used to produce compounds that are anti-microbial in nature and therefore help fight viral and bacterial infections.
  5. Antibacterial Effect - Studies have shown that polysaccharides present in ginseng could interact with microbes, inhibits their attchment to host cells, and helps in blocking the initiation of infectious disease.They might not directly kills the microbes but they certainly reduces their count.
  6. Anti-Viral Effect - Ginseng has shown an inhibitory effect againt influenza virus, rota virus, murine norovirus (MNV), and feline calicivirus (FCV)
Buying and Using Ginseng

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What is the Ideal Dosage for Ginseng?

  • Where on one hand one can easily have one or two cups of Ginseng tea daily, Ginseng tablets and capsules are best taken in specified doses only and under experienced guidance. This is because the strength of the supplement and its combination herbs may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer.
  • Generally one capsule, of 1 milligram, taken everyday works well in most cases. However, it is also important to inform your physician about your medical conditions and any ongoing medication that you are taking to avoid interactions and side effects.
  • In order to avoid any side effects of Ginseng, it is also best not to use it for more than three months in a row. A break of few weeks or months is advisable before resuming the supplement.  

How long does it take before effects of Ginseng can be felt?
Ideally Ginseng taken in prescribed doses starts to take effect within 12 hours. However, it all depends upon the severity of the ailment and the overall health of the person as well. Ginseng overdose however, has an immediate and harmful effect. 

What are the Side Effects of Ginseng?

Ginseng side effects are usually mild and manageable in most people. As it is a stimulant by nature, some common Ginseng side effects can include

  • Insomnia
  • Dizziness,
  • Headaches or stomachaches,
  • Menstrual changes in women, or
  • Maybe some allergic reactions in exceptional cases.

However, Ginseng intake is best avoided during pregnancy and also when breastfeeding as its effects have not been thoroughly researched in such cases.
As Ginseng has an effect on blood sugar levels it should not be consumed while or immediately after taking diabetes drugs. Diabetics must always start Ginseng supplements only after consulting their physician. Ginseng may also interact with certain other medications. These include – blood thinning drugs, morphine and pain suppressants, antidepressants, stimulants and medicines that are antipsychotic in nature.

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