(NaturalHealth365) In the time-honored Indian healing system known as Ayurveda, a “rasayana” is an herb or substance believed to have the power to rejuvenate the body, fight the effects of stress, and even prolong life. Ginseng, one of the most ancient and commonly-used medicinal herbs in the world, is the quintessential rasayana, with countless people worldwide relying on this distinctively-shaped root to restore mental and physical vitality, improve memory and enhance quality of life.
Eliminate chronic fatigue, lower blood sugar and prevent cancer
There are two different ginseng varieties – Panax ginseng, or Asian ginseng, and Panax quinquefolius, or American ginseng – which can be used to improve your energy, stabilize blood sugar and kill cancer cells. Although the plants have slightly different qualities and effects, both have natural steroid-like compounds called ginsenosides as their active components.
A third plant known as eleutherococcus senticosis, or Siberian ginseng, is technically not ginseng at all. In addition to being important in Ayurveda, ginseng is also a staple Chinese Traditional Medicine. The Asian variety, or “renshen,” was first used by early Chinese emperors to treat a variety of ailments.
American ginseng is growing in popularity
American ginseng can grow in the rich soil of hardwood forests, but over-harvesting in the 1970’s decimated native crops. Under cultivation by farmers, American ginseng has made a comeback; currently, 95 percent of American ginseng is grown in Wisconsin. The roots, which must be five or six years old to possess beneficial qualities, are commonly harvested in the fall.
Why is ginseng good for you?
It’s the ginsenosides, in ginseng root, which have powerful antioxidant capabilities – helping to prevent free radical damage to cells and DNA. They also function as potent anti-inflammatory agents.
In addition, ginseng is rich in substances called panaxins, which may have a hypoglycemic effect, and is also high in polysaccharides – or complex sugar molecules — that boost immune function. Beneficial flavonoids, assorted volatile oils and B-complex vitamins also contribute to ginseng’s health-enhancing qualities. Plus, let’s not forget, ginseng is rich in biotin – needed for healthy nervous system function — and choline, which can help delay fatigue during physical activity.
Reduce stress and fatigue with ginseng
The federal regulatory agency Health Canada credits ginseng with reducing the severity, frequency and duration of cold symptoms. The University of Maryland Medical Center (UMC) notes that Asian ginseng may improve immune function, cut cancer risk and enhance mental and physical performance.
UMM credits American ginseng with lowering blood sugar of diabetic patients in clinical studies. In a study conducted by the Mayo Clinic, ginseng alleviated fatigue in cancer patients while improving their quality of life. And, insurance companies like, Blue Shield Complementary and Alternative Health credit ginseng with ‘adaptogenic value’ – meaning it helps to improve the immune system (as needed) to resist the harmful effects of stress.
There is some evidence that ginseng may help reduce symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome – due to ginseng’s ability to help support healthy function of the endocrine system.
Even your doctor will be impressed with ginseng
In a 2013 review published in Oncology Reports, researchers noted that PPD, a ginsenoside metabolite, was effective against multiple types of tumors in both human and animal cell models. They reported that the metabolite was able to cause an arrest in the cell growth cycle of human liver cancer, colon cancer and leukemia cells.
A second metabolite, Compound K, induced apoptosis – or cell self-destruction – in human stomach cancer cells. The team concluded that potential clinical applications exist for ginseng as a cancer treatment for humans, and called for further investigation. By the way, if your doctor isn’t ‘impressed’ – find another doctor that understands the power of herbal medicine.
What is the best way to consume ginseng?
Ginseng is available in the form of fresh or dried root, liquid extracts, capsules and teas. It is generally considered safe when consumed in recommended amounts, but in high doses can cause headaches, elevated heart rate, nausea, nervousness and insomnia.
Ginseng may be used daily for two to three weeks, then should be halted for one to two weeks. Naturally, I suggest you check with your doctor before making any significant changes to your diet or supplement routine.
Keep in mind, if you have diabetes, autoimmune disease or take heart medicine – understand that ginseng may increase the risk of bleeding. Obviously, for best results, it would be great to work with an experienced herbalist that has medical training.
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