Ginseng, Panax

The king of all tonic herbs is ginseng, which usually refers to the root of a specific type of ginseng, Panax ginseng, also known as Asian ginseng. Panax derives from the Greek words pan, meaning "all," and akos, meaning "cure." The Anglicized Chinese name "ginseng" means "essence of the earth in the form of a man," referring to the humanlike appearance of the root.


Ginseng is perhaps the most widely recognized plant used in traditional medicine and now plays a major rule in the herbal health care market.For more than 2000 years, various forms have been used in medicine. The name panax derives from the Greek word for "all healing" and its properties have been no less touted. Ginseng root's man-shaped figure (shen-seng means "man-root") led proponents of the "Doctrine of Signatures" to believe that the root could strengthen any part of the body. Through the ages, the root has been used in the treatment of asthenia, atherosclerosis, blood and bleeding disorders, colitis, and to relieve the symptoms of aging, cancer, and senility.

Evidence that the root possesses a general strengthening effect, raises mental and physical capacity, and exerts a protectant effect against experimental diabetes, neurosis, radiation sickness, and some cancers has been reported. Today, its popularity is because of the proposed "adaptogenic effect" (stressprotective) of the saponin content

Botany :- Ginseng commonly refers to Panax quinquefolius L. or Panax ginseng c.A. Meyer, two members of the family Araliaceae. The ginsengs were classified as members of the genus Aralia in older texts.

In the eastern and central United States and Canada,3 ginseng is found in rich, cool woods; a significant crop is also grown commercially. The short plant grows from 3 to 7 compound leaves that drop in the fall. It bears a cluster of red or yellowish fruits from June to July. The shape of the root can vary between species and has been used to distinguish types of ginseng. Medicinally, it is the root that is considered most valuable in providing the pharmacologically active ginsenosides. Ginsenoside content varies with the age of the root, season of harvest, and preservation method. While at least 4 ginsenosides are detectable in most young roots, this number more than doubles after 6 years of growth. High quality ginseng is generally collected in the fall after 5 to 6 years of growth.

Uses of Ginseng Panax

Ginseng is popular for a variety of uses, including adaptogenic, antineoplastic, immunomodulatory, cardiovascular, CNS, endocrine, and ergogenic effects, but these uses have not been confirmed by clinical trials.

Drug Interactions: Possible interactions with warfarin, loop diuretics, and phenelzine have been reported.

Side Effects of Ginseng Panax

The most commonly reported side effects with ginseng are nervousness and excitation. However, there have been reports of diffuse mammary nodularity and vaginal bleeding. A hypoglycemic effect has also been reported; use with caution in those who must control their blood glucose levels.


Panax ginseng may be taken by mouth or applied topically. It can be applied directly to the penis in treatment for erectile dysfunction in men. It is available in capsules, dried root powder, fresh root, liquid extracts, and teas. Usually it is standardized to contain 7% of the active ingredients known as ginsenosides.

The amounts of active chemicals in panax ginseng vary greatly according to how the plants are grown, harvested, processed, and stored. Panax ginseng products may be extended with other types of ginseng that are less expensive to produce.

Recommended daily dose of oral Panax ginseng is:

  • Fresh Root - 500 mg to 3000 mg (0.5 -3 grams).
  • Dried root powder capsules - 200 mg to 600 mg.

Tea may be made by soaking chopped fresh root or 1500 mg (1.5 grams) of dried root powder in about 5 ounces of boiling water for 10 to 15 minutes. Strain to remove solid particles. You may wish to sweeten the tea or flavor it with other herbs to make it more enjoyable.


Possible drug interactions may occur when using:
Blood thinners (aspirin, Warfarin)
Central Nervous System Stimulants
Monoamine Oxidase Inhibitors MAOIs (anti-depressants)


It is estimated that more than 6 million people ingest ginseng regularly in the United States. There have been few reports of severe reactions.

Several reports have implicated ginseng as having an estrogen-like effect in women.One case of diffuse mammary nodularity has been reported,as well as a case of vaginal bleeding in a 72-year-old woman.

Neonatal death has been reported; avoid use during pregnancy and lactation.

The most commonly reported side effects of ginseng are nervousness and excitation, which usually diminish after the first few days of use or with dosage reduction. It has been suggested that methylxanthine constituents of ginseng root (eg, caffeine, theophylline) may contribute to these physiological effects. Inability to concentrate has also been reported following long-term use.

The hypoglycemic effect of the whole root and individual panaxosides has been reported by many investigators. Although no cases of serious reactions in diabetic patients have been reported, people who must control their blood glucose levels should take ginseng with caution.

Ginseng also should not be used by those with high blood pressure.

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