Ginseng is a broad term describing many species of plants, most of which are closely related. Korean Ginseng (Panax ginseng), is a closely related species of the American ginseng, a member of the same genus. This is the ginseng used as a tonic in Asian countries for centuries. It also has many ginsenosides as its most active components.
Korean ginseng can be purchased as an extract and is often standardized to contain from between 5% and 25% ginsenosides. Panax ginseng root preparations are "Approved" by the German Commission E as a tonic in times of fatigue and declining work capacity and concentration.
For largely economic purposes, the majority of ginseng in the American marketplace is derived from the lowest grade root, diluted with excipients, blended with adulterants, or totally devoid of active constituents (ginsenosides). There is currently an almost complete lack of quality control in ginseng products marketed in the United States. Independent research and published studies have clearly documented that there is a tremendous variation in the ginsenoside content of commercial preparations. In fact, the majority of products on the market contain only trace amounts of ginsenosides, and many formulations contain no ginseng at all. This has led to several problems, ranging from toxicity reactions to lack of medicinal effect. The widespread disregard for quality control in the health food industry has done much to tarnish the reputation of ginseng as well as other important botanicals.
Korean ginseng is used commonly as an adaptogen (mostly for males), anti-stress, anti-fatigue, for stimulating the nervous system and similar effects.
Korean or Chinese Ginseng may prove especially effective in restoration of normal adrenal function and prevention of adrenal atrophy associated with corticosteroid administration. In rats, ginseng has been found to inhibit cortisone-induced adrenal and thymic atrophy. Ginseng could be combined with other botanicals with adrenal enhancing activity in the treatment of adrenal atrophy (exhaustion).
It is used for men over the age of 40, especially those experiencing stress, tension, exhaustion, fatigue, or debility. Dried root as tea or in tablets: 1gm or two 500mg tablets, Tincture 1:5, 1 teaspoon; Fluid extract 1:1, 20 drops; Standardized extract: 100mg extract standardized to 4 to 7% ginsenosides. Take three times a day for three months continuously, then one month on two months off. This regime can be used indefinitely. Choose products specifically containing the root of Panax ginseng. It is said that for men experiencing a "setting sun," no better herb exists.
It is best to begin at lower doses and increase gradually. The Russian approach for long term administration is to use ginseng cyclically for a period of 15-20 days followed by a two week interval without.
The standard dose for ginseng is in the range of 4.5 to 6gm daily. The use of standardized ginseng preparations is recommended to ensure sufficient ginsenoside content, consistent therapeutic results, and reduced risk of toxicity. The typical dose (taken one to three times daily) for general tonic effects should contain a saponin content of at least 25mg of ginsenoside Rgl. For example, for a high quality ginseng root powder containing 5% ginsenosides, the dose would be 500mg; for a standardized Panax ginseng extract containing a 14% saponin content calculated as ginsenoside Rgl, the standard dose would be 200mg.
As each individual's response to ginseng is unique, you should be monitored for signs of possible ginseng toxicity. Panax ginseng can cause insomnia, hypertension and muscle tightness if taken in excess.
Studies have been performed on standardized extracts of ginseng that demonstrate the absence of side-effects and mutagenic or teratogenic effects. A number of side-effects are reported, including hypertension, euphoria, nervousness, insomnia, skin eruptions, and morning diarrhea, almost always using material of unknown quality.
It must be noted that Panax ginseng has been proven to have a mild estrogen-promoting activity in some women and would thus would be contraindicated where estrogen is already excessive, as may be the case with PMS or breast cancer. Eleuthero ginseng is not estrogen-promoting.
In one trial, panax ginseng for two to three months at 100mg of a standardized extract three times daily greatly improved vaginal dryness and painful intercourse in all of the women studied. Doses were then tapered to a maintenance level.
Women with a history of vaginal dryness and painful intercourse were asked to volunteer for biopsies of the vaginal mucosa. When examined microscopically, the biopsy specimens showed typical atrophy, with thinned epithelial layer and little to no mucous production. Macroscopic examination prior to biopsy of course showed the same changes. Tissue appearance and mucus levels returned to normal levels by the end of the study.
Although this research was not "double-blind" the biopsies and microscopic changes (as well as symptom remission) are definitely significant. (Wright) finds this approach very useful and reliable in practice, usually recommending 100 milligrams of a standardized extract three times daily until the objective is achieved. Quantities can often be lessened thereafter to a "maintenance level".
Both Chinese ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) are known to exert beneficial effects on adrenal function and enhance resistance to stress.
Ginseng may prove especially effective for the restoration of normal adrenal function and prevention of adrenal atrophy associated with corticosteroid administration. In rats, ginseng has been found to inhibit cortisone-induced adrenal and thymic atrophy. Ginseng could be combined with other botanicals with adrenal enhancing activity in the treatment of adrenal atrophy.
Ginseng increases capillary circulation in the brain and decreases the effects of stress.