Ginseng (Panax ginseng)
Ginseng is the most famous Chinese herb. It is the most widely recognized plant
used in traditional medicine. Various forms of ginseng have been used in
medicine for more than 7000 years. Several species grow around the world,
and though some are preferred for specific benefits, all are considered to have
similar properties as an effective general rejuvenator.
The name panax is derived from the Greek word panacea meaning, "all healing"
and the benefits of ginseng are recognized as such. Ginseng is commonly used as
an adaptogen, meaning it normalizes physical functioning depending on what the
individual needs (for example, it will lower high blood pressure, but raise low
It is also used to reduce the effects of stress, improve performance, boost
energy levels, enhance memory, and stimulate the immune system. Oriental
medicine has deemed ginseng a necessary element in all their best prescriptions,
and regards it as prevention and a cure. It is said to remove both mental and
bodily fatigue, cure pulmonary complaints, dissolve tumors and reduce the
effects of age.
Ginseng is native to China, Russia, North Korea, Japan, and some areas of
North America. It was first cultivated in the United States in the late 1800's. It is
difficult to grow and takes 4-6 years to become mature enough to harvest. The
roots are called Jin-chen, meaning 'like a man,' in reference to their resemblance
to the shape of the human body.
Native North Americans considered it one of their most sacred herbs and add it
to many herbal formulas to make them more potent. The roots can live for over
Ginseng contains vitamins A, B-6 and the mineral Zinc, which aids in the
production of thymic hormones, necessary for the functioning of the defense
system. The main active ingredients of ginseng are the more than 25 saponin
triterpenoid glycosides called "ginsenosides". These steroid-like ingredients
provide the adaptogenic properties that enable ginseng to balance and counter
the effects of stress. The glycosides appear to act on the adrenal glands, helping
to prevent adrenal hypertrophy and excess corticosteroid production in
response to physical, chemical or biological stress.
Studies done in China showed that ginsenosides also increase protein synthesis
and activity of neurotransmitters in the brain. Ginseng is used to restore memory,
and enhance concentration and cognitive abilities, which may be impaired by
improper blood supply to the brain.
Ginseng helps to maintain excellent body functions. Siberian ginseng has been
shown to increase energy, stamina, and help the body resist viral infections and
environmental toxins. Research has shown specific effects that support the
central nervous system, liver function, lung function and circulatory system.
Animal studies have shown that ginseng extracts stimulate the production of
interferons, increase natural killer cell activity, lower cholesterol and decrease
triglyceride levels. Men have used the herb to improve sexual function and
remedy impotence. Ginseng is believed to increase estrogen levels in women
and is used to treat menopausal symptoms.
It is also used for diabetes, radiation and chemotherapy protection, colds, chest
problems, to aid in sleep, and to stimulate the appetite.
Part used: Whole root. Powdered in capsules, as an ingredient in many herbal
formulas, and as a tea.
Common Use: Ginseng is one of the most popular healing herbs used today
throughout the world. It increases mental and physical efficiency and resistance
to stress and disease. Ginseng's adaptogenic qualities help balance the body,
depending on the individual's needs. It is known to normalize blood pressure,
increase blood circulation and aid in the prevention of heart disease.
Care: A perennial herb with a large, slow growing root. Requires a loose, rich
soil, with a heavy mulch of leaves and only 20% sun.
Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian Ginseng)
Adaptogen, Anti-toxic, Anti-radiation, Immunoprotective and Immunoregulatory.
For patients going through chemotherapy or radiotherapy, Eleutherococcus would be very useful. In Cancer therapy, the immune defences are weakened and Eleutherococcus offers a better tolerance to such treatments.
It is also possible that it may offer prophylaxis against the development of cancer.
The glycans, eleutherans A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, have hypoglycemic effects, therefore, Eleutherococcus could be used in diabetic formulations.
Siberian ginseng could be used under any circumstance where there is the need to normalize any physiological, biochemical or immunological defects.
Lignans (sesamine, eleutheroside D [di-beta-D-glycoside of syringaresinol]), Polysaccharides (eleutherane A-G & eleutheroside C [ethyl-alpha-D-galactoside]), Triterpene saponins (eleutheroside I, K, L, and M), Steroid glycosides (eleutheroside A [glycoside of daucosterol]), Hydroxycoumarins (isofraxidin), Phenylacrylic acid derivatives (eleutheroside B [glycoside of syringin]), Minerals (Ca, P, K, Mg, Na, Al, Ba, Fe, Sr, B, Cu, Zn, Mn, and Cr)
The pharmacokinetics of eleutheroside B show that it accumulates in the pituitary, adrenal glands, pancreatic nuclei and spleen (Jaremenko, K.V. 1981)
In an alarming situation, the adrenal glands release corticosteroids and adrenaline which prepare the organism for the fight or flight reaction. When these hormones are depleted, the organism reaches an exhaustive phase. Eleutherococcus delays the exhaustive phase and allows a more economical and efficient release of these hormones (Brunner et al. 1990; Fulder, S. 1980)
Eleutherococcus has immunoprotective effects against breast (mammary gland) carcinoma, stomach carcinoma, oral cavity carcinoma, skin melanoma and ovarian carcinoma. It was found to have a pronounced effect on T lymphocytes, predominantly of the helper/inducer type, but also on cytotoxic and natural killer cells. (Bohn, B., et al. 1987; Kupin, V. 1985)
Caution should be exercised when used with other medications since Eleutherococcus inhibits the drug metabolizing enzymes and may prevent the biotransformation of other medications to less toxic compounds (Medon, P.J. et al., 1984; McRae, S. 1996).
Eleutherans A, B, C, D, E, F, and G, reduced plasma sugar levels in experimental rats (Hikino, H. et al. 1986).
Extract of Eleutherococcus had demonstrable affinity for progestin, mineralocorticoid, glucocorticoid and estrogen receptors (Pearce, P.T. et al. 1982).
Bohn, B., Nebe, C.T. and BIrr, C. (1987). Flow Cytometric Studies with Eleutherococcus senticosus Extract as an Immunomodulating Agent. Drug Res. 37(10);1193-1196.
Brunner, R., Tabachnik, B. (1990). Soviet Training and Recovery Methods, pp.217-21. Sport Focus Publishing.
Fulder, S. (1980). The Drug that Builds Russians, New Scientist, 21 August, pp.567-69.
Hikino, H., Takahashi, M., Otake, K., Konno, C. (1986). Isolation and hypoglycemic activity of eleutherans A, B, C, D, E, F, and G: glycans of Eleutherococcus senticosus roots. J. Nat. Prod. 49(2):293-7.
Jaremenko, K.V. (1981). Main Aspects of Eleutherococcus Extract Administration in Oncology. In: New Data on Eleutherococcus and Other Adaptogens, pp.75-78. Academy of Sciences of the Russina Far East Science Centre, Vladivostok.
Kupin, V. (1985). Eleutherococcus and Other Biologically Active Modifiers in Oncology. Medexport, Moscow.
McRae, S. (1996). Elevated serum digoxin levels in a patient taking digoxin and Siberian ginseng. CMAJ 155(3):293-5
Medon, P.J., Ferguson, P.W. and Watson, C.F. (1984). Effects of Eleutherococcus senticosus extracts on hexobarbital metabolism in vivo and in vitro. J. Ethnopharmacol. 10(2):235-41
Pearce, P.T., Zois, I., Wynne, K.N., Funder, J.W. (1982). Panax ginseng and Eleuthrococcus senticosus extracts-in vitro studies on binding to steroid receptors.
Endocrinol. Jpn. 29(5):567-73
These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
Georges-Louis Friedli, PgDip., MSc., PhD.