Panax Ginseng is the fleshy root obtained from a genus of 11 species of slow-growing perennial plants of the family Araliaceae.
By H. S. Nemr
It is mainly grown in Eastern Asia and North America and is commonly called American, Asian, or Korean Ginseng.
Asian Ginseng usually undergoes treatment, such as drying, before it is sold while the American variety undergoes less manipulation.
Ginseng is composed mainly of Ginsenosides. Around 12 major Ginsenosides have been isolated in minute quantities and are though to be responsible for the pharmacological actions. Other isolated substances include vitamins B1, B2, B12, pantothenic acid,nicotinic acid, biotin, fats, minerals, polyacetylene, choline and volatile oils
Ginseng is claimed to “balance bodily functions”. This theory is attributed to the opposing pharmacological effects of its ingredients. For example, ginsenoside Rb-1 has analgesic, CNS depressant, anticonvulsant,and RNA nuclear synthesis accelerating effects while ginsenoside Rg-1 has CNS stimulant and hypertensive effects.
Ginseng was found also to have hypoglycemic, anti-inflammatory, antiviral, antioxidant, cognitive and stamina improving properties; however the mechanism of action by which it exerts these properties was not proven as most animal and human studies were poorly designed and conducted.
Therapeutic and reported folk uses
Ginseng is commonly used to improve well being in elderly patients with cognitive impairment, also as an aphrodisiac, general stimulant, and to manage erectile dysfunction.
CNS: Headache, nervousness, insomnia.
CV: Chest pain, hypertension, palpitation.
GI: Diarrhea, nausea, vomiting.
Dosage is usually between 200 to 600 mg of Ginseng extract daily taken in 2 equal doses.
Interactions and precautions
Insulin and antidiabetic agents: Risk of increased hypoglycemic effect.
MAO inhibitors: risk of increased side effects.
Ginseng containing products should be avoided in pregnancy and during breastfeeding.
H.S. Nemr is a graduate of BAU pharmacy school. He is currently a medication safety officer at Johns Hopkins Aramco Healthcare system.
- Professional’s Handbook of Complementary Alternative Medicines, Springhouse, 2nd edition.
- wwf.org.uk (World Wide Fund for Nature).
- usda.gov (United States department of agriculture).
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