THE GINSENG (Panax Ginseng C. A. Meyer)
Where did he come from?
Ginseng is part of the araliaceae family. The quality of cultivation and extraction, as well as traceability and standardization, is of paramount importance for a plant as well known as ginseng. Indeed, the controls of the specialties containing this plant often leave something to be desired both on the age of ginseng (guaranteeing a sufficient concentration of ginsenosides) and on the concentration of the various active ingredients, as well as on the absence of phytosanitary products too often found in products from countries with less restrictive legislation as well as the possible addition of synthetic products.
First mentioned in writings dating back to 3300 BC. , this mythical plant from the Far East, has therefore been part of the pharmacopoeia of Chinese medicine for more than 2000 years. It is traditionally used in Chinese medicine in particular as a fortifier, “vital energy tonic (Qi)”, and cardiac stimulant. However, it is described as the “best medicine” in the oldest pharmacopoeia of Shen-Nong (496 BC). Its fame, however, comes from the particular shape of its root evoking a human body (the term ginseng means “root man” and the radical “seng” refers to the roots used as a tonic). In Asian medicine it is a preventive drug (according to Chinese medicine it strengthens the five viscera: the heart, liver, lungs, kidneys and spleen), and strengthens the blood. The first mention in France is due in particular to the Jesuit father Jartoux in 1711.
How can we describe it botanically?
Ginseng is a herbaceous plant, perennial 30 to 50 cm tall with a large tuberous root. The leaves are webbed and made up of 5 serrated leaflets. The flowers are small and white in terminal umbelle. Fruits are light red berries. Ginseng grows wild in the mountainous forests of East Asia. It is grown mainly on the Korean Peninsula and northeastern China. The only real ginsengs are those of the panax family. The main tuber root, of bittersweet flavour, is the part of the plant used in medicine.
What is it made of?
Ginseng consists mainly of heterosides of tetracyclic triterpenes, ginsenols, polysaccharides (glycans, peptidoglycans, starch, oligosaccharides), vitamins B and C, essential amino acids, seerols, monoterpene essential oil and fatty acids.
What are the main pharmacological properties?
Ginseng is a modulator of the hypophyso-cortico adrenal axis by decreasing excessive plasma corticosterone secretion following chronic stress and carbohydrate metabolism. It is particularly used in functional asthenias
The E Committee and the World Health Organization (WHO) therefore acknowledge the use of this plant:
- to tone the bodies of tired or weakened people
- restore the capacity for physical work and intellectual concentration
- help convalescents regain strength
However, the conclusion of a synthesis of these studies on physical performance shows that after 1 to 9 weeks of treatment, ginseng significantly increases oxygenation and improves heart rate.
Clinical and in vivo trials show, for example, that taking ginseng improves cognitive performance (concentration, attention, intellectual fatigue,…), stress adaptation and mood. These effects are probably due to regulation of brain neuromediators (dopamine, norepinephrine, GABA). In humans, taking a Panax ginseng extract combined with a flu vaccine can be used to vaccinate and better protect against colds by a significant increase in antibody status and NK activity. Another study shows that ginseng increases cytotoxic activity of peritoneal macrophages and cytokines.
In vivo, it has been shown that ginseng exert effects comparable to those induced by diazepam (reference anxiolytic). This plant would also significantly lower postprandial blood glucose and body weight in non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients.
What are the indications of Ginseng?
- Sporting effort
- Decline in work capacity
- Erectile dysfunction
- Metabolic syndrome in association with Polygonum multiflorum
What are the job precautions?
- Contra-indicated in cases of severe high blood pressure and psychosis
- Contra-indicated in pregnant or lactating women
- May lead to gynecomastia in humans
- Avoid in gynecological cancers
- Contraindicated in case of hypersensitivity to active substances
- Contraindicated in hemophiliac patients or preparing for surgery
Are there risks of drug interactions?
Like all substances containing active ingredients, the risk of drug interactions should be taken into account.
As ginseng is no exception to this rule, here is a list of drug interactions to consider:
- Avoid in combination with anticoagulants (warfarin)
- Risk of interactions with MonoAmine Oxydase inhibitors (IMAO) – (Phenelzine), triptans and digitalin
How to take it and at what dosage?
In masterful preparation
Here is the dosage of Fluid Extracts of Fresh Plants Standardized in Glycere solution (EPS):
1 c. coffee morning and evening for 1 month, renewable 3 months, to dilute in a large glass of water
- Intellectual fatigue and early memory problems: Ginseng – Ginkgo biloba
- For the athlete and the person over 50: Ginseng – Tribulus – Cassis
- Post-infectious asthenia or convalescence: Ginseng – Cassis
- In case of anorexia: Ginseng – Cassis – Gentiane
- Depression due to chronic stress: Ginseng – Millepertuis
- Exam preparation: Ginseng – Hawthorn – Ginkgo biloba