Ginseng Differences and Benefits: How to Choose the Best Ginseng for Your Needs

Ginseng is known as an adaptogenic herb. An adaptogen is an herb that regulates and helps the body manage stress and maintain vitality. Adaptogens are used for long-term revitalization and not for immediate energy like central nervous system stimulants like caffeine.

Ginseng is grown in many parts of the world. The roots are the part of the plant that is used for all Ginseng products. Each variety has its own health benefits. The benefits of ginseng are cumulative. Taking the herb for several months to a year is much more effective than short-term doses. Ginsengs are used in many oriental formulas to complement other herbs.

Ginseng in general provides energy to all body systems, is a stimulant for the brain and memory centers, helps lower cholesterol, and regulates the use of sugar in the body. Ginseng also promotes regeneration from stress and fatigue. All Ginsengs contain measurable amounts of germanium, a trace mineral that is also found in mushrooms.

Panax Ginseng, (also known as Asian ginseng, Korean ginseng, Chinese ginseng, Ren Shen, Xi Yang Shen, or Say Yang Sum), grown in Korea, is the broadest spectrum of all adaptogenic herbs. It is also considered one of the most precious and expensive herbs. Panax ginseng stimulates energy in both the short and long term, which is why it is known as a yang tonic that replenishes Qi (energy).

Panax is rich in phytohormones for men’s and women’s problems. For men it helps in the formation of testosterone and for women it protects against breast cancer, hence the term adaptogenic (it will adapt to the needs of the body no matter what it is needed and regardless of gender) fits into the category aphrodisiac. Panax Ginseng is used to improve the immune system, impotence and premature ejaculation, lack of sleep, and nervous exhaustion. It is especially useful for older bodies with debilitating conditions.

Contraindications: Panax, which means panacea, is NOT universally applicable in all diseases as its name indicates. Yang Ginsengs should not be taken during acute inflammatory disease or for bronchitis. Use yin American Ginseng for bronchitis. Yang Ginsengs are used in combination with other herbs to temper their powerful nature.

American ginseng (also called Panax quinquefolius, Xi Yan Shen) is a yin tonic. Yin tonics are refreshing and slow in nature. American ginseng is used in China for fever and exhaustion due to chronic wasting diseases. It is also used for coughs related to lung weakness (such as tuberculosis, bronchial infections, or asthma).

Siberian ginseng (also called Eleuthero or Eleutherococcus senticosus) comes from China. It is known for its long-term energetic effects on the adrenal glands and circulation. In this day and age, the majority of our American population is overloading their adrenal glands with excess stress. There are too many tasks that encourage us to use our available time. We spend less and less time with our families and do what nurtures us (our life purpose or God’s way). Siberian ginseng is a yang tonic herb, so it stimulates the fast and fiery type of male energy function. Siberian ginseng has been used for rheumatic problems, low vitality and weak energy of the liver and kidneys for about 2000 years. It is considered less calorific (less yang) than Panax varieties (therefore safer).

I use Siberian ginseng in my “old dog formula” to increase circulation to the glutes and lower spine. I once had a client who came to Old Dog Formula regularly for his two very old shelties. I found that they came a little more regularly than they should for the dosage I had recommended. When I asked them about it, they confessed that they were also using the product with fabulous results. I also like it and use it from time to time for the gardening season.

Panax notoginseng (also known as Pseudoginseng or San Qi) is grown in China and is used as a pain reliever and to stop internal and external bleeding. It is also added to treatments for coronary heart disease and angina pectoris. Interestingly, San Qi was used extensively by the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War to increase recovery rates from gunshot wounds. Avoid this during pregnancy. It could harm the fetus.

Wild ginseng, from Manchuria, is considered the best, but it is extremely expensive. For centuries in the East, premium ginseng roots have been valued more than gold.

Ginseng comes in two varieties, red and white. Red ginseng is steamed, which gives it its yang color and attributes.

So next time you go to the health food store, don’t just ask for Ginseng, be specific.

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