“Ginseng”- we often come across this word on the packages of homeopathic medicines. It is a popular health benefiting substance, but few of us actually know about this ingredient. Ginseng is basically a nutritious herb belonging to the 11 species of slow growing perennial plants of the family Araliaceae. It is a medicinal plant with fleshy roots and flourishes in Siberia, Northern China and Korea. Tropical ginseng, belonging to the species Panax vietnamensis, is also found in Vietnam. Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) belongs to the same family but not the same genus like true ginseng. It is also an adaptogenic herb whose active compounds are eleutherosides as against ginsenosides in true ginseng. It possesses a woody root instead of a fleshy one.
Ginseng is a health benefiting ingredient and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years. Now it has been widely adopted in many western countries due to its medicinal properties. In fact, ginseng tea is the latest fad when it comes to health drinks. It is also available in powdered form in capsules, root extracts and honeyed root in medical stores. Ginseng tea is, however, considered more effective as it helps the ginseng to get into the bloodstream faster while it is absorbed by the stomach lining. This herb can influence your health and beauty in various ways.
Types of Ginseng:Broadly there are three varieties of ginseng on the basis of the place of origin.
- American Ginseng: American ginseng or Panax quinquefolium L.ginseng has its origin in southern Ontario from where it spread to Georgia and Wisconsin. It is commercially cultivated in China. It is known for its calming effect that helps in alleviating stress.
- Asiatic Ginseng: Asiatic or Panax ginseng has its origin in North Korea and China. It is red in colour and is prepared by processing and steaming Panax white ginseng and drying it. This is mostly made into tea, slices or capsules and is known for its warming effect on the body.
- Siberian Ginseng: Also known as eleutherococcus centipoises, it is not a true ginseng but belongs to the same family as the other ginseng types. It has its origin in Russia and Japan. Its root is devoid of ginsenosides found in other ginseng types. Instead they contain eleutheroside, which is considered an imitation ginseng.
Skin Benefits of Ginseng:Apart from its various health benefits, this herb has positive effects on your health as well. Today, ginseng or ginseng extract is widely used in beauty and health products. Some of the ways in which it can benefit your skin are as follows.
1. Anti-ageing Benefits:Ginseng has been promoted as an anti-ageing treatment. It contains a large amount of phytonutrients, which can stimulate and activate the skin’s metabolism. It rids your skin of the free radicals that gets accumulated when your skin is regularly exposed to sunlight and environmental pollution. It also contains certain ingredients that can increase the production of collagen in the middle layer of the skin known as dermis, making your skin firmer. This collagen makes your skin more elastic and toned, thereby diminishing wrinkles or fine lines on the face and other body parts.
2. Improves Complexion:Ginseng roots and leaves are rich in vitamins, minerals and antioxidants, which are good for overall skin health. They metabolise skin cells and facilitate the elimination of dead skin cells to produce healthy new skin. Ginseng tea is particularly great for refining and rehydrating your skin. It regenerates skin cells by increasing oxygenation. It also improves blood circulation and is a great blood detoxifier. All these factors contribute to a healthier and brighter complexion. Topical use of ginseng leaves can keep your skin healthy and glowing.
3. Great Toner:Ginseng is also a great toner and facial freshener. Not only does it improve collagen formation but also helps reduce black spots on the face. You can prepare your own ginseng mask by mixing ginseng oil with other ingredients, like sunflower oil, honey or water. This should be applied twice a week for best results.
4. Treatment of Skin Diseases:Incomplete skin metabolism contributes to skin problems like acne, eczema and rough skin. Ginseng is effective in this regard as it gets absorbed by the skin very quickly and improves subcutaneous vascular circulation. Regular intake of ginseng can help you get rid of these problems, making your skin bright and cheerful.
5. Treatment of Dark Circles:Another noteworthy benefit of ginseng is that it helps in reducing puffiness of the eyes and lightens under-eye dark circles. You can try using a ginseng mask for this purpose and get freedom from those dark circles.
Hair Benefits of Ginseng:Healthy hair represents a healthy body. Proper nutrition is vital to stimulate healthy hair growth and that nutrition is provided by ginseng. Regular intake of ginseng can provide the following benefits to your hair:
6. Stimulates Hair Growth:Panax ginseng is an anti-apoptotic which means that it improves the proliferation of dermal papilla cells. Hence, its topical application improves hair’s regeneration ability. It encourages hair growth by stimulating blood flow to the scalp. It also improves the health of hair follicles and cells, thus preventing hair loss.
7. Combats Hair Loss:Hair fall is often associated with a weak immune system. A Healthy immune system enables your body to fight off infections and diseases, thus promoting overall health including hair health. But when your body is busy repairing itself, it becomes unable to perform other functions such as hair growth which ultimately results in hair loss. Ginseng facilitates proper blood circulation as well as optimum oxygen absorption by the blood. By improving the health of the internal body parts, it automatically combats hair fall.
Health Benefits Of Ginseng:Ginseng is considered a powerful natural aphrodisiac and tonic. It has been an important part of Chinese medicine. Some of the health benefits of this herb are as follows:
8. Anti-cancer Properties:Certain substances in ginseng have been found to possess anti-cancer properties. Research conducted by the Chinese Medicine Journal found that ginsenosides have anti-tumour effects and can damage the prostate cancer cells, ovarian cancer cells, neurobastoma cells and lung adenocarcinoma cells. It can also inhibit cell cycle progression, thus slowing down the growth of cancer cells. A study by Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer researchers found that consumption of ginseng after breast cancer diagnosis improved chances of survival and quality of life.
9. Improves Mental and Physical Health:Ginseng can stimulate physical and mental health of people who often feel weak and tired. It is a great tonic that can boost your stamina and energy levels. It improves mental alertness and changes the mood by relieving fatigue. Excessive stress causes the adrenal hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline to flow out, leading to a host of health problems. Ginseng helps in balancing the level of adrenaline in the body. Ginseng tea is considered a great stimulant for brain cells and improves concentration and thinking ability.
10. Beneficial in Type- II Diabetes:Consumption of ginseng can cause a drastic drop in blood sugar levels. Studies have observed that American ginseng can lower blood sugar in fasting and also after meal sugar levels. Even if you are taking medications for diabetes, you can consider taking ginseng along with it. However, consult with your doctor as the combination of diabetes drugs and ginseng can make the blood sugar levels fall too low.
11. Great Heart Tonic:The antioxidant properties of red panax ginseng are particularly beneficial to patients with heart disorders as it decreases the oxidation of LDL cholesterol. It contributes to the health of the cardiovascular system and promotes healthy blood flow. However, it may increase your blood pressure and so, those with high blood pressure should avoid it.
12. Lowers Cholesterol:Certain studies have proved that ginseng lowers bad LDL cholesterol level in the body. This quality can be attributed to the presence of ginsenocides in ginseng.
13. Strengthens the Immune and Nervous Systems:Ginseng is used in herbal medicine to boost the body’s immune system. It strengthens the immune system and is particularly beneficial for patients suffering from chronic bronchitis, when taken along with antibiotics. Its adaptogenic properties can keep you young while restoring damaged cells in elderly people. It also enhances the effectiveness of flu vaccines.
14. Treatment of Erectile Dysfunction:Ginseng is a potent aphrodisiac and can treat sex related conditions like erectile dysfunction in men. Red panax ginseng has been used in Chinese herbal medicine for the treatment of sexual disorders because of its positive effects on erection, desire and sexual satisfaction. Korean red ginseng has also been used to stimulate male sexual function.
15. Benefits for Women:American ginseng tea is often recommended to young women to ease menstrual cramps. This herb is effective in relieving stomach pain associated with menstruation. Ginseng is often recommended to peri-menopausal women to improve oestrogen production in the body. This oestrogen stimulation in the female ovaries leads to a boost in libido in women.
16. Anti-inflammatory Properties:Ginseng comprises of seven constituent ginsenocides, which possess immune-suppressive effects. Its anti-inflammatory properties can be attributed to the combined effects of the ginsenocides, which target different levels of immunological activity in the body.
17. Aids in Weight Control:Ginseng tea is a great appetite suppressant and aids in controlling weight. Extract from ginseng berry can help fight obesity and aid in weight management.
18. Improves Endurance:Ginseng is particularly beneficial for athletes as it enables them to use oxygen more effectively and regulates metabolism, resulting in more energy. Because of its ability to improve stamina, it is a popular stimulant tonic among athletes. Athletes require high levels of stamina in order to be consistent during practise and ginseng can very well serve that purpose.
Nutritional Value of Ginseng:
|NUTRIENT||VALUE||% RDI(Recommended Daily Intake)|
|Calories from fat||0||0%|
|Total Fat||0.0 g.||0%|
|Saturated Fat||0.0 g.||0%|
|Dietary Fibre||0.0 g.||0%|
|Vitamin A||4%||Vitamin C||6%|
Precautions While Using Ginseng:Though ginseng can be beneficial for your skin, hair and health in various ways, it should be used carefully as it is associated with many side effects. In fact, this herb is not suitable for everyone. While it is known to lower fatigue in some people, it might increase nausea, dizziness, and migraine headaches in others. Though, it is considered an herbal medicine, some people might experience allergic reactions from using white and red ginseng.
Diabetics undergoing insulin or similar medications may experience a hypoglycaemic reaction from the usage of American ginseng. It has been found to increase episodes of hypertension and rapid heartbeat. Hence, those with uncontrolled high blood pressure should avoid it.
Ginseng has been found to inhibit a blood thinning drug used during surgery so its usage should be stopped at least 7 days prior to surgery. Though ginseng can lower blood pressure and blood sugar levels in the body, using it can increase the risk of anaemia.
Ginseng is not recommended for pregnant women and nursing mothers as it may cause contraindications. It can also affect the reactions of drugs like aspirin, warfarin, heparin and other diuretics.
In order to reap the maximum benefits of ginseng, it is advisable to consult your physician regarding the correct dosage. Some researchers are of the view that it can affect your hormones when taken for a prolonged period. So it should not be taken for a period of more than 3 months. Use ginseng wisely to stay away from ginseng side effects and thus live a healthier life!