Ginseng Root Info, Benefits, Studies, Research - Duke's Materia Tonica
Table of Contents
What is Ginseng?
Ginseng root is a traditional ^ precious ancient spiritual plant that has been used for many thousands of years ^ that is still commonly used as a dietary supplement to promote general health and wellbeing ^.
The consistent supplementation for twelve weeks of panax ginseng benefits quality of life by energizing physical and mental wellbeing for lively alertness, sustaining vitality, increased relaxation, more appetite and better mood ^. Even so, ginseng is so effective that benefits are realized with eight weeks of supplementation on a poor diet with high stress lifestyle ^.
Ginseng is a holistic tonic that balances the body's processes towards dynamic equilibrium ^ as a physical stress resistance adaptogen that may be taken in very large doses ^ with negligible toxicity ^, with upwards of six grams taken daily ^, that protects the body from toxins and the emotions and mind from the negative effect of stress ^.
Ginseng root has been studied and analyzed to have over 100 nutritional biochemical constituents ^ that have a wide range of benefits on many systems in the body: the nervous system, cardiovascular, endocrine, immune while modifying metabolism to stress levels for longevity ^.
Ginseng ignites energy of the body on many levels so that one will become more able to take on the challenges of daily living with purpose, drive and eagerness.
Simply, the root contains a plethora of naturally occurring nutrition that assist the body to digest and release energy from food; specifically each individual cell in the body and their mitochondria generates energy, as observable measured heat, thus promoting resistance to cool and cold environmental temperatures ^ by regulating cellular energy homeostasis in the muscles ^ and assting the prevention of using proteins and concurrent tissue breakdown for energy ^.
Types of Ginseng
The various ginseng specifies are found in many places around the world, both in Asia and America. All ginseng roots are recognized for their main active constituents called ginsenosides.
Asian Ginseng Notes:
Species: Panax ginseng C.A. Meyer
The Chinese and Koreans cultivate ginseng in the Changbai mountain range ^ in covered gardens where the soils are rich in minerals which support the growth and development of healthy plants.
Cultivated Chinese and Korean ginseng are usually steamed cooked to a red color which increases the panaxatriol content. The wild roots are usually used white and uncooked so that they naturally have a higher panaxadiol ginsenoside content and increased amounts of immune boosting glycans and polysacchrides ^.
American Ginseng Notes:
Species: Panax quinquefolius L
North American ginseng is very similar to panax ginseng, but has a cooling and calming energy ^. American ginseng is shade cultivated ^ for greater ginsenoside potency, in cold temperature regions ^ of the central northern areas of the USA and Canada. American ginseng is identified as having a different ginsenoside spectrum ^ that has greater potency concerning antioxidant capacity ^.
American ginseng is commonly used uncooked and white in color which naturally has a higher panaxadiol ginsenoside content and is also higher in immune boosting glycans and polysaccharides ^.
Cultivated American Ginseng
There is no justification for wild-crafting North American ginseng due to inferior ginsenoside spectrums ^ since the roots that are cultivated for at least four years are of better quality concerning ginsenoside efficacy ^.
Pseudoginseng is a blood tonic that promotes health and is also known as panax notoginseng ^, and other names such as 'tian qi,' 'san qi,' and 'tienchi.' ^ It is commonly used for joint and muscle discomfort and to assist healing of bruises and injuries by supporting healthy tissue growth ^.
Pseudoginseng is a related ginseng species widely distributed throughout Asia, including Japan, China, Bhutan and Nepal, that has a different spectrum of ginsenosides than the panax or American species of ginseng ^, such as Notoginsenoside R1 ^.
Choose Six Year Ginseng
Cultivated ginseng plants will have their last most productive year for most ginsenosides ^ during the fifth year of their life ^ confirming the customary optimal harvest during the sixth year
Red Steamed and Cooked Ginseng
Steaming ginseng turns the roots a deep red color and preserves the roots for later use. Steaming is customarily done with the panax species and strengthens potency ^ by creating additional ginsenosides ^.
Gut Bacteria Enhances Potency
Various ginsenosides and ^ other metabolites are created from digestion ^ where bio-availability is enhanced by intestinal flora inside the gut ^, digestive acids ^, and enzymes ^ which metabolize ginsenosides ^ into ginsenoside derivatives and further compounds ^ some of which are responsible for specific homeostatic antioxidant benefits ^. Additionally, some of this transformational process may be accomplished by fermentation of ginseng prior to consumption ^.
Nutrient Benefits of Ginseng
Ginsenosides are highly studied unique active constituents that make ginseng work! ^. It is important to select at least 6 year harvested roots ^ and larger root grades that have more ginsenoside content ^.
Ginsenosides have the overall effect of facilitateing energy utilization and production in the body with direct effects on glycogen energy pathways, such as initiating glucose metabolism in cellular mitochondria, activating spleen enzymes, and rejuvenating glandular hormones.
Ginsenosides have a thermogenic heat producing effect on the body that supports energy and vitality ^. They therefore work on the stomach, lungs, and heart, facilitating the support of digestion, breath, and circulation. Much of the actions of ginsenosides comes from the existence of their opposing activities, like the opposing universal forces of yin and yang ^.
These actions of ginsenosides and how they mobilize the human constitution are categorized in two main ways:
- The ‘panaxatriol Rg1,2, Re, Rf, Rk, Rs group’ are stimulating, energy promoting effects, up-regulating to the metabolism and entire nervous system ^. Higher levels of panaxatriol ginsenosides are found within steamed processed panax ginseng ^.
- The ‘panaxadiol Rb1,2, Ra, Rc, Rd group’ are digestive, relaxing to the body, calming to the nerves, soothing to tissues like the stomach and lungs ^, beneficial for youthful skin health ^, while having a higher antioxidant capacity ^. Higher levels of Rb ginsenosides are found within American ginseng ^ and wild white uncooked panax ginseng roots.
B Vitamins in Ginseng:
In general B vitamins are known to support energy production, nerve function and hormones. These vitamins assist the absorption of food in the digestive system and support circulation of nutrients, as well as nerve impulses, including those within the brain.
Biotin supports the metabolism of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, which is a good reason to take panax ginseng with complete meals so as to release the energy of food and support essential processes in the body.
Choline is a vitamin-like nutrient that supports circulation and nerve function and is linked to cognition through the transport of fatty acids at the cellular level.
The electrolyte minerals found in panax ginseng support essential processes for nerve impulses and muscle contraction and relaxation. These minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sodium, potassium, and manganese.
Vitamin B5, also known as Pantothenic Acid, is responsible for coenzymes that synthesize proteins and additional transport of fatty acids that are essential to various bodily processes.
Flavonoids and Phenols in Ginseng:
Ginseng roots contain flavonoids ^ and phenolic compounds ^ which have antioxidant properties for neutralizing free-radicals and supporting the by-products of fat metabolism ^. Flavonoids assist circulation, cognition, and stable energy levels ‡. The biochemical structure of flavonoids and phenolic compounds work ^ with the various ginsenosides from the alcohol extract of ginseng to scavenge free-radicals ^ and regulate nitric oxide ^.
Ginseng promotes energy and physical activity ^ by having direct benefits on glucose metabolism ^ and normalizing blood glucose levels throughout the day ^ while mediating carbohydrate absorption for slower release from meals ^ for less extreme fluctuations of blood sugar ^ after meals ^, which protects DNA ^ and elicits epigenetic modifications that change the expression of genes ^ responsible for the mobilization of dietary sugars and fats and bodily fat stores for energy ^.
Thyroid and Pancreas
Ginseng also has an effect on promoting healthy hormones from the main energy regulating gland in the body called the thyroid gland ^ and the pancreas ^ for more effective blood sugar regulation metabolism ^.
Insufficient supplemental doses of standardized ginsenoside extracts do not have effects on blood sugar regulation or concurrent energy stabilization ^ nor do ridiculously small single doses of 200mgs promote sports performance ^.
While ginsenosides increase energy production they also have specific antioxidant ^ and protective effects on the nerves throughout the body ^ including the spinal cord and central nervous system function ^.
Cognition, Memory and Sociability
Ginseng may help one to feel, think, ^ stay calm, ^ and remember better with a single dose ^. It may also enhance sustaining cognitive performance while reducing fatigue from mentally demanding work ^ from the ginsenosides, B vitamins and flavonoids which nutritionally support cognition ‡.
As part of a consistent supplementation program, it will benefit cognition, memory, mood and social relationships ^. Ginsenosides specifically support logical thought, math arithmetic ^ overall cognition, mood and memory ^, while the inclusion of a other stimulants will further enhance the cognitive performance of ginsenosides ^.
Large long term doses of ginseng, those of 9,000 milligrams daily over 3 months, work very well for cognition and memory ^, and large shorter term doses of several grams over a week also work for cognition, mood and maintaining calmness during stress related mental tasks ^. But, small doses of standardized extracts (200-400mgs) daily with continuous supplementation may not effectively produce psychological benefits ^ of any substantial lasting value socially or mentally ^, but may yield temporary improvements up to 6 hours of ingestion ^.
Brain and Nerve Health
Ginseng, and medicinal mushrooms such as poria ^, along with a digestive aromatic herbs that increases absorption of ginsenosides ^, have been traditionally used to calm the heart through their combined actions on neurotransmitters ^ in the frontal lobes and hippocampus ^.
Common aromatic digestive herbs such as cinnamon, ginger ^, and dried orange peels promote gastric blood flow and ^ assist the antioxidant ^, prostaglandin mucus coating ^, stomach protecting ^ digestive health benefits of ginseng ^.
Taking ginseng consistently will strengthen the heart muscle, develop blood vessels and increase adaptive blood-flow ^ while further increasing bodily strength and endurance by directly increasing circulating blood protein ^.
Tonics, such as ginseng, have an affinity to harnessing the trace mineral germanium from the soils they grow. Germanium supports cellular oxygenation in the trace amounts that it is naturally found within the roots.
Increasing oxygenation with the antioxidant benefits of certain ginseng constituents created during the steaming and cooking processes ^ will benefit increased levels of overall metabolism.
Hormones and Adrenals
The wide variety of saponins within ginseng roots are structurally and functionally related to steroids ^; these phytosterols are essentially naturally occurring plant steroids, such as beta-sitosterol, that are closely related to the molecular structural shape of cholesterol ^ and may be responsible for increased fertility ^ sex hormones, such as testosterone in males, from larger doses of long-term ginseng supplementation ^ and by preventing the liver metabolism of any adrenal and sex hormones produced by supplementation ^. In contrast, ineffective very large exercise timed single doses do not support hormonal health ^.
Ginseng has effects on cell receptors for steroid hormones in both males and females ^. For example: in males ginseng has a normalizing effect on the testosterone androgen receptors in the prostate ^ which may also be why ginseng benefits male genital health and performance. In females, one of the various ginsenosides, has normalizing regulating effects on estrogen receptors in breast tissue ^. Due to the promotion of hormones, it is not wise to give ginseng to prepubescent children ^.
The physical nitric oxide benefits of steamed red ginseng are a ^ major factor that is responsible for the effects of males having more rigid and longer-lasting erections ^; a dose of nearly 3,000mgs daily does not have sex hormone testosterone benefits, but still promotes satisfying male sexual performance during intimacy ^.
Ginseng fosters homeostasis concerning external and internal stresses, such as cold weather and industrial work, and protects the immune system from stress ^ and by having broad-spectrum effects for regulating immune function ^ that also work with the stress feedback mechanisms in the adrenals as they are related with immunity ^.
Ginseng facilitates homeostatic immune function by protecting immune glands such as the pancreas which is also responsible for stabilizing blood sugar levels ^ and supporting the lymphatic systems ^ for ready mobilization concerning immune function ^.
Ginseng will boost the body's own ability to produce antioxidant enzymes, such as superoxide dismutase ^, to counter the by-products of fatigue and environmental toxins while assisting white blood cells in maintaining genetic coding for a healthy functioning immune system ^.
Ginsenosides are combined with other water soluble starchy constituents found plentifully in ginseng roots, called polysaccharides ^, to call immune cells into action ^ that fortify the immune system ^ and cleanse the blood of toxins ^. The combination of protective polysaccharides ^ that regulate immune function and ^ ginsenosides ensures defensive immune function ^ which allows the other bodily systems and functions to be better adapted to resisting fatigue ^.
Ginseng is commonly used as an anti-ageing tonic concerning healthy skin ^ for the antioxidant ^ and immune protection benefits ^ and adaptogenic environmental protection effects ^, especially from UV sun rays ^. Ginseng maintains skin hydration ^ while promoting hyaluronic acid ^ and protein collagen metabolism ^ for smooth supple youthful skin quality ^. Ginseng extract may be taken orally ^ and topically by adding it to lotions and creams for the anti-ageing skin protection benefits ^.
Due to the endocrine benefits and more efficient metabolism of fats and carbohydrates ginseng may assist dieters in decreasing meal size ^ while reducing the perceived strain of calorie restriction for a better physique without sacrificing quality of life ^ or the unwanted metabolism of muscle proteins for energy ^.
The Health Snap
Any ginseng species is safe and easy-to-take daily as a supplement ^ with meals containing salt and ^ fats ^ which is where the fats are broken-down in the small intestine for best concurrent absorption of ginsenosides ^. Ginseng may also be taken during times of stress and times with related stress effects ^.
Pregnancy and Lactation
Ginseng supports fertility, is commonly consumed by pregnant women and ^ is not toxic with ^ no known unfavorable effects during pregnancy ^. But, extremely large doses should be consumed ^ with caution ^ during pregnancy and lactation ^.
Ginseng is a Dietary Supplement
Ginseng is not approved by the FDA to treat, prevent, mitigate or cure diseases nor is there favorable or convincing evidence to have it do so ^ due to the poor medical knowledge and human clinical trials lacking the quality required for the approval needed concerning disease prevention and treatment ^ even when taken at large doses ^, ginseng will not treat disease ^. Due to being regulated as a dietary supplement, the medical and pharmaceutical industry has little incentive to study ginseng for disease treatment since it is unpatentable as a drug ^.
Bittersweet Tonic Combinations
The bitter-sweet flavor of ginseng stimulates digestion:
- The bitter flavor stimulates digestion of fats by the liver and gallbladder for energy that alivens the body and brain.
- The sweet flavor initiates carbohydrate metabolisms that supports mobilization of glucose and glycogen by the muscles and organs.
The following four dietary protocols will ensure a gratifying 'ren shen' dining experience:
Probiotics: An existing healthy intestinal flora biome is essential to achieving full absorption of ginsenosides. They digest the difficult-to- absorb ginsenosides into easily absorbable metabolites for greater activity and increase success with ginseng root supplementation. So inclusion of probiotics such as cultured foods and quality supplements into one’s daily diet will increase ginsenoside activity in the body.
Antioxidants: Because boosting energy metabolism increases oxidation within the body, it is necessary to better control the by-products of oxidative metabolism, known as free-radicals, with antioxidants. Digestapeel, Tummy Tonic, and Black Ant, which contain orange peels to direct energy throughout the body, are also antioxidant tonics that assist supplementation with panax red ginseng.
- Tea leaves contain antioxidant polyphenols, known as EGCG, which assist control of oxidation that increases during energy metabolism. Caffeine, found in tea, combines well with panaxatriol ginsenosides; thus increasing increase the overall metabolism and cognitive benefits.
- Holy Basil is also a great non-caffeine addition that will help to direct energy throughout the body when combined with ginseng.
- Chamomile will increase the soothing actions of panaxadiol ginsenosides and promote relaxation.
- Goji is a terrific berry-source antioxidant and is high in potassium and other energy minerals that ensure active hydration with concurrent supplementation.
- Schisandra is another hydrating berry-source antioxidant like Goji and this tonic strengthens lung and heart circulation.
- Black Polyrachis Ant is a very good bug-source of adrenal and recovery electrolytes, such as zinc and copper; in addition to including black pigment antioxidants that assist higher energy.
Jujube Date: Panax ginseng is traditionally combined with jujube date for a complete energy tonic. Jujube date is also traditionally used as an energy tonic because it contains b vitamins and electrolyte minerals such as calcium, magnesium, sodium. Additionally it contains flavonoids which calm nerve impulses and relax vascular tissue. These flavonoids make ginseng more acceptable to the body over prolonged use.
Astragalus: Commonly combined with ginseng, it has exceptional protein digestion and metabolism benefits that will further enhance ginseng root supplementation by promoting vital restoration of mind and body, as well as long-lasting energy. This combination will greatly boost immunity during times of exertion, by promoting quicker health recovery and well- being after such times.
Pantothenic Acid Foods for greater de-stress and adrenal support:
Omega 3 Essential Fatty Acids for nerve, circulation, cognition and hormonal support.
Beets to further support circulation and nitric oxide benefits.
Eggs for additional energy, cognition and hormone support from their nutrients of choline, B vitamins and cholesterol.
References and Further Reading
All references for informational purposes only.
1. Online sources that include the various aspects of ginsenosides.
- Institute for Traditional Medicine: The Nature of Ginseng: From Traditional Use to Modern Research ^
- The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Selected herbals and human exercise performance ^
- American Botanical Council: Herbal Medicine - Expanded Commission E of Ginseng Root ^
- WHO Monographs of Selected Medicinal Plants: Radix Ginseng ^
- NCBI: J Ginseng Res. 2014 Jul; 38(3): 161–166. PMCID: PMC4213864 ^
2. Books that contain a comprehensive study at panax ginseng including the composition, traditional and modern uses, dosage, scientific information and interpretation of studies.
- Paul Bergner
- James A. Duke
- Richard Heffern
3. Sources for the structure and function of the vitamins and minerals found within ginseng roots that contribute to the synergistic health support.
- B Vitamins
- Phytosterols and cholesterol
- OSU: Linus Pauling Institute
- Weston A. Price Foundation: Myths & Truths About Cholesterol ^
- Trace Mineral Germanium