Ginseng properties


Characteristics of ginseng

Common noun: Ginseng, Asian ginseng, Korean ginseng, Chinese ginseng

Drawing of the plant (Drawing by courtesy of

Scientific Noun: Panax ginseng Meyer. The word “Panax” in Greek means cure. This word was formerly so named because it was believed that it cured everything.

Family: Araliaceae

Habitat: From eastern Siberia, northeastern China and Korea where it can grow through the trees of pine and fir forests. It prefers shade exposure and a well-drained soil, though moist, and rich in humus. Because of the spoliation to which it has been subjected in their home countries, ginseng has become a genuine relic, that can hardly be found in original places. Russia has declared it a protected species.

Ginseng shortage, along with the peculiar characteristics of being a slow-growing species that often remains dormant, makes most of ginseng sold today not to be originally “wild”. It comes from controlled crops, most of them from Asian countries (Korea, China and Japan mainly), American countries, such as Canada and the United States and some European countries like Germany and Bulgaria. The fame of this plant as a “cure” has determined that many specimens can be found cultivated in many gardens or terraces in many parts of the world.

The plant is revered in Korea where it is considered of national interest. It is in this nation from which the first written texts on ginseng appear, as a medicinal herbal called Shen-Nung, in the sixth century BC

The Chinese civilization has considered this plant a remedy for all things, up to the point that it is called in Chinese “Sheng ren”, which means “root of heaven”. They thought that ginseng was capable of curing all diseases by making the lives of people who drank it more durable. The human form of the root surely influenced in this belief because the ancients believed that roots that possessed this form contained superior medicinal properties.

The popularity of this plant in today’s civilization is enormous to the point that it is not only used as a medicinal plant, but many drinks, soft drinks or cookies are made with this ingredient.

Description of ginseng

It is a perennial plant of the Araliaceae family up to 60 cm tall.

Round, soft stems arising from a thick root, that, because of the presence of two appendices, makes us to remind two legs, giving the whole rood human appearance.

Composite leaves with five leaflets, serrated, in whorls.

Little showy green flowers gathered in umbels, flowering at the age of four. Red fruit in berry.

Types of ginseng

There are various forms of ginseng which correspond to the same species, according to place of origin, the form of cultivation, plant age, and so on. The main ones are:

  • White ginseng: The root of ginseng after picking up.¡
  • Brown Ginseng: It’s the same root when dry.
  • Red Ginseng: It is the same plant that has been steam roasted and has been placed in the sun to dry. This last form is considered to posses greater medicinal properties than the two first, since cooking stimulates the appearance of a greater proportion of components.

Components of ginseng

  • Acids: ascorbic, citric, fumaric, malic, and oleanolic acid (Root)
  • Ginsenosides (Root, leaves and buds) Panaxosides (Plant)
  • beta carotenes (Root)
  • Phytosterols: Beta Sitosterol, stigmasterol and campesterol (Root)
  • Minerals: aluminum, calcium, chromium, cobalt, copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorus and potassium, selenium, silicon, sodium and zinc (Root)
  • Fiber: Pectin (Root)
  • Vitamins: vitamin C, biotin (vitamin B7), niacin (Vitamin B3), Riboflavin (vitamin B2) and Pantothenic acid (Vitamin B5) (Root)
  • Carbohydrates: maltose, fructose, glucose and sucrose (Root)
  • proteins (Root)It is generally believed that the older specimens are best because they have greater amount of active ingredients.


Internal use remedies with ginseng

A plant to overcome life problems

Ginseng is considered one of the best plants to balance the body. The reason for this property is due to the presence of ginsenosides principles which tend to stabilize the body’s balance, which is known in scientific terms as adaptogenic properties. These properties can be exploited in situations like the following:

  • Fatigue: When we are exhausted, ginseng can restore our lost energy. Ginseng is considered, in this sense, a stimulant, but unlike other stimulants, it does not produce overstimulation. Traditionally, it was used in the Orient and America to return the strength lost in the battle, to restore the sick, the wounded or those who felt weak after a great effort (In America, American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) was generally used for these purposes). Its ability to recover energy has given it a very great importance in the Western world. In general, ginseng is considered as one of the best tonics. (Take 200 or 500 mg a day of some ginseng root preparation divided into two doses)The use of ginseng in patients with chronic fatigue improves their condition. Equally useful might be to use for the treatment of spring fatigue or insomnia. (Take 200 or 500 mg a day of ginseng extract divided into two doses)Many athletes say they use ginseng as a steroid hormone with anabolic properties, because they consider that, after taking a ginseng tea, they feel stronger and more eager to compete. Some studies have concluded that ginseng can improve the body’s use of energy and can increase oxygenation, allowing greater efficiency and a faster recovery rate. Other studies seem to deduce contradictory results.
  • Stress: Another property of ginseng is its ability to neutralize stress. Ginsenosides Rb1 and Rg1, along with beta-carotene, are the main components that give it this competence. Ginseng can help the body to respond better to adversity so as not to become depressed. This plant seems to act on the brain and adrenal glands making them stop producing hormones that will increase the body stress. Besides blocking certain negative hormones, it stimulates the production of endorphins, which increases the feeling of comfort.The properties mentioned would be responsible for improving the condition of patients with anxiety or depression. (200 to 500 mg daily of Panax ginseng extract divided in two doses)

Ginseng to strengthen your brain

Ginseng, for its anti platelet components and its vasodilating properties, improves circulation of blood. by means of keeping your capillaries clean and dilated. This action promotes a better irrigation of the brain with the consequent improvement of mental work. Ingestion of ginseng improves intellectual activity by increasing memory and the capacity of understanding. So, it eases the learning process. Some studies carried out in groups of students demonstrated the performance of tests improved with the use of ginseng.

People who have concentration problems should use this remedy with some frequency. Its ability to keep the brain in a better state makes researchers think about the possible use of this remedy to improve the conditions of Alzheimer’s disease. (Decoction of 10% of dried plant. A glass a day)

Ginseng helps to combat some symptoms of schizophrenia by increasing the production of endorphins that have a positive effect on the mind of the schizophrenic. (Decoction of a gram of dried root per glasses of water. One cup a day)

Because it contains antiplatelet and vasodilator properties, it improves blood circulation by keeping your arteries clean and dilating your capillaries. This promotes a better irrigation of the brain with the consequent improvement of mental work. The ingestion of ginseng improves intellectual activity because it increases memory, comprehension ability and ease of learning. Very useful for memory loss (amnesia)

Ginseng lowers cholesterol and balances the sugar levels in of blood

Ginseng contains over 20 useful principles to lower cholesterol. This property, together with its ability to improve blood circulation, makes the root of this plant a very worthwhile instrument to keep the circulatory system in good condition.

Very interesting is its use to treat diabetes by activating an adequate production of insulin. Studies were conducted in a non-insulin dependent group of people who were treated with 100 to 200 mg daily of ginseng extract. The results showed an increase in insulin levels in their blood and a general improvement in the condition of their body or the their general mood.

Ginseng, immune system booster

By stimulating the formation of white blood cells, ginseng can strengthen the immune system, which prevents the occurrence of many bacterial or viral diseases. It has been found that tincture of ginseng has anti tumor properties, because it is able to neutralize the growth of some cancer cells.

(Decoction of 10% of dried plant. A glass a day) (40 mg dry extract per day)

The stimulant power of ginseng

More information

Contraindications, toxicity and precautions

Administered in adequate doses, it generally presents no contraindication. A rest should be taken after every two or three weeks of treatment. Exceeding allowable dose or taking it for a long time without interruption can lead to problems of nervousness, inability to sleep, nausea, stomach pain, headache and muscle tension.

Some people not used to it can experience headache or malaise. It is advisable to start taking small doses until to get used to it.

It should not be combined with caffeine (coffee, tea and colas) or other exciting substances to prevent overstimulation. It should not be used during pregnancy and lactation. It should not be mixed it with antidepressants. It is inappropriate to use this plant in the following diseases:

  • Thyroid problems: Because of its high iodine content, should not be taken in case of hyperthyroidism.
  • Problems of hypertension.
  • Diseases of the heart or arteries.
  • Habitual headache. (Migraine)
  • Sleep apnea

punto rojo More information about other ginseng species.

This article was endorsed by Montserrat Enrich - Journalist specializing in edible wild plants and plant uses.
Written by Editorial Botanical-online team in charge of content writing

14 December, 2020

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