Korean ginseng, sometimes known as Asiatic ginger or Shen Tsao, is a herb that grows natively in the mountains of Korea, China and parts of Russia.
If eaten raw, Korean ginseng tastes sweet, but leaves a bitter taste afterwards.
Ginseng roots are beautiful, shapely creations that almost resemble the human form, which is perhaps what led the Chinese to refer to ginseng root as ‘Jin-chen’, which means, ‘as a man’, and also led ancient Chinese herbalists to employ ginseng in a variety of medicines and tinctures with a broad range of reputed health benefits.
It was particularly known to be a stimulant, and a remedy for tiredness and depression.
Korean ginseng was also thought to bring people long life, perhaps due to the fact that the ginseng shrub itself can live for over a hundred years. In fact, ginseng has been the most popular herbal remedy in china for many thousands of years.
The most useful Korean herb
Modern science has allowed us to confirm the beliefs of these wise men, in finding that the active ingredients in Korean ginseng, known as ginsenosides, are phytochemicals with adatogenic and steroidal qualities.
They affect the adrenal glands, combatting a condition known as adrenal hypertrophy and preventing many of the symptoms of stress from manifesting.
Ginseng has been shown to have a beneficial effect on protein synthesis, and the activity of neurotransmitters – chemicals that carry messages in the brain – as well as improving blood circulation.
The upshot of this is that Korean ginseng can increase cognitive function, concentration levels and memory. It can, in effect, help us to think smarter.
Enhancing immune power
Ginseng’s role as an immune system booster is not yet fully understood, but studies have indicated that the polysaccharides present in ginseng help stimulate the production of certain immune cells which attack and destroy harmful viruses and bacteria.
They also have a antioxidant property, which means that they are effective in neutralizing potentially damaging oxidants, also known as free radicals, chemicals released as a by-product of energy synthesis which can bind to healthy cells and destroy them.
In this regard, ginseng may be considered somewhat of a preventative measure against the possibility of developing several types of cancer, which are known to be caused by free-radical damage.
Positive effects and usefulness
The positive effect of ginseng on the immune system will also, of course, help to ward off any infectious diseases, such as common colds or flu, as well as more serious viruses.
It is particularly recommended then to the elderly, for whom a cold or flu virus could prove much more dangerous.
Korean ginseng is also variously employed as a treatment for diabetes, as well as sleep disorders, migraines and as a measure to help protect the body when undergoing radiation therapy as part of cancer treatment.
Ginseng also stimulates the appetite, which makes it a good supplement for people with certain eating disorders, or those who may have lost their appetite due to illness.
Who take this herb regularly?
Korean ginseng does in fact contain a number of mild natural steroids, similar to those found in our own bodies, which are known as anabolic steroids.
These natural steroids are of particular benefit to athletes, for whom they can improve strength and endurance, increase the intensity of their workouts and promote swifter healing of the body afterwards.
One such natural steroid present in Korean ginseng is called panaxtriol, from the Greek ‘panacea’, which means healing.
Effective for diabetes
Ginseng is also able to reduce blood sugar levels, and may therefore be effective as part of a treatment program for diabetes, but more research is needed in this area before such a program could be reasonably recommended.
Similarly, it is believed that the healing and regenerative properties of ginseng may slow the growth of, or even prevent the development of certain types of cancer.
Again, studies into this possible role for ginseng are currently ongoing. Some experiments showed ginseng to have mild estrogenic properties, which may suggest a use in the treatment of menopausal symptoms.
Because Korean ginseng stimulates the production of endorphins, our body’s natural painkillers and mood elevators, it can also be deployed as a complimentary painkilling medication, and as a treatment for mild forms of depression.
People who have taken ginseng in combination with painkillers such as NSAIDs (aspirin, ibuprofen) found that the painkilling effects of the drugs were faster and more powerful.
Helpful for men
Many men also swear by ginseng as a sexual tonic, claiming that it can improve erectile function and stamina, as well as boosting sperm counts. Though there is no hard evidence currently to support these claims.
Other reported health benefits of Korean ginseng indicate that it may help to reduce cholesterol, improve sensory ability (sight, hearing etc) and prevent the onset of arteriosclerosis.
In each case there is some promising preliminary evidence, but further investigations will prove or disprove these claims.
Ginseng is frequently recommended as a daily supplement for just about anybody, given it’s natural, healthy healing properties and mood elevation quality.
Though people who are already on a course of MAO inhibitors should not take ginseng without first consulting their doctors, and neither should pregnant women.
Dosage of Korean Ginseng
The recommended daily amount of ginseng is around 2000mg of fresh ground or dried ginseng root, or around 500g of liquid ginseng extract.
Many multivitamin products and other tonics contain ginseng as part of a complete revitalizing solution, and it is also increasingly popular as a designer ingredient, for example in energy drinks.
If you experience any side effects as a result of taking Korean ginseng, you should cease immediately and seek medical assistance as soon as possible.