Ginseng – herb or drug?
Ginseng – herb or drug?
Cornelis van Dalen explains
The word ginseng is said to mean ‘the wonder of the world’,
because of the healing and health-giving properties of this
herb. Traditionally, it has been used by the Chinese to provide
energy, prolong life and to remove mental and bodily fatigue.
The prepared root is chewed by the sick to recover health, and
by the healthy to increase vitality.
There are four types of ginseng, each providing different
kinds or degrees of energy.
White ginseng: neutral, a general tonic
Red - usually Korean or Chinese: very hot/strong
Siberian: mild tonic
Traditional uses of ginseng
As a powerful tonic, benefits the heart, calms the spirit
For dyspepsia, vomiting and nervous disorders
As a remedy for consumption (TB) and other lung diseases
An aid for fatigue and the infirmities of old age
Modern uses of ginseng
Improve physical and mental endurance
Stimulate an immune response. America Ginseng is amongst the
strongest immune tonics
Improve glucose balance (homoeostasis), in diabetic patients
Improve male potency
Cardiovascular effects (stabilise blood pressure – but can
raise it if overused)
For stress (exerts beneficial effects on adrenal and
For asthma (Chinese and Korean varieties) is used for ‘cool
type’ symptoms (pale complexion, weak pulse, shortness of
breath etc). Not for ‘hot’ asthma until heat signs have been
reduced through diet and other herbs
To counter the effects of radiation (x-rays, microwaves,
TV’s, mobile phones etc)
For loss of appetite and digestive symptoms due to mental
and nervous exhaustion
Ginseng is best combined with other herbs to create a healthy
balance and ideally is taken following consultation with a
Experts advise that ginseng should be taken for a few weeks
only and then stopped for a period. Taken for too long, ginseng
can cause headaches, high blood pressure, palpitations and
insomnia. Ginseng is not suitable for patients who suffer from
high blood pressure, are subject to headaches, night sweats and
Standardised extracts or pseudo herbalism?
The Chinese as far back as 1750 found that ginseng was in such
demand that their indigenous supply of the root was diminishing.
To satisfy the consumer demand, American Ginseng was imported in
It is helpful to remember that powerful herbs and strongly
medicinal foods ought to be used cautiously in the normal
diet. A Chinese folk saying warns, “Healthy people who regularly
use medicines become ill.”
If the use of ginseng appeals to the patient, it is
better to seek the advice and diagnosis of a traditional
herbalist, who may offer better alternatives, more effective for
the overall condition of the patient.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Cornelis van Dalen has more than ten years
experience in the Naturopathic approach to health and
well-being. He is a published writer and speaker on the subject
of alternative and complementary therapies. He is the
Secretary-General of the Association of Naturopathic
Practitioners (ANP). Go to
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