Panax Ginseng: The King of adaptogens!

Panax Ginseng, The King of adaptogens: Learn how it can help with stress and better health! #adaptogensIn this article we will discuss the many health benefits of Panax Ginseng, the king of adaptogens.

This herb has a plethora of amazing properties that will help you battle stress, raise energy levels without the crash and even modulate your hormones. We will also discuss its many different forms, cycling, side effects and precautions of use.

CAUTION: Medical Disclaimer

Herbal Name and Characteristics:

  • Name: True Ginseng (a.k.a Red Ginseng or Korean Ginseng),
  • Pin Yin: Rénshen,
  • Latin: Panax ginseng,
  • Taste: Slightly Sweet and bitter,
  • Color: Reddish-brown (dried powder),
  • Constitution: Slightly Warm (Yang),
  • Builds: Qi, Jing and Shen.

About this Herb

Ginseng is a miraculous herb. In the supplement world it has a bad reputation since people think it does not work. That is because most people are impatient and do not understand how herbs work. Those who do, easily recognize Panax ginseng as one of the most potent herbs out there.

I started taking ginseng elixirs ever since I was really young and skinny as my father thought it would magically add muscles to my skeleton frame. For that purpose, it simply did not work. I was however especially energetic (even more than your average kid).

As time passed by, I decided to give it another try in 2014 and the results were astonishing. Mood, libido, appetite, energy levels, everything went up. And to think that it was only a 2gr dose.

I can recommend Panax Ginseng for removing fatigue and improving mood. I did see an increase in libido and endurance in the gym but there are better herbs for improving testosterone levels and strength output.

Below you will find more details about this adaptogen, benefits, side effects and precautions you need to take before using it.

What is Panax Ginseng?

Panax ginseng is actually a plant and the name Panax comes from the Greek words ‘panacea’ (πανάκεια,  παν- + ἄκος  ) – pan which means ‘all’ and akos which means ‘therapy and cure’. So in a nutshell panacea means all-healing.

According to Greek mythology, Panacea was the goddess of healing and also the daughter of Asclepius (Greek God of Medicine) and Epione. It was said that she would carry a small pouch of it with her to use for healing patients.

The word ginseng on the other hand, comes from the Chinese rénshen which means man root. Putting it all together, Panax Ginseng means all-healing man root.

The root part has been used for centuries in both Korea and China (a primary Qi tonic in TCM) to make different forms of elixirs or for medical purposes in herbal medicine. Panax Ginseng is also called Red Ginseng in Korea. To avoid confusion, Panax Ginseng is the Chinese Version while the herb from Korea is often called Red Korean Ginseng.

The name (Red ginseng) indicates the way it was processed: steaming the root. In other forms, like American Ginseng (white), the product comes from a cooling process of the root.

While the most important compound in Panax Ginseng is ginsenosides (over 100 different types of them). It also includes a number of other important nutrients such as:

  • L-Arginine,
  • GABA,
  • Polysaccharides (known for their anti-cancer properties and especially Ginsan which is an immune regulator),
  • Beta-glucans,
  • Oligosaccharides and
  • Polyenes (falcarinol, falcarintriol, acetic acid and linolenic acid).

It is used to treat multiple conditions as it can affect different systems of the body. Its most important property is that of an adaptogen. An adaptogen works by adapting to the needs of your body. For example, if your resistance to stress is low, it will bring it up. If it is too high, it will bring it down. As you can see from the example, it works by modulating our body’s response to stress.

Also, ginseng is used differently in Western medicine (for example to give people energy) rather than in TCM (Traditional Chinese Medicine) where the goal is to calm people and give them peace.

There are different types of Ginseng but only Panax Ginseng is the original ginseng used in TCM hence the name True Ginseng.

Benefits and properties of Panax Ginseng

Summarizing the many benefits of original Panax Ginseng:

  • It can help with insulin sensitivity, improve glucose levels and normalize insulin levels in patients with diabetes type I and type II due to its protective qualities of the pancreas.
  • It can help improve testicular health, sperm motility, erectile dysfunction and sexual functions such as premature ejaculation.
  • Is an adaptogen and can help people respond better to stress and also promote a state of well-being.
  • It can help with depression and anxiety as seen in several studies. Fermented Red Ginseng appears to be more potent than normal Red Ginseng.
  • Is effective in removing fatigue due to its adaptogenic and antioxidant properties. It can also significantly improve mood but this effect is short-lived (only lasts for 4 weeks).
  • It can improve athletic performance by removing fatigue (as a stimulant in Western Medicine), enhancing glucose uptake and suppressing TGs (Trigylcerides).
  • It has anti-carcinogenic properties as shown in several studies for different forms of cancer.
  • It can help with stimulating appetite in people with cachexia. In healthy people it can increase appetite without increase in weight. Western studies are either lacking, mixed or contradicting on this subject.
  • It can support the immune system both on its own and also in combination with other medicines or vaccines.
  • It can improve testosterone levels by lowering its conversion to DHT. According to one study it did show an increase in testosterone by 162%!
  • It can help with cognitive processes (such as thinking, memory) and has a calming effect. Results are even greater when combined with ginkgo biloba.
  • Another study indicated that ginseng can normalize testosterone levels rather than increase it. People reporting estrogenic effects after using ginseng may be due to the fact that ginseng regulates testosterone by increasing it if it is too low and lowering it if it is too high ( by inhibiting 5a-reductase enzymes and therefore stopping the conversion of testosterone to DHT). This is also why it is advised to cycle ginseng every 4 weeks.
  • While ginseng contains phytoestrogens there seems to be no clear evidence whether it has pro-estrogenic or anti-estrogenic responses according to studies in vivo.

When and how to take it?

Tincture form or elixir: This is one of my favorite forms of taking Ginseng.  You can either drink a dose (when in vial form) or just use a few drops (dropper/tincture form) and then hold it under your tongue for some time. Then you can swallow it.

Capsules or Tablets: Ginseng is also available in pill form however its quality cannot be determined in this way.

Powder form: It is also available in powder form but is the least popular way to take Ginseng. However it is a versatile tool as you can tincture it, make tablets or tea with it.

Tea: You can make concoction (tea) by adding a small amount to boiling water and then letting it cool down for 5-10 minutes. You can drink it 1 to 3 times per day.

Safety and side effects

While Panax Ginseng is generally a very safe herb to use with healthy people for short term, it can sometimes have certain side effects such as:

  • Insomnia (ginseng is a stimulant. I have experienced this first hand),
  • Increased heart rate,
  • Agitation or anxiety,
  • High or low blood pressure,
  • Headaches,
  • Nausea,
  • Dizziness,
  • Itching and rash,
  • Mood changes and
  • Upset stomach or diarrhea.

IMPORTANT NOTE: Since Panax Ginseng is a very strong Yang stimulant, it can put extra stress on the kidneys so it should not be used by people who have Yin deficiencies and kidney problems.

It has been marked as UNSAFE and even harmful when taken for long periods of time as can interfere with hormone balance (mostly in the testosterone-estrogen ratio).

Also people with diabetes must be really careful when using ginseng as it can lower blood pressure. Check with your doctor before using ginseng and always monitor your blood sugar.

You should not take Panax Ginseng if you:

  • Have Immune related conditions or “Autoimmune diseases” such as multiple sclerosis (MS), lupus (systemic lupus erythematosus, SLE), rheumatoid arthritis (RA). Ginseng might make autoimmune conditions worse.
  • Have diabetes as in some people it can lower blood sugar levels.
  • Are scheduled for an operation, organ transplant or you just underwent one. Ginseng might increase bleeding in some cases so stopping its use 2 weeks before a scheduled procedure is advised.
  • If you have hormone-dependent illnesses such as endometriosis, uterine fibroids, or breast cancer, uterine cancer, ovarian cancer, prostate cancer you should not use Panax ginseng because it can disturb hormonal profile (mainly because of ginsenosides’ estrogenic effects mostly found in the white variety).
  • Have any mental problems or disorders (especially schizophrenia). Consumption of ginseng is linked with agitation.
  • Have any kind of bleeding conditions: Ginseng has blood clotting effects which can interfere with the effectiveness of medications. People scheduled for an operation should NOT take ginseng. This holds true especially for organ transplant surgeries as the organ itself may be rejected!
  • Have heart disease. Avoid using ginseng if you have heart disease and consult with your doctor before using it.
  • Have allergies to Ginseng or any of its ingredients.

The best thing you can do before taking any herb supplement is to test it. If you want to be safe while using herbs I strongly urge you to read my other article on how to test an herb for allergies and intolerances.

Contraindications or interactions with other medication/substances:

Be careful while using this herb if you have any medical condition or are taking any kind of medication. In general, avoid using ginseng with medications as it may increase or decrease their effectiveness. When in doubt consult your doctor.

Alcohol: your body gets rid of alcohol faster when combined with ginseng.

Caffeine or stimulant drugs: when taken with ginseng, it can enhance its effects on the nervous system (palpitation, agitation, high blood pressure).

Antidepressants or heart medication: avoid using with ginseng because of its stimulating effects. Also avoid using with Viagra or asthma medications as it can impact heart functions!

Diabetes drugs: Ginseng affects blood sugar levels so it can interfere with their effectiveness.

Also if you are on Anticoagulant / Blood clotting medication (increased risk of bleeding), Immunosuppressants or Liver medication DO NOT USE ginseng as it can interfere with the effectiveness of the medication!

Last but not least, be careful when using ginseng with certain herbs that cause blood thinning as it can increase the risk of bleeding. Such herbs are danshen, devil’s claw, eleuthero, garlic, ginger, horse chestnut, papain, red clover and saw palmetto.

Special Precautions & Warnings:

Since no studies can indicate the full safety of this supplement during pregnancy and breastfeeding, it is best to avoid using ginseng if you belong to this category.

One study has shown that one of the chemicals in Panax ginseng can cause birth defects in animals.

Also, ginseng can poison children and babies and in some cases could be fatal. Also, the safety of panax ginseng is not known at this moment as not enough studies have been conducted. Some even mention to avoid giving ginseng to older children.

Cycling

Panax Ginseng is a must because of its estrogenic effects and also because it can lose its effectiveness after 1-2 months of use. Use for up to 1-2 months and then cycle off for 1 month.

I would not use any herb for long periods of time without a break in order to keep them being effective and protect the body from accumulation of other toxins unrelated to the herb itself.

Dosage

Over the past 20 years I have experimented with literally hundreds of herbs, supplements (and other natural products) and was finally able to discover the right doses for amazing results.

If you wish to learn more about the dosages that I use with my clients for different purposes (better health, hormonal balance, stress management, testosterone boost and more) or how I combine this herb/supp with others, leave a comment below or reach out to me for a consultation through the “Hire me” link.

Closing thoughts

Panax Ginseng was the first adaptogen I ever used. While there are many adaptogens out there and you should take the time to find the one that works for your specific constitution and case, this type of Ginseng has been proven to be among the best.

I highly recommend it for battling stress, raising testosterone and energy levels and so much more. Just make sure that you take heed of all the precautions and use it as intended.

I hope you enjoyed this article as much as I did writing it. Putting together this article took a bit of time but it will only take you a second to click on the Share buttons below and show your support to this blog.

Also if you have any comments or questions, feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you as soon as possible. Thanks!

by Nick Sigma
CWC, EH, E-YRT200

Studies mentioned in this article:

Resources:

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