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Ginseng is a very popular herb with a long history of use having been grown by the Chinese for thousands of years. The part of the plant used is the root.
There are three types of Ginseng:
- 'Asian' (Chinese/Korean/Japanese) the active ingredient of which are 'ginsenosides';
- Siberian - for which the active ingredient are 'eleutherosides'
- American ginseng - a weaker form of Asian ginseng
Siberian ginseng is not strictly a 'ginseng' but called ginseng because it has largely the same effects as the Asian variety. Traditionally Asian or 'red' ginseng is regarded as 'warmer' and more stimulating than Siberian ginseng and was often regarded as being better for men.
Both varieties are know as adaptogens which means they help the body to 'adapt' to stress. They have a 'normalising' influence on the body, acting as a tonic by neither over-stimulating nor suppressing the body's energy but balancing it irrespective of the specific illness or unbalanced state.
There is also 'American' ginseng which whilst being of the same type as Asian ginseng is less stimulating. It is not regarded as an 'adaptogen'.
The traditional benefits and uses of ginseng include:
- reinforcing vital energy and longevity
- as a remedy for physical or mental exhaustion
- stress reduction and the ability to withstand greater levels of stress
- increase sense of wellbeing and stamina
- increased cognitive performance - particularly if combined with Ginko Bilboa
- improvement of insulin sensitivity and assisting with Type II diabetes by lowering blood sugar
- symptom improvement in depression
- improvement in fatigue in women with menopausal symptoms, (also consider St Johns Wort)
- treating erectile dysfunction and as an aphrodisiac
- treating Hepatitis C
- fatigue in cancer
- reducing incidences of the common cold
- * as an appetite suppressant
- * as a remedy for flying stress and jet-lag
- feeding and supporting the adrenal glands
- increase resistance to colds and flu
- herpes simplex 2 (siberian ginseng)
It is recommended that ginseng should not be taken for long periods of time without a break - generally no longer than three months. Seek the advice of your health practitioner.
As ginseng is a stimulant it is better not taken less than an hour before bed or after lunch if sleep is an issue.
Asian (red) ginseng
The supplement should contain at least 7% of the active ingredient (ginsenosides)
For general preventative effects - 200mg-400mg per day
Studies conducted by the University of Michigan have used the following doses:
Male impotence - 900mg two to three times a day with a rest period after two weeks
Immune function - 100mg two times a day
Male infertility - 4 g a day
Diabetes, menopause - 200mg a day
Flu - 100mg a day
Alzheimers - 4.5g a day for 14 days
The supplement should contain at least 0.8% eleutherosides
Stress: 100mg-200mg three times a day
Fatigue and female infertility, Alzheimers and fibromyalgia: 100-300mg two times a day for 60-90 days then take a 7 day break
Male infertility and impotence: 100mg-300mg two times a day. Rotate this with 100mg-250mg of Asian Ginseng (panax) twice a day every three weeks for infertility. For impotence rotate every two weeks
Colds and flu: 300mg two times a day for 7-10 days
Siberian ginseng is considered as having very few side-effects. However the following have been reported with Asian ginseng:
- sleep and gastrointestinal issues
- allergic reactions
- ability to concentrate affected
- blood sugar levels dropping too low
Do not take ginseng if you suffer from any of the following:
- high blood pressure
- certain types of insomnia
- pregnancy (Asian ginseng only)
Ginseng is widely available and is manufactured and sold by many companies worldwide. The highest strength capsules we've been able to find contain a concentrated 30% Ginsenoside rich extract from specially selected Panax CA Meyer 4-6 year old Korean ginseng, claimed to be up to 8 times stronger than other ginsengs and regarded as the best in the world.
St Johns Wort
St. John’s Wort (hypericum perforatum) is a very popular and effective herbal remedy. It is traditionally taken orally for the treatment of mild to moderate depression as well as anxiety, tension and neuralgia. It is also used as an anti-inflammatory that brings relief to strains, sprains and muscle spasms.
St Johns Wort is also used externally to heal flesh wounds, and has been proven effective in the treatment of bruises, varicose veins and mild burns.
There have been numerous studies carried out which appear to prove that St Johns wort is at least as effective as certain pharmaceutical antidepressants, including Prozac, but it has far fewer and less serious side effects.
Other reported benefits of St Johns Wort include helping with PMS and menopausal symptoms in women, improving the memory, and controlling variability in mood, (mood swings).The herb has also been proven as effective as light therapy for SAD (seasonal affective disorder).
There is also research that shows that St johns Wort is effective in reducing food cravings.
The dosage that has been proven to have a therapeutic effect in most cases is 300mg taken up to three times a day, usually as a tablet or capsule. A dose taken before bedtime is proven to be particularly effective in aiding a good nights sleep. The herb can also be taken as a tea or as a tincture and in the form of an oil it can be applied topically to help relieve varicose veins.
The active ingredients in St Johns Wort are hypercin, hyperforin, flavonols and xanthones.
Recent research has shown that hyperforin is likely to be the main active constituent in the anti-depressive effect. St Johns Wort also has an antibacterial property. Hyperforin has been shown to inhibit methicillin-resistant MRSA as well as being effective against the herpes simplex virus.
Known and reported side effects of St Johns Wort include dryness of the mouth, nausea, headache, constipation and various other digestive complaints, Tiredness, dizziness, and in rare cases hypersensitivity by the skin to sunlight are also reported as possible side effects.
St Johns Wort is also known to interact with some medications by decreasing their uptake in the body and so reducing their effectiveness. As a result the herb should not be taken in conjunction with hormonal contraceptives, HRT, or any medicines used for the tratment of anxiety, depression, blood thinning, epilepsy, immuno-supressants or HIV drugs.
It is also known to interact with some medicines prescribed for reducing cholesterol and for treating cancer, heart disease, migraine, high blood pressure as well as lithium and thyroxine.
Links to further information sources
- The Herb Directory
A comprehensive directory of medicinal herbs.