Ginseng: Is it Healthy or Harmful for Women?
Ginseng: Healthy or Harmful for Women?
Should women use ginseng? Is ginseng, especially Chinese and Korean ginsengs that are called “yang” tonics, harmful to women, since female energy is “yin”? Should women limit themselves to herbs traditionally given to women, such as red raspberry and dong quai (angelica in the West)? What, if any, value can ginseng have for women? Is there potential harm to women in taking this herb?
One Woman's Experience Taking Ginseng
Although not a scientist or medical doctor, perhaps I can add some clarity to this issue based on my experience. I am a woman who has taken ginseng regularly for over thirty years. Occasionally, I have gone a few months or even years without taking it during that time. I first started using ginseng at around age twenty. I roomed in an establishment with various friends at the time, and one young male friend suggested I chew sliced ginseng root that he gave me as a gift. I tried it, finding the taste unique but not abhorrent. I noticed it gave me energy, but not like the boost from caffeine; ginseng-based energy seemed more organic, like that from a good meal or good night’s sleep.
I next used ginseng a few years later when serving as a missionary, working fourteen-hour days, often outside fundraising and witnessing in bitter cold Midwestern and Northern winters. I attribute my relative good health and strength during those years at least partially to drinking Korean ginseng tea made from paste extract on a regular basis. I was able to do that work, rarely getting sick (and bouncing back quickly whenever I did get a cold) for all those years not only based on faith, but because I could endure the physical conditions. I believe regular ginseng use helped me do that.
Stepping back from active church work in 1987, I worked full-time in retail to support myself, then returned to college and earned multiple degrees, including a minor in Dance at age forty-seven. in 2012, at age 58, I completed a 200-hour Hatha yoga teacher certification, while still working multiple jobs, and I currently teach yoga in my community. I believe that my stamina and good health making that lifestyle possible has been due at least partly to regular consumption of ginseng, usually Korean ginseng. Whenever I have stopped taking it, I notice a decrease in vitality, less appetite, and weakened digestion. Taking ginseng once more, those symptoms ceased. Additionally, menopause for me was relatively easy, with no hot flashes or extreme mood swings. I attribute that in large part to regular exercise, but perhaps the ginseng helped, too!
Ginseng Used For - Top Five Benefits
Basic Information about Ginseng
Ginseng grows in mountainous areas in the Northern Hemisphere, specifically North America, Korea, China, and Siberia. Accordingly, there are several types of ginseng (American, Korean, Chinese, and Siberian ginseng). Each has unique properties, with Korean ginseng being the strongest medicinally, with the most varied application in healing. Korean ginseng is also considered strongly “yang,” or male in energy, a heating, active tonic, as is Chinese, in contrast to American and Siberian ginseng, which are considered to have more cooling, though still tonic, effects.
Herbalists and natural healers widely recommend ginseng for varied health conditions, including (among other conditions): stimulating the appetite, boosting the immune system (thus helping to prevent colds and helping to fight immune system diseases like cancer and AIDS), and anti-aging (http://www.ginseng.co.za/index.jsp?page=benefits). Ginseng stimulates male and female hormones, thus can be useful as a sexual tonic and during menopause.
Ginseng is not recommended for those with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease, for pregnant or nursing women, or for children (http://www.worldhealth.net/news/ginseng/). One should always consult one’s doctor or other medical professional before using any herb or other medicine.
Ginseng Can Benefit Women
Some medical professionals, including some traditional herbalists, might argue that as a “yang” tonic, ginseng is too strong for women and that women should instead use herbs that strengthen and tone the female reproductive system, like red raspberry or dong quai. However, ginseng offers important medicinal benefits (described above) completely different from those two "women's" herbs. There is every indication that an adult female who does not have conditions that contraindicate taking ginseng may confidently use ginseng as an energizer, healing tonic, and adaptogen (substance that helps the body adapt to stress).
Learn More about Ginseng
- Korean ginseng
Phytochemicals in Korean ginseng. What are the medicinal properties of Korean ginseng? Facts about Korean ginseng.
Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) is a perennial plant grown in China, Korea, Japan, and Russia. American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius), a plant with similar properties, is grown mainly in the United States.