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Page 3 - Ginseng the Mysterious Root of Heaven
But, where does ginseng get these properties? Pat of it can be attributed to the unique substances revealed upon analysis of the herb. Analysis reveals that ginseng contains phosphorous, potassium, calciumm, sodiaum, iron, aluminum, silicon, barium, strontium, manganese, titanium, glucose, resins, saponin, tannin, aromatic bitters, volatile oils, panacin, and a dozen biological active compounds called ginsenosides. The basic molecules are 20-s-protopanaxatriol and 20-s-protopanaxadiol. They are attached to polysaccharide (complex sugars) compounds composed of glucose, rhamnose, and arabinose.
In the mid 1980s (circa 1985), research on ginseng demonstrated certain anti-cancer, radiation effect protective properties. Interestingly though , it is not the ginsenosides that seem to be the active agents of these effects, but the many polysaccharides in ginseng that have an immunostimulatory (i.e. stimulate immune system) function. Interferon production is also affected by taking ginseng (interferon is an internally produced anti-cancer substance). There are different types of interferon and Panax qinseng Meyer has been shown to induce production of Beta interferon.
Ginseng has a warm, sweet, and slightly bitter taste. It is said to excite the nervous system and decrease fatigue, it stimulates the blood forming organs and stimulates blood circulation, increases the contractive ability of the heart and tones up heart muscle. It improves digestion, metabolism, and absorption. It can act as an "antidiuretic" and lower blood sugar (the last quality attributed to ginsenin).
Of course, there are situations in which taking ginseng is said to be contraindicated. Patients coughing up blood should not take ginseng, also folks with encephalemia or cerebrovascular accidents (this includes strokes, which is conflicting with the earlier study noted, so readers should take this into account) in people suffering from high blood pressure, in edema (fluid retention and swelling), malfunction of the kidneys, excessive insomnia (as ginseng can make an excessive condition more excessive) and common cold with fever.
An even better breakdown of the types of ginseng and uses is that there are three basic types: Chinese, Korean red, and American. The Chinese is better for lungs and digestive system and used to help lungs, produce fluids, and used in critical conditions. Korean red is warmer and used to tone up blood and energy and for increasing functions of sexual organs and the cooler American version, is useful for acting on heart, lungs, and kidneys and therefore, good for treating cough, thirst, and for treating alcoholism.
In herbology, there is an ancient theory that the shape of a plant or root often determined what part of the body the herb was useful for treating. The ginseng root is shaped like the body of a person and thus, has been used for treating the whole body.
In purchasing ginseng, "you get what you pay for". Some unscrupulous dealers market inferior ginseng or, as we have seen, may even sell another plant altogether as ginseng. Some people who have tried what they bought as ginseng but got no effects, should try again and this time, be more careful to get the real thing.
For folks under stress (and who isn't these days), ginseng may be just what you need for increasing your concentration, endurance, energy levels, and just making life more worth living.
©1990 Dr. John Raymond Baker, D.C., Austin, TX, USA. Dr. Baker regularly writes for several national magazines on a variety of health-related topics.
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