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Ginseng, A Brief Overview
By Bob Hubbard

What is Ginseng?
Ginseng is a common name for the roots several different plants. Used medicinally for centuries by both the Chinese and North American Natives, it is a very diverse plant. Ginseng is often referred to as an adaptogen, a product that does no harm, but increases the body's resistance to stress. This property is unfortunately extremely difficult to prove scientifically, so at this time there is still much debate on the matter.

The uses of the various ginsengs are extremely diverse. Used as both an energy booster, health maintainer, mental booster, and more, itís use goes back centuries in China and North America, as well as Russia.


Types of Ginseng:
Asian ginseng (panax ginseng)
Asian Ginseng is also called Panax or Korean Ginseng. The active ingredients of Panax are ginsenosides, which have been shown to have several beneficial effects. Included among them are anti-inflammatory, antioxidant and anticancer effects. There has also been some clinical research that has demonstrated that Panax ginseng may improve the immune function, conditions associated with diabetes and psychological function. It is native to China, Korea, and Russia, and has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for thousands of years, primarily as a treatment of weakness and fatigue. It is also combined with other herbs in many TCM treatments.

Siberian ginseng
(Eleutherococcus senticosus)
A different plant from both the Asian and American ginsengs, Siberian ginseng contains no ginsenosides, instead eleutherosides are present. It is not considered a true ginseng due to these differences. Siberian ginseng is usually used in a tonic, and is reported to be most useful in maintaining health, rather than treating illness. It has been shown to stimulate resistance to stress, and delay the exhaustive phase. It works by strengthening the bodies natural immune system. It is grown primarily in China, eastern Russia, Korea, and Japan's northern island, Hokkaido, with most of the worlds supply coming from Siberia and China.

American ginseng
(Panax quinquefolius)
Also containing ginsenosides, American ginseng is reported to be a boon to those recovering from illness or surgery. Research and studies indicate that is may be of use in treating ADHD, speed up the metabolization or slow down the absorption of alcohol, slow the progression of Alzheimerís, as well so help improve cardiovascular health and raise HDL levels. However, users of Warfarin (used to prevent blood clots from forming or growing larger) take note: American Ginseng appears to reduce itís effects.
American ginseng is cultivated in the US state of Wisconsin, , Canadian provinces of Ontario and British Columbia, China and France. The root is gathered in autumn.

All of these species are in the Araliaceae plant family, but each has its own specific effects on the body. Due to its growing popularity, growth is now done with extreme care, with many countries having strict harvesting regulations.


Side Effects and Cautions
Before beginning any herbal treatment, it is highly recommended that one consult with a competent herbalist and pharmacist, so as to avoid any negative interactions with existing medications.

Of specific concern, if you are taking anticoagulants, vasodilators, or are pregnant consult with your physician. Certain treatments for AIDS, cancer, connective tissue disease, heart, kidney and liver disease, and tuberculosis may also have bad interactions with ginseng.

Side effects may include diarrhea, headache, heart palpitations, irritability, insomnia, restlessness, nausea, euphoria, hypertension, hypotension, mastalgia, vaginal bleeding, blood pressure abnormalities and heavier menstrual flow.

Ginsengs are commonly taken for several weeks, and common practice suggests a week or 2 break after every 3-5 week period. Prolonged usage can increase your chances of side effects.


Summary

The various forms of Ginseng have been used for centuries as a treatment for numerous ailments. Research into the real effectiveness of ginseng to treat illness and other health problems continues, with some showing positive results. Used intelligently, with the advice of a competent and up to date physician, ginseng may be of some benefit to you.


References
:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Siberian_ginseng
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Panax_ginseng
http://www.umm.edu/altmed/ConsHerbs/...mericanch.html
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ginseng
http://www.aafp.org/afp/20050501/tips/14.html
http://www.aafp.org/afp/20031015/1539.html
http://www.chiro.org/nutrition/ginseng.shtml
http://www.heartspring.net/ginseng_research.html

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Bob Hubbard is an administrator of the popular martial arts sites MartialTalk.com and KenpoTalk.com. He is president of SilverStar WebDesigns inc., a web site design and hosting company specializing in affordable solutions for martial artists. A student of all the arts, he is currently studying Modern Arnis. Bob can be reached at kaith@martialtalk.com. More of Bob's articles can be found at rustaz.net. Copies of this article are free to distribute, provided all text is retained intact. It and other articles can be found at rustaz.net