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Chinese Ginseng is an adaptogen, anxiolytic, aphrodisiac, cardiotonic, demulcent, hypoglycaemic agent, tonic, thymoleptic and stomachic. Panax is an adaptogen, meaning it enhances the body's resistance to external stresses and improves physical and mental performance. It acts on the central nervous, cardiovascular and endocrine systems, promotes immune function and metabolism. The hormone-like substances in the plant account for its simultaneous sedative and stimulating (adaptogenic) effect on the central nervous system. Panax improves the responses of the adrenal cortex in secreting the stress hormones possibly by interacting with receptor sites at the cortex and at the hypothalamus, variously stimulating and relaxing the central nervous system, affecting hepatic metabolism and glycogen utilisation by skeletal muscle. It has been found to have a beneficial effect on carbohydrate tolerance in diabetic patients. In China, it is also used during labour. (1)
According to Traditional Chinese Medicine, Panax Ginseng is called Ren Shen 紅蔘. Ren Shen enters the Lung and Spleen and Kidney channels to promote Yang energy, improve circulation, increase blood supply, revitalise and aid recovery from weakness after illness. Panax Ginseng is known as the King Herb for tonifying Qi. Panax Ginseng strengthens the Spleen and tonifies the Stomach, generates fluids (Jin Ye) and calms the Shen (spirit). It is indicated for physical or mental exhaustion, stress, inadequate resistance to infections, neurasthenia, neuralgia, insomnia, hypotonia. Panax ginseng is specifically traditionally indicated in depressive states associated with sexual inadequacy. (2)
40 ginsenosides have been identified. In vitro investigations using cell cultures and in vivo animal models have indicated ginseng’s potential cardiovascular benefits through diverse mechanisms that include antioxidation, modifying vasomotor function, reducing platelet adhesion, influencing ion channels, altering autonomic neurotransmitters release, and improving lipid profiles. (3)
Ginseng has also been reputed as an aphrodisiac, and is used to treat sexual dysfunction as well as to enhance sexual behaviour in traditional Chinese medicine. Animal studies have shown ginseng results in significant increases in blood testosterone levels. (4) A review on the multifaceted effects of ginseng on male reproductive function and its mechanisms of action concludes that Panax ginseng may represent novel therapeutic strategies for the treatment of male reproductive diseases or disorders. (5)
Ginseng regulates immune cells including macrophages, natural killer cells, dendritic cells, T cells, and B cells and exhibits beneficial effects on controlling inflammatory diseases and microbial infections. (6)
Panax has the potential to enhance cognitive performance and mood (7) and has been demonstrated to have ergogenic effects. (8) A review concludes that ginseng enhances performance and is useful as an ergogenic aid in sport. (9)
Panax ginseng is part of a Chinese herbal formual known as Shi Quan Da Bu Tang, traditionally used to tonify the Blood and Qi to treat anaemia, anorexia, extreme exhaustion, fatigue, kidney and spleen insufficiency and general weakness, particularly after illness and after chemotherapy. It has been found to potentiate (make it work better) chemotherapy and radiotherapy and inhibit malignant recurrences, prolong survival and prevent and ameliorate adverse toxicities in cancer treatment. (10) In Japanese herbal medicine (Kampo) the formula is known Juzen Taiho To and has been shown to increase expression of heavy metal chelating metallothioneins (MTs). (11) Shi Quan Da Bu Tang also increases transcription factor Nrf2 to support phase II detoxification thus regulate the body's detoxification and antioxidant system. (12)
1. PFAF. Panax ginseng 2019.
2. Healing WRIo. Ginseng. 2019.
3. Kim J-H. Cardiovascular Diseases and Panax ginseng: A Review on Molecular Mechanisms and Medical Applications. Journal of ginseng research. 2012;36(1):16-26.
4. Fahim MS, Fahim Z, Harman JM, Clevenger TE, Mullins W, Hafez ES. Effect of Panax ginseng on testosterone level and prostate in male rats. Archives of andrology. 1982;8(4):261-3.
5. Leung KW, Wong AS. Ginseng and male reproductive function. Spermatogenesis. 2013;3(3):e26391-e.
6. Kang S, Min H. Ginseng, the 'Immunity Boost': The Effects of Panax ginseng on Immune System. Journal of ginseng research. 2012;36(4):354-68.
7. Kennedy DO, Scholey AB. Ginseng: potential for the enhancement of cognitive performance and mood. Pharmacology Biochemistry and Behavior. 2003;75(3):687-700.
8. Sellami M, Slimeni O, Pokrywka A, Kuvačić G, D Hayes L, Milic M, et al. Herbal medicine for sports: a review. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition. 2018;15:14-.
9. Lee NH, Jung HC, Lee S. Red Ginseng as an Ergogenic Aid: A Systematic Review of Clinical Trials. Journal of exercise nutrition & biochemistry. 2016;20(4):13-9.
10. Chang I-M. Juzen-taiho-to (Shi-Quan-Da-Bu-Tang): Scientific Evaluation and Clinical Application. Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine. 2006;3(3):393-4.
11. Anjiki N, Hoshino R, Ohnishi Y, Hioki K, Irie Y, Ishige A, et al. A kampo formula Juzen-taiho-to induces expression of metallothioneins in mice. 2005;19(10):915-7.
12. Wu Q, Zhang D, Tao N, Zhu QN, Jin T, Shi JS, et al. Induction of Nrf2 and metallothionein as a common mechanism of hepatoprotective medicinal herbs. Am J Chin Med. 2014;42(1):207-21.