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Botanical Agents

Ginseng

13 years ago

2361  0
Posted on Dec 30, 2005, 8 p.m. By Bill Freeman

GENERAL DESCRIPTION: Ginseng is not so much a cure-all as a prevent- all, a strengthening "tonic" herb taken to rejuvenate and revitalize the body. Ginseng has been shown to act on both the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Among ginseng

GENERAL DESCRIPTION:

Ginseng is not so much a cure-all as a prevent- all, a strengthening "tonic" herb taken to rejuvenate and revitalize the body. Ginseng has been shown to act on both the cardiovascular and central nervous systems. Among ginseng’s key ingredients are chemicals called saponins or glycosides, particularly a group called ginsenosides, about twodozen of which have been identified. These chemicals appear to affect the nervous system, blood flow to the brain and certain neurotransmitters.

ROLE FOR ANTI-AGING:

Ginseng helps to regulate blood pressure and maintain blood glucose levels (a traditional use is in the control of diabetes). Several studies have shown that ginseng supports the thymus and spleen, and therefore boosts the immune system. Ginseng also appears to have anti-cancer potential; a recent study found that a ginseng extract had potent antioxidant effects, acting as a chelator of metal ions and a scavenger of free radicals. Korean researchers recently found that people who regularly used ginseng had a dramatically reduced risk of  developing cancer of the ovaries, pancreas, and stomach. Individuals who had been taking ginseng the longest had the lowest overall risk of cancer. Research published in May 2002  suggests that an extract of the ginseng berry (the root is typically the only part of the plant used medicinally) may be useful for treating type II diabetes and obesity. Results of the study  on mice bred to develop diabetes showed that the extract normalized blood sugar levels, improved insulin secretion and insulin sensitivity, and lowered cholesterol levels by 30%.Furthermore, the treated animals lost more than 10% of their body weight, ate 15% less, and were 35% more active than untreated mice.

THERAPEUTIC DAILY AMOUNT:

Ginseng comes in a variety of forms, from the whole root to teas to standardized extracts. Potency varies considerably, depending on the type, place of origin and how it was cultivated, stored and prepared. The most predictable results come from using products standardized for one or more ginsenosides (chemicals isolated from the whole plant); an average dose is  100mg of an extract standardized for 7% ginsenosides.

MAXIMUM SAFE LEVEL: Not established

SIDE EFFECTS/CONTRAINDICATIONS:

Ginseng may occasionally cause insomnia, but no long-term adverse-effects from taking average doses have been identified. However, a few contraindications exist: Ginseng is best used with caution by anyone with high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease and should not be used by pregnant or nursing women. Children should not take ginseng, as the structure of some of the ginsenosides is chemically similar to certain steroid hormones that have unknown effects on children’s growth and development.

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