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What is Chinese Ginseng?

By Vanessa Harvey
Updated May 17, 2024
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Chinese ginseng is a medicinal herb traditionally used in Chinese medicine and in the practice of alternative medicine in many Western nations as well. The herb has been proved to stimulate the brain, the heart and blood vessels, which in turn affects the entire circulatory system, usually in a beneficial way. Blood sugar levels are decreased with the ingestion of Chinese ginseng, which also increases secretions of histamine and the corticosteroid content of the blood. Panax quinquefolium is the scientific name for this medicinal plant, which contains various natural chemicals such as camphor, arabinose, gineosides, starch and saponin.

Generally, a decoction of the root is made by gently simmering it in water, or the root is ground into a powder and encapsulated to be taken with water. Among the unproved benefits of the herb are its ability to treat anemia, diabetes, ulcers, edema, depression and impotence. Reliance on Chinese ginseng to medically treat any of the unproved benefits usually is not recommended, particularly if a person does not possess a solid understanding of nutrition and possible drug interactions. Some believe that other health conditions that can be treated with this medicinal plant include hardening of the arteries and decreased mental and physical efficiency. This is why Chinese ginseng has been associated with other herbs that have a reputation for retarding or even reversing the aging process.

People for whom it generally is considered safe to take the herb include those who are younger than 45, who are not pregnant, who enjoy good physical health and who ingest it for only short periods of time. Diabetics and cardiac patients should consult a medical doctor before taking Chinese ginseng even in small doses over any period of time. No problems have been reported when pregnant women or women who are breastfeeding take small amounts, but it still is not considered completely safe unless a physician is first consulted.

Chinese ginseng is sold in many health foods stores in various forms. Generally, the safest form of Chinese ginseng or any other herb is to grow it organically or hand craft it from the wild. In many parts of China, this medicinal plant still is used as a favorite herbal remedy for almost every health problem experienced. Ginseng is not considered a mild herb, so it is not advisable to allow children who are younger than 2 to ingest it. The yellowish ground power has a potent aroma and a very unpleasant taste.

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