The claims made for ginseng by the Orientals, the traditional use in North America, and the experiments of modern science can be used for a practical purpose: to inform those who are interested in taking ginseng how to take it. Science has confirmed that ginseng is safe. Basically, “ginseng is the single most useful restorative and tonic available.”
The following are uses for which ginseng has been recommended.
Ginseng has been shown to be a safe, effective and natural stimulant with many advantages over other stimulants such as caffeine or amphetamines. It can be taken for tiredness and exhaustion or when going through heavily taxing tasks, such as examinations, long-distance driving, stage performances, athletic events, unusually strenuous physical work and so on. It is ideally suited for those occasions when one is exhausted from overwork, insomnia or over-indulgence and may be a very effective way of
preventing or coping with a hangover.
The Chinese tend to pay more attention to ginseng as a long-term restorative because it is believed that benefits to health only accrue from the gradual and continuous use of natural medicines. It is recommended in convalescence from disease, in coping with long-term tiredness and for removing the feeling of being below par. Taking ginseng at these times may not only remove the feeling of being off colour and tired but also decrease the likelihood of incurring a disease due to lowered bodily resistance. It may also be taken for diseases such as anemia and dysentery where tiredness is a side effect.
Judging from the European experiments and experience with ginseng for improving the mental state of the elderly, there are psychological benefits to be obtained from its long-term use. It can be recommended for depression and insomnia, as it has been documented repeatedly that it is able to raise spirits and improve outlook on life, especially among the elderly. Its general tonic effect also may include assisting memory, concentration, alertness, and improved leaning ability.
Ginseng taken regularly may assist in coping with the stresses and strains of life. It may also help the body to resist the harmful long-term effect of stress, which can produce damaging changes to the blood system and the digestion. If ginseng improves the efficiency of nerve and hormones messenger systems, then one might expect a greater coordination of the defense forces of the body. The body is helped to help itself whether, for example, the problem is abnormally high blood pressure or abnormal tiredness.
In clinical trials with elderly patients who had high blood pressure, ginseng was shown to produce a consistent but small reduction in the blood pressure. A German team of doctors reported an average drop of 23 in the blood pressure of patients with a systolic pressure above 140. The Chinese always include ginseng in medicines for those suffering from heart attack or heart disease.
It can safely be taken as a regular course by those with disorders of the cardiovascular systems but it should be taken with the full knowledge and consent of the individual’s doctor. Ginseng can be taken in addition to any other drugs which may have been prescribed without risk of incompatibility.
As there is some evidence that ginseng can adjust the blood sugar level in cases of diabetics and, if there is a noticeable improvement, this can be taken into account in the long-term management of the disease. Again, there will be no problems of incompatibility with other treatments as the herb is mild and extremely safe. It is better to be dependent on ginseng to assist in the management of a particular disease – if it helps — than to be dependent on stronger allopathic medicines.
Ginseng has a reputation as an aphrodisiac, mostly because of reports from royal courts in which it was used for that purpose. However, this is probably a misreading of traditional usage where ginseng was taken to restore sexual function by increasing general vitality. There are studies showing that ginseng may have effects on the sexual glands as part of its overall effect on the hormones of the body. The herb, however, is not an aphrodisiac – a substance to be taken at the time of sexual activity to increase virility.
The menopause is necessary – but side effects are not and they can be reduced or prevented. Despite its traditionally masculine mythology, ginseng is as useful for women as for men. Since ginseng acts by improving the regulation of hormones, it is useful in the treatment of much of the debilitating effects of the menopause. It should be taken by women at an early stage, on a purely prophylactic basis, in order to increase and maintain their resistance capacity and prevent possible menopausal disorder. This safe treatment taken regularly will eliminate the need for hormone treatment.
There is nothing in the West to equal ginseng for gerontological use. Ginseng increases in value with the age of the root. It also increases in value with the age of the user. Old people tend to be vulnerable, suffer from stress-related conditions, are colder, more easily tired, more sluggish in metabolism and the removal of toxins. These are the very states that are aided by ginseng. Ginseng is recommended unreservedly by the Chinese for older people for its healing, restorative actions. Ginseng aids the body in its fight to maintain a stable and harmonious internal state.
From a number of studies done in Europe, it appears that ginseng has an important part to play in the treatment of the decline in mental abilities during ageing and that it improves mood, drive, concentration, coordination, memory and the ability to solve problems. Scientific research with older people has confirmed that ginseng can produce increased vitality during ageing. Energy is the key to a healthy old age. It brings with it benefits for the psyche such as confidence, morale, contentment and involvement. These in turn save the body because of a reduction in stress and tension, greater resistance and increased exercise. Extra years might follow, particularly if health was developed through an appropriate life style. The traditional experience that ginseng ‘harmonizes energies. . . removes toxic substances. . .strengthens the soul . . . and invigorates the body’ has now been supported by scientific research.
Excerpts reprinted with permission where possible.
The Book of Ginseng by Stephen Fulder, Ph.D., Destiny Books, Rochester, VT. Copyright © 1980, 1990, 1993, Inner Traditions / Bear & Co., www.InnerTraditions.com.
An End to Ageing by Stephen Fulder, Ph.D., Destiny Books, Rochester, VT. Copyright © 1983, Inner Traditions / Bear & Co., www.InnerTraditions.com.
About Ginseng by Stephen Fulder, Ph.D., Copyright © 1980, Thorsons Publishers, Ltd., London, England.