by Stephen LaBounty (2004-06-01)

(With any natural product, it is important to make sure that you are not allergic to its properties, have purchased high quality products, are not pregnant or nursing, or are on pharmaceutical prescription that might be contraindicated with natural products. Do not start any natural remedy routine until you have cleared it with your doctor!)

Ginseng's History:
Grown abundantly in certain Russian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese forests, this plant has black berries and violet or yellowish flowers. Chinese healers traditionally made preparations from the roots, although today many cultures use the leaves and underground stems as well.

Siberian ginseng and its extracts have served as valuable, cheaper alternatives to ginseng, with million of Russians in particular taking the herb as a stimulant and general tonic.

Herbalists refer to it as an "adaptogen", capable of reinforcing the body's ability to handle environmental stress and resist disease. Traditional Chinese healers had, in fact, been using it in similar ways, in addition to turning to it to benefit "qi" (vital energy), normalize body function, stimulate the appetite, promote longevity, and treat fluid retention.

It is also used to stimulate the immune system, boost work capacity, fight off fatigue, improve chronic inflammatory conditions, shield the body from toxins, and so on.

How is it taken?
It comes in many forms. Teas, capsules, raw root, extracts, tinctures, powder for mixing in hot water and many other mixtures.

The dosage most commonly taken is 250 - 500 milligrams, once or twice per day, or 1 to 2 droppers of tincture two or three times per day. Two to three 400-milligram capsules are taken three times a day.

Will it harm me? What do studies say?
Very few adverse reactions to this herb or its extracts were reported by the thousands of people involved in a Soviet study which used a double-blind test to document the efficacy of ginseng. In these trials many of the subjects took a 33% ethanol root extract in doses ranging from 2 to 16 milliliters, one to three times a day for up to sixty days in a row.

German health authorities cite no known side effects or interactions with other drugs, although they recommend that people with high blood pressure avoid the herb. Long term use appears to be safe, although a number of sources, including British health authorities, recommend limiting intake to occasional one month rounds followed by two month breaks. In rare cases people report drowsiness and mild fatigue right after they take the extract, probably due to a slight drop in blood sugar levels.

Other sources (including myself) recommend that a person not take the herb if they are currently experiencing a fever, suffering a heart attack, or are in a state of advanced dehydration or electrolyte imbalance. Given the similarity of Siberian ginseng with Asian (Panax) ginseng, or any other derivatives , if a person is sensitive to one it probably means they are to the others as well.

In the 60's we would take the root of Panax (Asian) ginseng and chew it throughout the day. I would do this three times a week and then do nothing for two weeks, then repeat. Twice a year I would abstain for two month cycles.

For me, it supplied stamina and endurance. I also found that it reduced stress and assisted a lower level of illnesses for the entire time I took it.
It is important to stress these factors:

  1. Buy quality herbs from a reliable supplier.

  2. Be consistent with your dosage and reduce or increase according to your what your body tells you.

  3. Do not continue if you notice a marked change in mental acuity, appetite, heart rate, or blood pressure.

  4. If you have any doubts, contact your health care provider before, using this or any herb.

(References from American Pharmaceutical Association; Guide to Natural Medicines)