GINSENG (Chinese Ginseng: Panax ginseng, American Ginseng: Panax quinquefolium)

Family: Araliaceae

Parts commonly used: Root.

Properties/energetics: Adaptogen, cardiac tonic, liver tonic, nutritive, stimulant, antidepressant, demulcent, aphrodisiac. Slightly warm, moistening; slightly bitter, sweet (Chinese Ginseng)/Neutral, moistening; slightly bitter, sweet (American ginseng).

Systems predominantly affected:  Cardiovascular, liver, lungs, stomach, reproductive, general effect on whole body that helps improve physical and mental performance.

Uses: Stimulates the body to overcome weakness and deficiency. Helps normalize blood pressure, particularly low blood pressure, having a strong affinity for the circulatory system. Used to treat blood weakness, anemia. Uplifts depressive states, often when associated with debility, exhaustion, or sexual inadequacy. Increases adrenal cortex function and stimulates the pituitary gland to produce more sex hormones.

Combinations: Combines well with Saw Palmetto and Damiana for treating glandular weakness and with Ginger and Wild Oat for countering long-term stress, signs of low blood pressure and low blood sugar, fatigue, tendency toward depression, decreased immunity, and increased susceptibility to allergies. (Take this combination for many months, two to three months on and one month off, and get some regular sleep and relaxation.)

Affects on specific body types: Traditionally, elderly, weakened, and/or tired people use Chinese ginseng. It is considered a waste of this treasured root if used by the young. However, in today’s Western society, Ginseng is likely appropriate for any overactive person, young or old, who may be injuring himself with a stressful lifestyle, long workdays, a fast food diet, and poor sleep. Chinese Ginseng can overheat an individual who is already physically very warm and assertive, so it is probably too heating and energizing to be used comfortably by strongly anabolic Warrior-dominant persons who tend to exhibit heat patterns and strong blood pressure. It is more appropriate for the Seer constitution; however, it can also be too stimulating to a weak or highly sensitive person, who may become nervous and agitated after taking it. Therefore, when the Seer uses Chinese Ginseng, it should be taken in small doses with meals, ideally only during the cold winter season. American Ginseng is probably a better choice for this constitutional type. It can be taken throughout the year because of its neutral thermal qualities. It will not be overstimulating, and it will give an anabolic push to this characteristically catabolic constitution, promoting weight and tissue growth, and therein building vital energy. Its adaptogenic action will fortify and help normalize the Seer’s erratic hormonal secretions. If a Warrior feels he must use Ginseng, American ginseng taken in small doses is the better choice due to its neutral thermal qualities, which will not be so overstimulating to this already physically warm and active individual. The Monarch who’s feeling dull and sluggish can do well with Chinese Ginseng when it is taken in moderate quantities, especially during the winter months as a warming nutritive tonic. This will have an enlivening effect on the mind, renew energy and vitality in the body, strengthen the heart, regulate blood pressure, and increase resistance to disease. However Monarchs should be moderate in its use.

Precautions: Do not use Ginseng with an individual who is manifesting inflammation, high fever, irritability, burning sensation, or acute asthma. Best not to use with hyperexcitability, fiery emotions, or irritability. Occasionally, this herb can produce dizziness or headache (in which case, try decreasing the dosage), and some individuals can experience insomnia when taking Ginseng late in the day.

Preparations/dosage: A piece of the root may be sucked and chewed. (Steam the root until soft, then slice it into pieces the thickness of a quarter.) Decoction: 1/2 cup three times a day. Some components are destroyed in boiling. Better to purchase a special Ginseng cooker to decoct the root. Tincture: 15 to 40 drops three times a day. High-quality Ginseng is expensive. If you choose to use powdered Ginseng, know your supplier, or buy a root and powder it yourself so you know what you’re getting.

By James Green, Herbalist, copyright 2008

For more information please refer to James Green’s book, The Male Herbal, 2nd Edition