Ginseng

A woman came into my clinic the other day and said she wanted the best ginseng for her husband. Should it be American, Asian, and Siberian ginseng?

All of these herbs are good tonics, but they contain different constituents and reflect different personalities, creating their own array of therapeutic uses.

American Ginseng (Panax quinquefolium)

Native to North America, American ginseng acts to tranquillize the brain, while moderately stimulating the vital organs. It also helps to relieve fatigue, aids in lowering blood pressure, reduces cholesterol and fever, and works as an anti-inflammatory. American ginseng has a milder tonic (energizing) action than Asian ginseng. It is safe to take with high blood pressure and during infection or flu. Often considered more yin (feminine) than Asian ginseng, the American form is used for yin deficiency, manifesting often as irritability, thirst, and constipation.

Asian Ginseng (Panax ginseng)

On the other hand, Asian ginseng is considered more yang. Native to China, Japan, Korea, and other Asian countries, it acts on the pituitary and stimulates the adrenals, producing a balancing effect. This herb hastens the nervous reflexes, increasing analytical and overall mental performance, while diminishing fatigue. Asian ginseng extract also causes a host of other effects, including causing the heart to contract more strongly. It can be used as a lung tonic to remedy wheezing, shortness of breath, and laboured breathing. Its saponin hormonal-like structure stimulates sexual function in both men and women. It also reduces blood sugar levels by working cooperatively with insulin. It increases aldosterone, the steroid that regulates the salt and water balance of the body and decreases urine excretion. Protein synthesis and appetite increase while cholesterol levels lower.

Asian ginseng is contraindicated in cases of high blood pressure and yin deficiency with heat (as in the case of flu with fever). Overdosing on Asian ginseng can cause insomnia, headaches, heart palpitations, and a rise in blood pressure. Some women have experienced increased facial hair after consuming Asian ginseng for several months.

Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Siberian ginseng is not a true ginseng, but part of the ginseng family native to north-eastern Europe and Asia. It increases physical performance, growth, and protein synthesis in organ and muscle tissue. Increased catecholamine concentrations in the adrenals and brain after oral consumption of the extract suggest an explanation for stress tolerance.

Polysaccharides in Siberian ginseng have been shown to stimulate the immune system, increasing phagocytosis, an important bodily defence mechanism against infection. In 1982, a dramatic Russian study demonstrated that children with Shigella (dysentery) and Proteus (urinary tract infections) recovered faster when given Siberian ginseng extract along with antibiotics in contrast to antibiotics by themselves.

Siberian ginseng has been shown to aid recovery after sexual stress, strengthening seminal vesicles and prostates in mice. In women, the activation rate of steroidal receptors was higher in the uterus (including response to estrogen).

So which will it be: American, Asian, or Siberian? My client looked me straight in the eye and asked, “Which one will make my husband more sexually functional?” After a bit of thought, I told her – Asian ginseng can make a man more “macho,” kind of like a one-night stand. American ginseng is gentler, kind of like an ongoing relationship. Mixed together, you could have an ongoing relationship that’s as exciting as a one-night stand. Add Siberian ginseng and you’ll get more stamina and take away stress. My client bought a mixture of all three.

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