Plant Family: Araliaceae, commonly called sang or seng
Learn to start your own Sang farm at:
Part used: Root – Given the endangered status of wild American ginseng, please look for cultivated American ginseng on the bottle of your preferred supplement or from your bulk herb supplier.
Taste/Energetics: Sweet, bitter, slightly cool, and moist.
Active Constituents: Triterpene saponins (4.3% to 4.9%), known as ginsenoside Rb; Triterpene oligoglycosides; Antioxidants.
Biochemical Actions: Adaptogen, antioxidant, bitter tonic and gentle stomachic, mild central nervous system tonic, mild demulcent (soothes mucous membranes), hypoglycemic agent, and immune amphoteric.
Medicinal Use: American ginseng was a last medicinal measure for serious illness when nothing else worked in many Native American tribes. The plant is quite lovely and found in Eastern hardwood forests chillin’ in the shade. There is some concern amongst clinical herbalists about cultivated American ginseng products. The plant has been over-harvested in the wild, but organic, woods-cultivated products that simulate growth in the wild have the potential for less conscientious growers exposing the plant to high levels of fungicides and other chemicals. This is yet another case for knowing your suppliers as well as possible.
Modern medicinal usefulness centers on:
*Mild to moderate depletion of HPA axis and adrenal gland depletion, often found in those with dark circles under their eyes, who are chronically fatigued, and may show elevated cortisol levels in saliva tests,
*Immune system dysfunction that results from HPA axis depletion, often evidenced by those who frequently catch every cold or respiratory bug that passes by them,
*Metabolic syndrome (hyperinsulinemia), as well as type 2 diabetes are better controlled with use of American ginseng,
*Sexual tonic. Though known as a male sexual tonic, it has also been used for female reproductive problems as well. Due to its positive effects on the HPA axis and in helping to improve insulin sensitivity and maintain healthy blood sugar levels, American ginseng would be appropriate in an adaptogen formula for women with PCOS and for menopausal women feeling dry and emotionally tight,
*Pain in the bones, particularly in response to cold, and loose ligaments,
*Digestive bitter to enhance digestion and absorption of nutrients making it useful for achlorhydria (low stomach acid), tummy rumblings, and nutrient absorption malfunction, and
*Endocrine, immune, gastrointestinal, and nervous system support.
American ginseng shows definite hypoglycemic action in clinical studies for Type 2 diabetes (NIDDM), as well as improving lipid (blood fats) levels in this same population.
A proprietary blend extract (COLD-fx) was found to aid the prevention of colds in healthy adults, 323 of whom took, 400mg of COLD-fx per day or placebo for four months and maintained assessment records of cold-related symptoms. 279 of participants completed the study. American ginseng (in extract form) reduced risk of recurrent colds by 12.8% and significantly reduced the severity of symptoms and length of colds, too.
American ginseng combined with ginkgo, Ginkgo biloba, reduced hyperactive impulses and social problems in children with ADHD in one study.
In a randomized, double-blind, crossover study of 13 healthy males, they were given 1,600 mg of American ginseng per day for 4 weeks prior to exhaustive running exercise. There was an improvement in a marker of muscle damage (creatine kinase), but their aerobic workout ability was not enhanced.
If you’re a mouse, American ginseng can make you a calmer mouse – no stressed out Remy in the kitchen for you! (remember the movie, Ratatouille?). The saponins in the plant had an anxiolytic effect equal to that of diazepam (Valium®) but didn’t make the mice woozy and have negative effects on their motor skills (good thing since we never know when they might need to pinch hit in the kitchen)!
The herb appears to have neuroprotective and immune-enhancing effects in animals, making it a possible treatment for Parkinson’s disease. Its antineoplastic effects actually enhanced the efficacy of breast cancer chemotherapy drugs in vitro. The herb has cardioprotective effects and blocked the development of reverse tolerance to morphine and inhibited morphine-induced memory impairment, as well as facilitated robust male libido in rats. Even low-dose (35mg/kg body weight) American ginseng enhanced the course and magnitude of antibody response to vaccination in horses…don’t say “Naaaayyyy!”
Authors of Clinical Herbal Medicine, Eric Yarnell, ND, Kathy Abascal, B.S., J.D., and Robert Rountree, M.D., from which book some of this helpful information comes, encourage herbalists to match therapy with American ginseng with the following demographic groups:
*Men and women of middle age (40-65), particularly those who handle common midlife stressors such as teenage children, elderly parents, peak career demands, and the physical stressors of poor lifestyle choices finally catching up to them in elevated lipid levels and increased blood pressure,
*Those who cannot tolerate the more stimulating effect of Panax ginseng,
*Of particular use in menopausal women and women with breast cancer – cools hot flashes, moistens dry tissue, and supports chemotherapy,
*When gentle effects are needed rather than a bolder, quicker body effect.
Safety Issues: Botanical Safety Handbook - Class 1, Interaction B, meaning safe to be used in appropriate dosages, though because of its modifying effect on glucose regulation, those on meds for diabetes will need to be monitored and evaluated by their physician to avoid blood sugar levels falling too low. Large amounts above the recommended dosage range may cause overstimulation. The caution in several herbal texts against using in persons with hypertension was hypothetical; American ginseng was found to have a neutral effect on blood pressure of hypertensive patients in a double-blinded control trial (Herbal Therapy & Supplements by Winston and Kuhn). No known contraindications for pregnancy and lactation.
General Dosage: 1 tsp of root in 12 oz water. Slowly decoct 15 to 20 minutes until the liquid is reduced to 8 oz; up to 12 oz/day; 6 to 9 ml/day of a 1:2 or 1:5 tincture (35% alcohol); Two 500 mg capsules twice/day.
Shonda's Personal Dosage: I take a daily tonic that includes American ginseng, astragalus, rhodiola, Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus), licorice root, schisandra berries, and Fo-ti (Polygonum multiflorum, also called He Shou Wu) with one dose about 10 am in the morning and one no later than 3 pm in the afternoon. I take this tonic along with 1,000 mg of ashwaganda root.
A few novel ways to introduce American ginseng to your diet suggested by David Winston and Steven Maimes in Adaptogens:
**Add two to three American ginseng roots to your favorite chicken soup recipe. Other adaptogenic herbs you might choose to add to your chicken soup might be astragalus or lycium.
**Steep the roots in your favorite Mountain Corn Liquor for six months to a year then take a shot as a tonic daily.
Winston & Maimes also have a recipe for American ginseng in a Quail's Eggs dish on page 255 of their book.
Herbal Text Sources:
Botanical Safety Handbook, 2nd Edition Edited by Zoe Gardner & Michael McGuffin
Clinical Botanical Medicine by Eric Yarnell, Kathy Abascal, & Robert Rountree
Essential Guide to Herbal Safety by Simon Mills & Kerry Bone
Clinical Guide to Blending Liquid Herbs by Kerry Bone
Earthwise Herbal: A Complete Guide to New World Medicinal Plants by Matthew Wood
Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina, & Stress Relief by David Winston & Steven Maimes
Adaptogens in Medical Herbalism by Donald R Yance
Herbal Therapy & Supplements by David Winston & Merrilyn Kuhn
Naturally Healthy Herbs Materia Medica by Shonda Parker
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