There are three types of ginseng — American, Asian and Siberian. American ginseng and Asian ginseng are similar in composition. American and Asian ginseng are gnarled and tan in color and belong to the species “Panax,” which comes from the Greek word for “all healing.” In Chinese medicine, this is the be-all and end-all in terms of herbs that cure.
The Chinese have been using ginseng for 2,000 years, most commonly to increase mental and physical strength. In ancient China, only the Emperor was allowed to collect ginseng, because its medicinal properties — including serving as an aphrodisiac — were so valued. In the 1700s, the Chinese began using American ginseng for significantly different ailments than Asian ginseng. And First Nation tribes use ginseng for digestive orders and sexual problems.
The ginseng plant cannot be used as a supplement until it has matured four to six years. Those who pick the plant for supplemental use can tell how mature a ginseng tree is by looking at the wrinkles in its roots. Supplements are made from the root hairs and the root itself.
While studies need to be conducted on larger groups of people, there are reports that show ginseng could improve your memory and aid in reducing further advancement of Alzheimer’s disease. In one clinical trial, researchers at the Human Cognitive Neuroscience Institute, Northumbria University, UK, observed 30 healthy young adults. The participants were put through a series of mental tests. Those who were given 200 milligrams of ginseng before the tests performed significantly better than those who weren’t given ginseng.
Why not give ginseng a try? There have been reports from people who regularly use ginseng that they feel more active, adding to the credibility of preliminary research that concludes that the herb could increase concentration, memory and other cerebral functions. Here are a few points to consider.
- Be sure you are buying the type of ginseng you need; American and Asian are known as Panax.
- Ginseng is generally taken for two weeks, then off for two weeks, then used again for two weeks.
- Asian ginseng is the most readily available form, in addition to being the one most studied.
- Be sure that you are buying a supplement that has at least seven percent ginsenosides, as there are many on the market that don’t.
- Do not use ginseng for longer than three months at a time
- Don’t take ginseng before you go to sleep, as it is a stimulant.
A regular dose is usually one to two grams of raw ginseng root, or 100 mg to 200 mg of standardized extract. Speak to your healthcare practitioner to determine the most suitable dosage for you.