by Dr. Katie Borchert, Naturopath, LAc
Studies have found adaptogens to increase physical and mental performance and stamina, act as anti-inflammatories, protect against radiation, reduce side effects of chemotherapeutic drugs and reduce infections.
The ginsengs are a fantastic group of adaptogenic herbs now expanding to include more plants not even true to the ginseng species. This tells me we associate the name ginseng with herbs that give a general boost to the body. This action is vague, but as we get to know the various ginseng plants better, we see they have their own specific and unique actions and indications.
All the ginsengs are used as adaptogens, or healing herbs, for stress, fatigue and other conditions. Most of us know Korean ginseng (panax ginseng) the best, as the highly stimulating and tonifying medicinal. Adaptogens are often used when people need a boost in their vital qi (energy), such as all the ginseng herbs provide. They increase resistance to physical, chemical or biological stressors. Their effect is normalizing by counteracting any disturbances brought about by the stressors without changing normal functioning of the person.
Studies have found adaptogens to increase physical and mental performance and stamina, act as anti-inflammatories, protect against radiation, reduce side effects of chemotherapeutic drugs and reduce infections. The stimulating effect is due to the general action of increasing carbohydrate metabolism, which increases energy production and protein and DNA synthesis. This can help normalize blood sugar, aid weight loss and create an anti-aging effect.
One of my favorite adaptogens is Siberian ginseng because it has all these benefits and is still gentle enough for use by everyone.
Siberian ginseng (eleutherococcus senticosus) is a different genus all together from Korean ginseng. Comparatively it is less stimulating, acts quicker and has a more generalized effect on immunity. It is native to Russia, China, Korea and Japan and has been used extensively to increase length and quality of life, prevent infection and improve memory and appetite. Traditionally, it is known to be a gentle stimulant for the elderly and help push through developmental delays in children.
Siberian ginseng can be taken internally in just about any form: powdered into a tea, tincture, capsules, fluid extract and solid extract. Traditionally, it is taken for a stretch of time and then discontinued for several weeks.
Much like what is trying to be accomplished, even the herbal medicines need their rest periods to receive maximum benefit. Truly, nature provides answers if we notice and give honor to its gifts.