The word “Ginseng” tends to be synonymous with vitality and energy, and for good reason! Its botanical name, Panax, has the same root as the word “panacea”, healer of all ills. It has been considered “king of herbs” in Native American and Chinese medicine traditions for thousands of years.
Like many adaptogens, ginseng helps with more health conditions than I can list here. In general, it restores adrenal reserves, improves stamina, boosts immunity, improves cognitive function, and “just makes things work better”.
There are three varieties of adaptogenic ginseng to choose from. They all have a lot in common, but understanding the differences in their effects can help determine which one is right for you.
Energetics: Sweet, bitter, warm, moist
Best for: Shock, acute fevers & respiratory conditions, weakness in the elderly
Of all the ginsengs, Asian ginseng is the most stimulating and heating. It is best reserved for recovery from shock, fevers, and acute respiratory conditions. Of all the ginsengs, it is considered to be the best tonic for weakness and debility in the elderly. Younger and middle-aged folks suffering from adrenal insufficiency can usually substitute Eleuthero or American ginseng.
Because Asian is so stimulating and heating, high pitta folks, driven athletes, hypertensive folks, etc., will most likely benefit from a different ginseng. It should not be taken in the evening, as it may prevent sleep.
Asian ginseng is virtually extinct in its native habitat of Manchuria, China and Korea. Because it is endangered, pricey, and potent, Asian ginseng can be used sparingly.
Eleuthero (sometimes called Siberian ginseng)
Eletherococcus senticosus / Acanthopanax senticosus
Energetics: Sweet, slightly bitter, slightly warm
Best for: Athletes, students, physicians, shift workers, chronically stressed people of all ages
Of all the ginsengs, eleuthero tends to be the most appropriate for the widest range of people and conditions. It is mild enough for children, adults, elderly, men, and women alike. When in doubt, try eleuthero!
Eleuthero has been heavily researched for its remarkable effects on athletic ability. It increases endurance and stamina, improves recovery time, and strengthens the immune system. It is excellent for those who perform under pressure, whether they be athletes, students, physicians, etc. Over time, it heals the effects of adrenal insufficiency and restores energy to the system.
In the quest for a substitute for Asian ginseng, eleuthero presented itself as a viable alternative that was more common, easier to grow and harvest, and less expensive overall. We have a much beloved, decades old eleuthero plant at the shop garden – stop by and say hello!
Energetics: Sweet, bitter, slightly cool, and moist
Best for: High pitta folks, over-workers who get sick easily, inflammation & swelling in joints
American ginseng is the coolest of the three ginsengs. Like the other ginsengs, it ginseng is an adrenal restorative, immune enhancer, and a friend to the respiratory system. It is a digestive stimulant and balancing to asthma and allergies as well. For adrenal insufficiency in folks that run hot and are burned out, American ginseng is the perfect long-term rejuvenative.
American ginseng is endangered in its native habitat of the eastern and southern United States, so be sure your American ginseng has been ethically cultivated instead of wild-harvested.
Each variety of ginseng moistens the tissues and increases fluid in the body. They increase circulation, reduce swelling, as in cases of edema, and they are anti-rheumatics as well. Adaptogens like ginseng have a wide range of use, but one of my favorites is for adrenal insufficiency. Common symptoms include fatigue, dark circles under the eyes, and a weakened immune system.
Depending on the variety, ginseng roots must be at least 5 years old before harvesting. However, the leaves of the plant also contain the active medicinal constituents (ginsenosides), and the leaves can be used while you’re waiting to harvest the root.
We hope you will enjoy this time-honored revitalizer in the best way for you!
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