Today Ginseng is arguably the most well-known adaptogenic and commercially used medicinal herb, especially as a supplement to boost energy. Traditionally, Ginseng is used to strengthen the mind and body, restore adrenal health, improve stamina and cognitive function, boost immunity, virility and increase overall sense of wellbeing. It is an antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, anti-fatigue, anti-ageing and may help in cancer and diabetic treatments.

Ginseng is a powerful natural energy supplement that can help to reduce kapha imbalance by boosting low energy - due to its heating properties, but increase pitta

Ginseng has been used in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) for at least 2,200 years, with the first written text noting its use in China 196 AD in the Shen Nong Pharmacopoeia

 The ‘patron saint’ of TCM - Li Shizhen - heralded ginseng as a “superior tonic” in 1596, and it was used to revitalise and replenish vital energy, or Chi/Qi. 

In Ayurveda we call this motivating life force Prana

White Ginseng refers to ginseng that has been naturally dried in the sun, and then peeled to reduce water content - usually Chinese Ginseng. While Red Ginseng refers to a method utilising a steam treatment between 100-110 degrees for 2-3 hours, which removes any bacteria from the root of the plant. However, this means some of the active components are lost - usually Korean Ginseng.

You may find Ginseng widely available in its raw or powdered form, infused in liquid tinctures and tea, or in a capsule format.

A myriad of different species of Ginseng exist all around the world, with 13 different types categorised under the name ‘Panax’; derived from the Greek word ‘panakeia’ - meaning ‘all healing’.

Panax Ginseng (alternative names: Chinese Ginseng, Korean Ginseng, Red Ginseng, Ginseng Root, Asian Ginseng)

Origin: Panax Ginseng is one of the most commonly cultivated species with a larger catalogue of clinical evidence, and originates in Korea/China utilising the root of the plant - where the bioactive compounds are found. 

Korean Ginseng is harvested after 6 years, steam-treated and then dried, while Chinese Ginseng is harvested after 4-6 years. The main variation between Korean and Chinese Ginseng is potency; Chinese Ginseng is thought to be milder in terms of energy-boosting effects.

It is believed that Panax Ginseng is the most stimulating and heating, and therefore those with a pitta-dominant constitution or imbalance would benefit from using American Ginseng or Eleuthero as an energy supplement. 

It should be taken early on during the day, as it can interrupt sleep. Because of its potency, Panax Ginseng is best suited for severe fatigue related conditions, shock and respiratory concerns and erectile dysfunction.

Medical studies suggest that Panax Ginseng can also help to decrease blood glucose levels, and maintain a stable glycemic index post-meal for type 2 diabetics - due to ginseng’s glycosides.

Panax Ginseng also falls under the newly coined ‘nootropic’ or ‘smart drugs’ umbrella, helping to improve memory and cognitive function due to its ability to increase protein synthesis and neurotransmitter activity in the brain, via ginsenosides.  

Recommended dosage: Traditionally, Ayurvedic remedies were made by combining the herb with honey, ghee, or rock sugar. To get the most out of your herbs, we recommend that you first understand your dosha or consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner. 

1 capsule daily in the morning (570mg per capsule) for 3-6 weeks, then 1 week break - or as directed by your healthcare practitioner. 

Panax Quinquefolius (alternative names: American Ginseng)

Origin: American Ginseng is native to eastern/central America and also cultivated in China. As the aromatic root grows and matures, it resembles a small parsnip that forks into a plant with amusingly human-like qualities.

It is thought to be the coolest of the ginsengs - great for those with a pitta-dominant constitution. It is a durable and rejuvenating (rasayana) herb and supplement for energy that works wonders on the adrenal system, especially in terms of city-living, high-stress and burn-out.

American Ginseng can also help to stimulate the digestive system (or agni in Ayurveda), and aid in allergy and asthmatic relief. 

Similar to Panax Ginseng, American Ginseng is also classified as a nootropic, and can also aid in balancing blood glucose levels because of its hypoglycemic properties. A researched and recommended daily dosage of 100-200 mg has suggested successful blood sugar control. 

Recommended dosage: Traditionally, Ayurvedic remedies were made by combining the herb with honey, ghee, or rock sugar. To get the most out of your herbs, we recommend that you first understand your dosha or consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner.

200-400mg twice daily for 3-6 weeks, then 1 week break - or as directed by your healthcare practitioner. 

Siberian Ginseng (alternative names: Eleutherococcus Senticosus, Acanthopanax Senticosus) 

Origin: Siberian Ginseng is native to South-East Russia and Northern China, and is locally known as ‘devil’s bush’. It is not the same plant as the other ginsengs, and instead is a species of small, woody berry shrubs. Eleutherococcus translates from Greek as “free-berried”.

Siberian Ginseng is the mildest of the ginsengs, and is suitable for all dosha types, especially as a supplement to boost energy. 

It shares the same uses and benefits as the other species of ginseng. However, Siberian Ginseng is well-known for its effects on athletic ability, as it can help to increase stamina and endurance, improve recovery time and overall performance.

As part of its adaptogenic properties, Siberian Ginseng is also a powerful immunomodulator, meaning that it can help to improve and support the immune system and various diseases of the immune system. This is because it contains a unique group of glycosides called eleutherosides and can help to increase lymphocytes, which support immunity.

Siberian Ginseng is a replenishing and a rasayana (rejuvenating) herb for sexual health - male and female alike. It can help to support a regular and healthy menstrual cycle and tone the uterus, and is often recommended by herbalists to help with infertility. 

Recommended dosage: Traditionally, Ayurvedic remedies were made by combining the herb with honey, ghee, or rock sugar. To get the most out of your herbs, we recommend that you first understand your dosha or consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner.

2 capsules daily (290mg per capsule) for 3-6 weeks, then 1 week break - or as directed by your healthcare practitioner. 

 

Indian Ginseng (alternative names: Ashwagandha, Withania Somnifera, Winter Cherry)

Origin: Indian Ginseng is part of the nightshade family and can be found growing in India, the Middle East and parts of Africa. Ashwagandha translates to ‘smell of a horse’, and is mentioned in ancient Ayurvedic texts such as the Charaka Samhita and Sushruta Samhita for its nourishing and strengthening properties of mind and body. 

Indian Ginseng is an incredibly versatile plant, and similar to the other species it is an adaptogenic and rejuvenating (rasayana) plant compound. Known to bring balance and harmony to the nervous system, while stimulating the mind and as a supplement for low energy. It can also help to support the immune system, promote adrenal and thyroid health, support healthy muscles and joints, promote healthy sleep patterns and can be used as a sexual and reproductive health tonic for men and women.

Indian Ginseng is suitable for all dosha types and constitutions, however especially for balancing excess vata and kapha, due to its heating and strengthening nature.

Extensive information on the “King of Ayurvedic Herbs” can be found here.

Recommended dosage: Traditionally, Ayurvedic remedies were made by combining the herb with honey, ghee, or rock sugar. To get the most out of your herbs, we recommend that you first understand your dosha or consult with an Ayurvedic practitioner.
1-2 capsules daily (340mg per capsule) for 3-6 weeks, then 1 week break - or as directed by your healthcare practitioner.

 

Written by Natalie Poppy Sheehan 
Nutritionist (BSc, ANutr) & Ayurvedic Massage Therapist (FHT).