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|Panax quinquefolius foliage and fruit|
Ginseng (//) is any one of the species of slow-growing perennial plants with fleshy roots, belonging to the genus Panax of the family Araliaceae. This article focuses on two species of the genus Panax, named Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolius.
Ginseng is found in North America and in eastern Asia (mostly northeast China, Korea, Bhutan, eastern Siberia), typically in cooler climates. Ginseng is characterized by the presence of ginsenosides and gintonin. Panax vietnamensis, discovered in Vietnam, is the southernmost ginseng known.
Besides P. ginseng, many other plants are also known as or mistaken for the ginseng root. The most commonly known examples are American ginseng xiyangshen (P. quinquefolius); Japanese ginseng (P. japonicus); Prince ginseng (Pseudostellaria heterophylla); and Siberian ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus). Although all have the name "ginseng", each plant has distinctly different functions. True ginseng plants belong only to the Panax genus.
- 1 Etymology
- 2 History
- 3 Uses
- 4 Classification
- 5 Cultivation
- 6 Other plants sometimes called ginseng
- 7 See also
- 8 References
- 9 Further reading
- 10 External links
The English word ”ginseng“ derives from the Chinese term rénshēn (人蔘). Rén means "person" and shēn means "plant root"; this refers to the root's characteristic forked shape, which resembles the legs of a person. The English pronunciation derives from a southern Chinese reading, similar to Cantonese yun sum (jyutping) and the Hokkien pronunciation "jîn-sim".
The botanical genus name Panax, meaning "all-healing" in Greek, shares the same origin as "panacea" and was applied to this genus because Carl Linnaeus was aware of its wide use in Chinese medicine as a muscle relaxant.
Control over ginseng fields in China and Korea became an issue in the 16th century. By the 1900s, due to the demand for ginseng having outstripped the available wild supply, Korea began the commercial cultivation of ginseng which continues to this day.
The root is most often available in dried form, either whole or sliced. Ginseng leaf, although not as highly prized, is sometimes also used. In Korea, ginseng-infused tea and liquor, each called insamcha (literally "ginseng tea") and insamju ("ginseng liquor") is consumed.
Since American ginseng was originally imported into China via a subtropical seaport, Chinese doctors believed American ginseng must be good for yang, because it came from a hot area. They did not know, however, that American ginseng can only grow in temperate regions. Nonetheless, the root is legitimately classified as more yin because it generates fluids.
Traditional medicine and research
Although ginseng has been used in traditional medicine for centuries, modern research is inconclusive about its biological effects. Preliminary clinical research indicates possible effects on memory, fatigue, menopause symptoms, and insulin response in people with mild diabetes. Out of forty-four studies examined between 2005-2015, twenty-nine showed positive, limited evidence, and fifteen showed no effects. As of 2017, there is insufficient evidence to indicate that ginseng has any health effects. Ginsenosides, unique phytochemicals of the Panax species, are being studied for their potential biological properties.
Concerns exist when ginseng is used chronically, potentially causing side effects such as headaches, insomnia, and digestive problems. The risk of interactions between ginseng and prescribed medications is believed to be low, but ginseng may have adverse effects when used with the blood thinner, warfarin. Ginseng has been shown to have adverse drug reactions with phenelzine. A potential interaction has also been reported with imatinib, resulting in hepatotoxicity, and with lamotrigine.
The common ginsengs (P. ginseng and P. quinquefolia) are generally considered to be relatively safe even in large amounts. One of the most common and characteristic symptoms of acute overdose of P. ginseng is bleeding. Symptoms of mild overdose may include dry mouth and lips, excitation, fidgeting, irritability, tremor, palpitations, blurred vision, headache, insomnia, increased body temperature, increased blood pressure, edema, decreased appetite, dizziness, itching, eczema, early morning diarrhea, bleeding, and fatigue.
Symptoms of gross overdose with P. ginseng may include nausea, vomiting, irritability, restlessness, urinary and bowel incontinence, fever, increased blood pressure, increased respiration, decreased sensitivity and reaction to light, decreased heart rate, cyanotic (blue) facial complexion, red facial complexion, seizures, convulsions, and delirium.
Fresh ginseng is the raw product. Its use is limited by availability.
Red ginseng (traditional Chinese: 紅蔘; simplified Chinese: 红参; pinyin: hóng shēn; Hangul: 홍삼; Hanja: 紅蔘; RR: hong-sam), P. ginseng, has been peeled, heated through steaming at standard boiling temperatures of 100 °C (212 °F), and then dried or sun-dried. It is frequently marinated in an herbal brew which results in the root becoming extremely brittle.
White ginseng is fresh ginseng which has been dried without being heated. It is peeled and dried to reduce the water content to 12% or less. White ginseng air-dried in the sun may contain less of the therapeutic constituents. Enzymes contained in the root may break down these constituents in the process of drying. Drying in the sun bleaches the root to a yellowish-white color.
Wild ginseng grows naturally and is harvested from wherever it is found. It is relatively rare, and even increasingly endangered, due in large part to high demand for the product in recent years, which has led to the wild plants being sought out and harvested faster than new ones can grow (roots require years to reach maturity). Wild ginseng can be either Asian or American, and can be processed to be red or white ginseng.
Commercial ginseng is sold in over 35 countries. China has historically been the plant's largest consumer.
In 2010, nearly all of the world's 80,000 tons of ginseng in international commerce was produced in four countries: China, South Korea, Canada, and the United States. In 2013, sales exceeded $2 billion, of which half came from South Korea in 2013.
Woods-grown American ginseng programs in Vermont, Maine, Tennessee, Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, West Virginia, and Kentucky, have been encouraging the planting of ginseng both to restore natural habitats and to remove pressure from any remaining wild ginseng.
Asian (Korean) ginseng is commercially grown in Germany.
Ginseng seed normally does not germinate until the second spring following harvest of berries in the fall. They must first be subjected to a long period of storage in a moist medium with a warm/cold treatment, a process known as stratification.
Other plants sometimes called ginseng
- Angelica sinensis (female ginseng, dong quai)
- Codonopsis pilosula (poor man's ginseng)
- Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)
- Siberian ginseng is in the same family, but not genus, as true ginseng. The active compounds in Siberian ginseng are eleutherosides, not ginsenosides. Instead of a fleshy root, Siberian ginseng has a woody root.
- Gynostemma pentaphyllum (five-leaf ginseng, jiaogulan)
- Lepidium meyenii (Peruvian ginseng, maca)
- Oplopanax horridus (Alaskan ginseng)
- Pfaffia paniculata (Brazilian ginseng, suma)
- Pseudostellaria heterophylla (Prince ginseng)
- Schisandra chinensis (five-flavoured berry)
- Withania somnifera (Indian ginseng, ashwagandha)
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