Ginseng is yet another addition to the category of Hot supplement topics. Of course – if there is a naturally occurring substance that helps to stimulate mental and physical energy, decrease incidence of cancer and ward off colds and flu – I certainly want answers! Although I’m still left a bit confused about all the different varieties – Siberian ginseng appears to be a popular, commercially available and beneficial form.

The Claims:

Decrease/Prevent Stress and Stress Related Illness:

Created from the root of the Eleutherococcus senticosus plant native to Siberia, Siberian ginseng has been used as an energy tonic by the Chinese for over 5,000 years. This is exciting news as it appears that ginseng improves both mental alertness and attention to detail. It has been noted in many studies to improve endurance and increase overall energy in many athletes. For me, this begs the question: “Could ginseng be a natural solution to ADD?” It does appear so. And where stress is concerned – in documented patient studies, rates of stress were lower in individuals who supplemented. Ginseng has shown promise in both the relief of stress and decreased incidence of stress related diseases, such as arteriosclerosis, by improving circulation and normalizing blood pressure.

Relief of Menopause Discomforts:

Siberian ginseng – in many of the articles and studies I found – works to stabilize hormone levels to decrease or relieve the discomforts of menopause, i.e. emotional instability and hot flashes. Also ginseng is used in much the same way to stimulate the endocrine gland and also assimilate vitamins and minerals.

Increase Male and Female Fertility:

In females – many of the studies suggest – ginseng supports uterine function. This will strengthen the female uterus and aim to make it more fertile. In males, ginseng acts in much the same way by stimulating testosterone levels.

Treatment of Cold and Flu:

In many cases, Siberian ginseng has helped to stimulate the immune system to both decrease the symptoms of cold and flu and support the body by warding off infection of cold and flu, entirely.

Other Noted Pathologies Relieved by Siberian Ginseng

Decreased symptoms of Alzheimer’s

Decreased symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis

Decreased symptoms of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia

Decreased symptoms of multiple sclerosis

Decrease in general fatigue associated with PMS

The Bad News:

As customary, I always want to know “what’s the bad news?” First, my usual disclaimer: Always check with your doctor before beginning any supplementation – in this case especially. Ginseng, it’s known, could mimic a period in menopausal women. Also check with your doctor about any drug interactions. Other bad news – there has been mild diarrhea in rare cases associated with Siberian ginseng supplementation and – oddly enough – it should be avoided if you have high blood pressure, are menstruating or are pregnant. Otherwise Siberian ginseng appears to be very safe at recommended doses. With high doses, insomnia, nervousness, irritability and anxiety have been reported.

How To:

In everything I’ve read, the information was consistent: Take ginseng on an empty stomach, before breakfast or 1 hour prior to meals. To decrease risk of insomnia, avoid taking ginseng close to bedtime. Also consistent: Make sure you obtain your Siberian ginseng from a reputable source. Other tips: Be sure the ginseng is “standardized” and contains at least 0.9% of it’s active ingredient “eleutherosides.”

When supplementing Siberian ginseng – according to my favorite source, Dr. Earl Mindell (see sources below) take 2-3 caps of 100-200mg daily as a preventative. There are many recommendations for different ailments – including rotating different varieties of ginseng. If you have a pathology you think may be helped by ginseng – discuss with your doctor how to treat it accordingly. It is also known that the body likes a breather from ginseng – therefore, according to all sourced noted, be sure to take two weeks off every three months.

In addition to WebMD – my favorite resources (and research sources for this article) Include:

Balch, Phyllis A., CNC. Prescriptions for Nutritional Healing. New York: Penguin Putnam, 2004.

Khalsa, Dharma Singh, M.D. Food As Medicine. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2003.

Mindell, Earl, R.P.h., Ph.D. The Vitamin Bible. New York: Warner Books, 2004.

Mindell, Earl, R.P.h., Ph.D. Prescription Alternatives. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2003.

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