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Herbal Benefits of Ginseng

Ginseng is an herb that is found in shady areas such as hardwood forests.  It has been used in traditional Chinese medicine for over 5,000 years and is the most commonly-used herb in the Orient.  Ginseng has been shown to have several health benefits that have been corroborated by well-designed research studies conducted by medical professionals. 

Description 

Ginseng is also known as Chinese ginseng, Asian ginseng, Asiatic ginseng and Korean ginseng.  Its latin name is Panax ginseng.  The ginseng plant is perennial, which means that it blooms each year, and grows on a single stalk.  Each spring, a gray flower blooms and is replaced in late summer with crimson-colored fruit.  The fruit contains ginseng seeds, which are harvested and used to grow more ginseng plants.  The plant usually reaches a height of 7 to 21 inches when it is wild, but can be larger if grown in a controlled environment.  The root is the part of the plant that is used for medicinal purposes. 

Health Benefits 

An article published in Vanderbilt Medical Center's newspaper reported the possible benefits of using ginseng to improve outcomes for people with breast cancer.  The study, which was published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, was led by Dr. Xiao-Ou Shu.  It was determined that ginseng use may improve quality of life for people who have been diagnosed with cancer.  In addition, the study shows that it is possible that people who use ginseng before a cancer diagnosis may have a higher survival rate than people who did not use ginseng. 

Ginseng has also been used to enhance mental and physical performance.  In a double-blind study that tracked participants' performance on logic, math and sensory-motor function tests, participants who took ginseng performed better than participants who took a placebo.  In another study on the use of ginseng to improve athletic performance, participants who took ginseng for a period of 6 weeks had better work capacity and athletic performance than those who took a placebo. 

Warnings 

Discuss ginseng with a physician if you take blood thinners such as warfarin or MAO inhibitors.  Taking these drugs with ginseng can cause drug interactions that could be serious.  If ginseng overdose occurs, it can cause high blood pressure, insomina and gastrointestinal discomfort.  Possible side effects of this herb include nausea, vomiting, insomnia, nervousness and diarrhea.  However, not exceeded the recommended dose of the drug should help to prevent these side effects in most cases.