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The Herb Emporium: Siberian Ginseng

Posted Oct 24 2008 12:00am
By Candace Booth 10/24/2008

Ginseng teaIt is recommended that you speak with a knowledgeable professional before using any herbal remedy.

Nerve tonic, detoxifier, immune system stimulant… Siberian ginseng is considered an ‘adaptogen’ because it normalizes body functions and can be taken for all body systems. The use of this herb dates back about 2000 years and has a history of improving longevity, energy, and stamina. It was ‘rediscovered’ in 1855 in Siberia just north of China’s Amur River and is also known to grow in Japan, Korea, Canada, and the northwestern United States.

Siberian ginseng has been shown to be especially helpful for people experiencing stress or stressful situations because it inhibits the alarm phase (fight or flight response) of the stress reaction.1 The Chinese take it as a remedy for insomnia and believe that regular use will increase longevity, improve general health and appetite, and restore memory. In traditional Chinese medicine, it is used to reinforce “Qi” and invigorate the function of spleen and kidney.

The Russians were the first to use Siberian Ginseng as a training aid for their athletes with dramatic results. The Russian Olympic team has publicly acknowledged its use since 1972 and credits its effects for the capture of eleven gold medals at the Lillehammer Winter Olympics in 1994.

It has been used (and still is) by the Russians to increase performance, bolster the immune system, reduce fatigue after workouts, and lower the effects of stress all with no side effects. Over-trained athletes often have high levels of stress-induced cortisol, a catabolic (protein-destroying) stress hormone. Siberian ginseng deactivates cortisol before the hormone can cause tissue damage.2

Siberian ginseng even supports the body during traditional cancer treatments by helping the liver detoxify harmful toxins including those from chemotherapy and radiation exposure.3 Research has also shown that it has a pronounced effect on the immune system. It improves the function of T cells (mostly T-helper cells), cytotoxic and natural killer (NK) cells, and increases the production of virus-fighting interferon.

But there’s much more to the healing benefits of Siberian ginseng. It has been shown to:

  • Effectively reduce blood pressure, lower elevated serum cholesterol, and eliminate angina symptoms in human subjects.
  • Increase blood pressure in subjects with low blood pressure.
  • Prevent upper respiratory infections. The Russians completed a study showing that thousands of participants using Siberian ginseng 8-10 weeks before cold and flu season reduced the incidence of attracting symptoms by 95%.4
  • Promote a feeling of general well-being by balancing the various neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine) that act on the nervous system.
  • Improve conditions where high levels of fatigue, low-grade fevers, frequent sore throats, and joint and muscle pain are present.

The most bioavailable forms of Siberian ginseng are as a tincture, infusion, tea, or raw and chewed. These forms are also beneficial for individuals with a sensitive stomach. You can also take it by capsule or tablet with a large glass of water.

Siberian ginseng can be taken with or without food. Use for 60 days, rest for 2-3 weeks, and the begin using again. Side effects are rare, but should not be used with large amounts of caffeine.


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