Friday, May 30, 2008

Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM):Asian Ginseng And American Ginseng

Traditional Chinese Medicine Views the Two Ginsengs Very Differently.
Sharing a name but used in disparate ways, both ginsengs are common in Chinese herbal medicine. Understand the different ginsengs to know which is most likely to help you
Herbal ginseng supplements are everywhere. Ginseng root has been touted as a general health and immune system stimulant. Asian ginseng (Panax ginseng) and American ginseng (Panacis quinquefolii) are both used in Traditional Chinese Herbal Medicine but each has very specific properties. One ginseng may be better for an individual than the other, depending on personal health problems.

The product sold as Siberian ginseng is actually a very distantly related plant, Eleutherococcus senticosus. It will not be discussed here, as it is not routinely used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Asian Ginseng
True ginseng, known as Ren Shen, is found in many of the oldest and most basic Chinese herbal formulas. It is a Qi tonic that strengthens the Lungs, Spleen and Stomach. People suffering from chronic diarrhea, Irritable Bowel Syndrome or Chronic Fatigue Syndrome might benefit from taking Asian ginseng. This ginseng is also used in treating diabetes, called wasting and thirsting in Traditional Chinese Medicine.

Asian ginseng can be used in the aftermath of illnesses with high fever and profuse sweating. It should not, however, be taken during such an illness as it may ‘tonify the disease’ rather than the patient. Because it functions as an immune supplement, Asian ginseng should not be taken constantly. A two-month course of Asian ginseng should be followed by at least two weeks without taking any.

Asian ginseng may be contraindicated for people with Yin Deficiency signs such as night sweats, hot palms and soles, insomnia and lots of nervous energy.

Overdose symptoms include headache, high blood pressure, insomnia and palpitations. In China, mung bean soup is used to treat overdose symptoms.

Korean ginseng, also called red ginseng or Hong Shen, is cultivated Asian ginseng which is steam cured. Most ginseng used today is cultivated as overharvesting has made the wild plant scarce.

American Ginseng
Xi Yang Shen, or American ginseng, is used in cases of Yin Deficiency where heat signs prevail. Night sweats, hot hands and feet, insomnia and nervousness may be eased with this herb. American ginseng benefits the Lungs, Heart and Kidneys.

Unlike Asian ginseng, which is warming, American ginseng is cooling. As can be seen, the two herbs work in very different ways, but they can be complementary for people with both Yin and Qi Deficiency as they would somewhat balance each other. Wild American ginseng is listed as Endangered by CITES since unregulated harvesting has eliminated the plant in many areas. When buying wild American ginseng, ensure that it has been sustainably harvested according to US Fish and Wildlife Service guidelines.

With the ready availability of herbal ginseng supplements, it is important to understand the types of ginseng and their healing properties to ensure that you are taking the right type of ginseng. It is important to remember when using herbal supplements that different people with different health issues will benefit from knowing which herbs are indicated for their situation.