Ginseng has several species that hold these incredible benefits. Panax ginseng  is the species that most are familiar with. This species is found in Europe and Asia, especially in Russia and Korea. The supplements are labeled as either Siberian Panax ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus) or Korean Panax Ginseng  respectively. There are minor differences as per the offshoots mentioned: strength of concentrations, chemical compositions, and growing season parameters.
Panax quinquefolium is the ginseng species that is native to North America and the United States. It grows throughout the woodlands of America, yet because of harvesting all the way back to the 17th and 18th centuries, it is harder to come by than one might think. Seven states of the U.S., along with Canada enacted legislation in 1890 limiting the times of harvest for it according to the growing season. The legislation focused on prohibition of gathering during the spring and summer months when the plant produced its seeds.
Even in these early years, comprehensive works were compiled that chronicled the abilities of ginseng to heal various ailments. One such work entitled “The American Indian Doctor: Dr. John Williams’ Last Legacy, A Useful Family Herbal,” emerged in 1827 that detailed the various cures by the Indian tribes and those brought from Europe and/or those learned by the settlers during the period of Western expansionalism. In 1720 a Canadian company had formed for the express purpose of trading ginseng (the quinquefolium species), and its importance even took priority over fur trading.
To give you an idea of the scope of the trade and the amount of decimation that was visited upon the species, in the year 1862, a total of 622,761 pounds of dried roots was shipped to Canton and Hong Kong for the Chinese markets. That amount is staggering when you realize this was the pre-industrial era. Now we will shift our focus on some of ginseng’s properties and characteristics that made (and make) the herb such a valuable asset in your prepping herbal-medicinal stores.
Ginseng contains adaptogens, a scientific term used to describe substances that increase the body’s resistance to disease that are not accompanied by deleterious side effects. Comprehensive studies (especially in the former Soviet Union) have proved conclusively that adaptogen-containing natural food supplements are far better for a person’s long-term health that synthetically-created substances that mimic natural plant-produced compounds. The scientific data was compiled in the city of Vladivostok, with the Institute of Biologically Active Substances of the Siberian Department of the Academy of Sciences (former USSR) that chronicled more than 200 different species of medicinal plants. It may interest you to know that more than 1,000 plants with curative and healing qualities grow just in Siberia. Among those indications that ginseng has proven results are the following, and keep in mind this list is not exhaustive:
- Functional Nervous Disorders: neuroses, hypochondria, nervous instability, depression. Ginseng functions by acting as a sedative and relieving stress and anxiety associated with these (and other) nervous disorders.
- Cardiovascular and Blood Disorders: hypotension, atherosclerosis, mild hypertension, and reduction in serum cholesterol levels. Ginseng helps with these ailments by its actions in protein and fat metabolism. In the stomach, ginseng reduces the amount of cholesterol that is retained and absorbed; this indirectly contributes to keeping the arteries and vessels clear, especially the coronary arteries. Ginseng also contributes to the manufacture of red blood cells and their component parts, such as hemoglobin and iron uptake.
- Diabetes: Especially Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus) reduces the amount of blood sugar in patients with mild to moderate diabetes. One patient chronicled by the USSR’s studies (in the aforementioned institution) was given ginseng for four weeks, resulting in a reduction of blood sugar by approximately 40%.
- Cancer: It is a proven fact that cancer develops in individuals with either compromised or non-functioning resistance. Ginseng inhibits the formation of tumors and helps as a cancer preventative (initial formation and progression) in its adaptogen and normalizing effects. These effects help to reduce stress and imbalances in homeostasis that lead to the formation of malignant cancer cells. Ginseng also inhibits relapses after long-term and successful chemotherapy.
- Radiation poisoning: the effects of X-rays and radiation produced by radiation therapy as well as negative effects caused by free radicals are minimized and reduced by the adaptogens in ginseng. Such radiation includes background radiation, examples of which are high voltage power stations, microwave ovens, televisions, radar stations, and nuclear power facilities.
Ginseng promotes cellular metabolism by increasing DNA and RNA synthesis in cell tissue. It also enhances ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) formation, which is an energy source used in cellular metabolism and reproduction. As mentioned earlier, ginseng stimulates the production of red blood cells and their components. It also aids in the body’s internal nutrient manufacturing (the way in which the body breaks down and repackages certain substances for uptake). Ginseng increases the digestive tract’s tone, and enables more efficient protein, fat, and carbohydrate synthesis.
Regarding the category of radiation poisoning mentioned earlier, free radicals’ effects are diminished. Radicals are groups of atoms that are involved in a chemical reaction that enter the reaction and depart it without being changed. They are a basic component of many cell structures at the molecular level. Free radicals are radicals that (when affected by an outside stimulus, such as radiation) are radicals that are released from a molecule. The free radicals, in a nutshell, “wander about” and then attach themselves to other molecules; their “joining up” with the molecule then impairs that molecule’s regular function. Many scientists believe that aging is the gradual buildup over time of free radicals.
Ginseng takes 6-7 years to cultivate. Glycosides are the adaptogens, and Panax ginseng contains six of these (A, B, C, D, E, and F) called panaxosides. Each of these has different actions and levels of stimulation for the body. The daily dosage for ginseng is 1000 to 2000 mg of root per day. It can be obtained in your larger stores, such as Wal-Mart, and also in your local health food concerns. Follow the directions on the outside of the package (as mentioned earlier) as it comes in different concentrations and strengths.
Take an herb walk with a Master Herbalist in your local area and learn to identify it in the wild. Seed-gathering and seed-saving can lead to your own personal cultivation of it…you just have to wait 6-7 years before you can have plants that are ready to be used medicinally. As with all things, consult with your local laws to find what the requirements and restrictions are for wild crafting in your area. A good supply of ginseng will go a long way in helping with many ailments and can be nothing but a golden addition to your preparatory and survival supplies. Have a great day!