Tonics The Secret to Longevity and Increased Vitality
In Chinese culture ginseng has been considered one of life’s necessities for millennia. Millions of Chinese reach for the herb regularly. They believe it will slow aging, enhance sexual excellence, and prevent disease.
You may not be aware that there are many other herbs that are used for strengthening the body’s functions to keep us youthful and active when indicated. I have listed many of the ones I have incorporated into formulas over the years. In addition I have listed some endangered herbs.
The world of Ginseng:
1. Asian Ginseng (Korean, Red ginseng)- Is used as a natural preventive, restorative remedy and valued for its adaptogenic properties. Believed to be an anti-aging herb. By equalizing the system levels in the body, Korean Red Ginseng has been used to balance the metabolism, increase energy levels, and stimulate the immune system.
2. Red Ginseng (Panax ginseng)-The original one. A good metabolic regulator that seems to perk up your cells in a variety of environments, including some forms of cancer.
3. Fresh Ginseng– The raw product, its use is limited by availability.
4. White Ginseng (Korean)- Is an adaptogen having yang properties and an arousing and stimulating metabolic effect on the central nervous system, head, brain, and blood vessels. It may benefit blood sugar levels, histamine levels, stress levels, inflammation, mental and physical abilities, impotency, anemia, artery hardening, depression, diabetes, ulcers, edema, immune and lung function, appetite, libido and may offer protection against radiation exposure and easement of cocaine withdrawal. (North American type)- is believed to give a cooling effect to the body. This cooling, energy and, endurance enhancing factor is believed to be the most beneficial for our fast paced, stressful world.
5. Wild Ginseng– Rare and increasingly endangered. Requires years for a root to reach maturity. Often harvested prematurely.
6. American Ginseng (P. guinquefolius)- Good for fighting fatigue, *possibly* improving sexual performance, and improving cellular health in general. Because it has a cooler property I frequently use it in female formulas during the change of life. American ginseng, was at one time plentiful in all mountainous regions of the United States. However, it was over-harvested in the mid-1970s, and was subsequently defined as an endangered species. Now, only licensed ginseng harvesters are allowed to dig for the wild ginseng root.
Other Plants sometimes called Ginseng are also “adaptogenic”:
1. Codonopsis pilosula (poor man’s ginseng)-Used to boost the immune system; and may improve weakness, loss of appetite, chronic diarrhea, short of breath, noticeable heartbeat, asthma, cough, thirst and regulate sugar levels. has been used to help control HIV infection, as a cancer protective of the effect associated with radiation. Increase in endurance in athletes and promotes circulation. Can also help to maintain normal blood sugar levels and remove harmful fat; improving the function of the metabolic system. It has a cleansing action on the intestines and stomach leading to healthy bowel function.
2. Schisandra chinensis (five-flavored berry)-Increases resistance to disease and stress, increases energy, and increases physical performance and endurance. Also believed to prevent early aging and increasing lifespan, helps control blood sugar and blood pressure. Stimulates the immune system and speeds recovery after surgery. It also assists in controlling liver conditions and protecting the liver from poisons.
3. Gynostemma pentaphyllum (southern ginseng, jiogulan)-Believed to increase strength and stamina. Protects the mind and body against stress (mental or physical). A very potent health tonic. Has the largest amount of saponins which is what gives this herb its adaptogen ability ( four times the amount of ginseng). Popular because it has the ability to help you gain and lose weight. It has a balancing adaptogenic action; brings the body back to its normal weight. A powerful antioxidant content helps the immune system. Used to help normalize cholesterol levels. Stimulates the release of nitric oxide which relaxes blood vessels and therefore may help lower blood pressure. This is a popular herb for body builders because of its strength and endurance enhancing properties.
4. Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng)-Particularly good at allowing your body to cope with metabolic stress. Cellular regulator, and provides a sustained energy boost/improvement in physical performance increasing stamina. May help the body resist viral infections and environmental toxins. Research has shown specific effects that support the central nervous system, liver function and the circulatory system. Also praised for its ability to restore vigor, increase overall health, longevity, and stimulate both a healthy appetite and a good memory. It is widely used in Russia to help the body adapt to stressful conditions and to enhance productivity. Also called eleuthero root.
5. Psuedostellaria heterophylla (prince ginseng, Ben Cao Cong Xin,)- Believed to slow down aging, relieve fatigue, and enhance the body’s resistance. Research shows it has a significant stimulating effect to the lymphocytes. Its strong suit is that its healing properties are quite mild and stable therefore ideal for people who are suffering chronic diseases and are physically weak or require long-term medication.
6. Withania Somnifera (Indian ginseng, aswagandha)-Has a variety of neuroprotective effects, might improve some forms of cognition, and likely a powerful anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory.
7. Pfaffia paniculata (Brazilian ginseng, suma)-Seems to improve physical performance somewhat, a few anti-cancer properties, and likely scavenges free radicals within the body.
8. Lepidium meyenii (Peruvian Ginseng, maca)- restores energy, improves vitality or sexual energy. A powerful aphrodisiac for both men and women. Effective for restoring sexual desire, and reinforces libidos. Also useful for frigid women and for men suffering from erectile dysfunction or premature ejaculation.
9. Oplopanax horridus (Alaskan ginseng)- Ideal to assist with cough, colds, chest pain and upper respiratory infections. Anti inflammatory properties because it contains Stigmasterol and beta-sitosterol. Caution if you are diabetic.
Other plants referred to as ginsengs and may not be adaptogens (although notoginseng is in the genus Panax):
1. Angelica sinensis (female ginseng, dong quai)- I call it “female ginseng” because of its effectiveness for female problems. Helps with symptoms of pre mestrual syndrome (PMS) and menopause. It is a blood purifier that can help in management of infertility, joint pain, blood pressure, and in the prevention of allergy attacks.
2. Panax notoginseng (known as sangi, tian gi or tien chi; hemostatic ingredient in yunnnan bai yao)- Used to stop or slow bleeding. Can be taken for nosebleeds and other bleeding disorders.
It is best to consult with a trained herbalist to find out which herb tonics are best suited for you in a formula.