(NaturalNews) Ginseng has long been one of the foundations of healing in Chinese medicine, and is probably the world's best known herb. The botanical name panax means 'all curing' in Greek. This 5000 year old healer has traditionally been used as a restorative tonic to increase energy, stamina, and well being. Western scientists have confirmed the efficacy of ginseng for many of the traditional uses. Now researchers are adding to the traditional list, documenting ginseng as highly effective in weight loss and diabetes control.
New research documents ginseng's effectiveness against obesity and diabetes
Phytotherapy Research Journal reports an investigation of the molecular basis of ginsenoside Rg3, a red ginseng constituent, focusing on its ability to inhibit differentiation in the cells that store energy as fat. The data showed that ginsenoside Rg3 effectively inhibited this differentiation making the cells less able to complete the fat storage process.
Phytotherapy Research Journal also reports an evaluation of the anti-obesity effect of wild ginseng in obese leptin-deficient mice. Wild ginseng was administered orally to the mice at 100mg/kg and 200m/kg for 4 weeks. The mice showed a loss of body weight and a decrease in blood glucose levels when compared to the control mice.
A follow up study by the same research team reported results suggesting that the anti-obesity effect of identified saponins from ginseng may result from inhibiting energy gain, normalizing hypothalamic neuropeptides and serum biochemcials related to the control of weight gain.
A study reported in Phytomedicine was performed to clarify whether the crude saponins from stems and leaves of panax quinquefolium inhibited lipase activity in vitro and prevented obesity induced in mice. For the in vivo experiments, female mice were fed a fattening diet with or without saponins for 8 weeks. The researchers found that the crude saponins inhibited pancreatic lipase activity. Furthermore, crude saponins inhibited the elevations of plasma triacylglycerol in rats administered the oral lipid emulsion tolerance test. With long-term administration of crude saponins, fat tissue weight was decreased in those fed the fattening diet as compared to the controls.
In a randomized clinical study reported in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, researchers sought to provide evidence of efficacy and safety in the use of ginseng for diabetes. Their research generated a mounting body of evidence to support the claim that American Ginseng is useful in improving diabetes control, reducing associated risk factors such as hyperlipidemia and hypertension, and ameliorating insulin resistance. American ginseng acts in the digestive tract to increase insulin secretion.
The Journal of Ethnopharmacology reports a study acknowledging ginseng's long history as an herbal remedy for diabetes. Researchers investigated the effect and mechanism of Korean red ginseng on stimulation of insulin release in rats. They found that the extract of Korean red ginseng significantly evoked a stimulation of insulin release compared to the controls. Experiments at different glucose concentrations showed that ginseng significantly stimulated on its own, in a glucose-independent manner.
As reported in the Journal of Evidence Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, initiating studies have shown that American ginseng increases insulin production and reduces cell death in pancreatic beta-cells. Studies have also revealed American ginseng's ability to decrease blood glucose in type II diabetes patients as well as in diabetes induced animals. These data suggest that the effects of ginseng in improving hyperglycemia may alter mitochondrial function as well as apoptosis cascades to ensure cell viability in pancreatic islet cells.
Characteristics of ginseng
Ginseng is one of the adaptogens, a group of non-toxic, non-habit forming substances that normalize body chemistry and functioning. Adaptogens increase the body's ability to cope with physical, emotional and environmental stress. They work in a synergistic manner, increasing the body's own ability to fight off disease. The greater the body's need for an adaptogen, the increasingly more active the substance becomes.
Ginseng is a plant with many different components. It is used in its entirety in the preparation of teas, and the root is used in powders and capsules. Ginsenosides are a group of its active compounds that are found in saponins, soap-like materials in the roots of the plant. The various ginsenosides are referred to as Rb1, Rb2, Rb3, Rc, and so on.
The term ginseng is used to refer to panax ginseng and panax quinquefolius, first cousins in the Araliaceae family. Each contains a different balance of the ginsenosides, giving it a unique character. Panax ginseng is the "Yang", providing warming, stimulation and energizing. Panax quinquefolius is the "Yin", providing cooling, relaxing and calming.
Ginseng was first found in Manchuria and was referred to by the ancient Chinese as 'Ren Shen', meaning 'Man root' referring to the human-like shape of the ginseng root. To the Chinese, this shape meant the herb was designated for human use. They believed that regular consumption of ginseng led to a long and happy life. Ginseng became so valuable that it was prized beyond gold. It was so popular that the supply of ginseng from the Chinese mainland could not meet the demand, and imports were brought from Korea. When the wild stock was exhausted, commercial cultivation began. Wild ginseng is believed to contain greater medicinal value than what is cultivated.
Ginseng is used fresh or dried. Sometimes plant leaves are added with the root, but the root is the highly prized part of the plant. Cultivated ginseng is available as Red ginseng and White ginseng. The difference lies in the way the root is processed. The different geographical names before the word 'ginseng' indicate where the plant was grown. Subtle variations exist between the varieties.
Ginseng contains a number of compounds that are unique. Many of these elements have an effect on the adrenal glands, increasing the amount of hormone secretion to ward off both physical and emotional stress. Scientists believe that it is this effect that is responsible for the stress fighting power of ginseng.
Ginseng lives up to its name as a cure-all
Ginseng facilitates metabolic equilibrium. Russian research showed that ginseng stimulated physical and mental activities in tired and weak individuals and aided with balancing. It was found to strengthen and protect under prolonged strain. Ginseng works to stimulate and improve the working of the brain with its ability to promote oxygenation. The Russians also found it to increase energy and physical endurance. It stimulates the functioning of the endocrine glands and promotes vigor of the reproductive organs. Research is underway to determine the effectiveness of ginseng on erectile disfunction.
Asian researchers have documented ginsengs ability to reduce fatigue and increase stamina. They found that ginseng aids in the formation of red blood cells and helps eliminate anemia. Ginseng strengthens the gastrointestinal system, facilitates liver regeneration, and helps detoxify poisons.
Ginseng is one of the few herbs showing promise in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome. This puzzling condition has no widely accepted treatment for the numbing fatigue that typifies the condition. However, people suffering from chronic fatigue have reported an improvement in their symptoms after regular use of ginseng.
"The Health Benefits of Ginseng", health.learninginfo.org.
Dr. Maoshing Ni, Secrets of Longevity.
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Barbara is a school psychologist, a published author in the area of personal finance, a breast cancer survivor using "alternative" treatments, a born existentialist, and a student of nature and all things natural.