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Ginseng (PANAX GINSENG/PANAX QUINQUEFOLIUS)
"If a person is overworked and stressed out, ginseng helps," explains Alan Brauer, M.D., founder of TotalCare Medical Center in Palo Alto, Calif. "It strengthens the whole body." With so many benefits, it's not surprising that in eight of nine studies, subjects taking ginseng reported an enriched quality of life, according to researchers at Hartford Hospital in Connecticut.
INDICATION "Ginseng can be indispensable for people with fatigue and general debility," says Hobbs.
BENEFITS Enhances energy, stamina, immune support, memory, and alertness * alleviates pain * prevents cancer * improves cardiovascular and sexual function * aids recovery from radiation * reduces blood sugar * relieves menopausal complaints.
SIDE EFFECTS Ginseng causes no significant adverse reactions. However, if you have high blood pressure, take it only under medical supervision.
DOSAGE 0.6 to 3 grams of cut or powdered root 1 to 3 times daily; in capsule form, 200 to 600 mg a day. ginseng
SCIENCE Researchers in Italy have found that ginseng significantly boosts energy and improves athletic performance by increasing stamina and oxygen uptake. The herb also helps relieve exhaustion in post-menopausal women, according to the International Journal of Gynecology and Obstetrics.
A report in the Journal of Pharmacological Science noted that ginseng cuts the secretion of stress-related hormones from the adrenal glands. "I've used ginseng for 30 years," says Mark Blumenthal of the American Botanical Council. "I'm on a plane almost every week, which is stressful, but I rarely get sick."
Ginseng strengthens the immune system in a number of ways. Investigators at the University of Southern California and in Korea have determined that the herb increases production of the anti-viral compound interferon and the immune protein interleukin-1. That may explain why ginseng can improve the protective action of vaccinations. In one Italian study, 227 volunteers took a placebo or 100 mg of ginseng for a month before receiving a flu shot. Only 15 members of the ginseng group ended up getting the flu, compared with 42 cases in the placebo group.
Ginseng also aids the recovery of chronic bronchitis sufferers taking antibiotics (Clinical Drug Investigation), decreases the risk of developing cancer (International Journal of Epidemiology), reduces postprandial rises in blood sugar (Archives of Internal Medicine), and helps restore faltering erections (The Journal of Urology). Animal studies in Russia and South Korea suggest that ginseng normalizes heart rhythms, reduces pain, and diminishes radiation-induced cell death.
Danish scientists gave 112 middle-aged adults a battery of cognitive-function tests. Then the participants took either a placebo or ginseng (400 mg a day) for eight to nine weeks, after which they were retested. Those who took ginseng showed marked improvement in abstract thinking and in reaction times. A similar study at Britain's University of Northumbria produced the same results.