Members of this family, the Araliaceae, have been revered by multiple cultures spanning the entire globe. There is always something sacred to these plants, found in the depths of the woods, with their hand-shaped leaves and roots that often resemble the human form. Most members of this family are also quite long-lived, contributing to their reputation as wise, ancient guardians of the forest and premier tonics for human beings. Unfortunately, the popularity of Ginseng in particular has lead to severe overharvesting (the Chinese species is virtually non-existent in the wild). For this reason, we should only use organically grown Ginseng and avoid wild-harvesting. At least five years must pass before a root can be harvested – although some plants have been found that surpass 70 years of age. We use the American species, which is much gentler than the Korean (Panax ginseng).
Elemental associations: Fire
Phytochemistry: Saponins, steroidal saponins, glycosides
Actions: Adaptogenic, qi-building, immune stimulant, anti-depressive, yin tonic
Specific systems: Reserves and adrenals, immunity, digestive, nervous
The ‘root of kings’ (and queens) is equally beneficial to both sexes, serving as a premier tonic to help rebuild reserves or to prevent their depletion during times of stress. I feel this power is accomplished by helping to increase the efficiency of the digestion, allowing more pure Qi to be distilled by this process. Since everyone can use a little help here, especially later in life, it is not surprising that this root underlies many prescriptions for increased health and vitality.
After age 40, adrenal hormones begin to flag in the human being. This can lead to mild depression, fatigue, and difficulty in endurance and stamina (and sometimes sexual performance, especially in men). Ginseng is often helpful in these cases, but can also be invaluable for younger people undergoing times of stress and drawing extensively on their reserves.
If there is dyspepsia, gassiness, or other obvious signs of digestive insufficiency coupled with the depletion of reserves, Ginseng will truly be a helpful remedy. As such, it is a good adjunct to Astragalus in helping folks recover from debilitating illnesses.
American Ginseng (not the Korean) can be helpful in cases of elevated blood pressure.
Indications: Fatigue, mild depression, adrenal depletion, dyspepsia, gassiness, hypertension
Contraindications: Use caution during pregnancy and during acute infections.
Preparation/Dosage: Many people chew Ginseng roots whole, with the daily quantity being about the size of the last joint in your pinky finger, split into two doses. A decoction is also quite good, and you can re-use the roots a couple of times if preparing medicine this way. Use about 1 TBS per quart of water for a decoction and drink throughout the day. The tincture is prepared at 50% alcohol, 1:10 to 1:5, and taken at ¼ tsp. doses three times a day.