Advantages of ginseng

Does the habitat have an effect over the concentration of active principle in a plant ?? A comparison of Korean and American Ginseng.

During our growing up years, we have often heard elders in the family saying vegetables from a certain place are tastier than others or fruits from a particular place are preferred over other ones. This has always intrigued our mind.

Much later, when going through Homoeopathic Materia medica and Pharmacy we came across sources of drugs and the ideal environmental conditions needed for growth of a plant. We also read about the apt time for collection of the plant for preparation of the drug. There were specifications given for ideal storage conditions to prevent loss of nutrients in the plants. This was thought provoking and thus led us to the study of literature on this topic. Around this time , there was a rising trend seen among general population to use health supplements containing Ginseng among others. The prices of these supplements were shockingly high yet people would boast largely of the health benefits of such products. And therefore, we decided to study this wonder plant “ GINSENG”.

Ginseng is the most popular herbal medicine in the world. Though used extensively in traditional medicine , its benefits haven’t been seriously researched.Ginseng is the root of plants in the Genus PANAX, 3 known varieties have been acknowledged namely, Korean Ginseng (P. Ginseng), south China Ginseng (P.Notoginseng) and American Ginseng( P. Quinquefolius).

Ancient medicine shows use of Ginseng from last 5000 years. Ginseng is known to improve concentration and learning.it improves mood and boosts endurance. It is said to treat cancer, heart disease, fatigue, erectile dysfunction ,hepatitis C, High B.P., menopausal symptoms however evidence isn’t conclusive.

Indian Medicine has often compared ginseng to ashwagandha also called Withania Somnifera which is known to be a memory booster and immune system activator. Ashwagandha is also referred to as Indian Ginseng.

Ginseng root belongs to the family Araliaceae ,is known to be an adaptogen that improves bodily function . In Chinese literature , it is considered as a PANACEA for all ills. It is used as a demulscent tonic and stimulant , reduces depression and prolongs life expectancy. The roots contain saponins (gingsengin, stigmasterol, phytosterol, sitosterol, glucosides and deucosterin) besides starch, resin , volatile oils, Panaquilon, mucilage and other substances. It has 2 active ingredients namely Ginsenosides and Gintonin.w months.

Interestingly the fresh seeds of Ginseng plant does not yield to germination for 12 to 18 months.it should not be dried but kept for stratification in cool moist soil in between layers of sand and covered with sawdust for a f this process of stratification allows the seed embryo to develop.

Ginseng grows well well over rich cool, woody shaded and temperate forests. It prefers well drained, deep acidic,(pH 5.5 to 6.5), light sandy loam soils , rich in organic matter and potash.although shade loving , the planting site should be faced northeast to allow exposure to the warm sun, The annual variation for maximum temperature of the site should be 20-25 degree in summer and 9-14 in winter.

Care during harvesting and yield

Plants are dug out after they remain in field 4 to 5 years after planting . roots are dug out carefully without damaging their forks. The digging out is carried out in dry season from july to October. The mature roots are 10 cm long and 2.5 cm in thickness.

The dug out roots should not be scrubbed but spread over wide netting at 40 and 44 degree in well ventilated rooms for a few days and then at 35degree for the next several days. It thus takes 10 to 15 days to dry roots completely .The produce should maintain its appearance in order to command high market prices. It should be protected from mould or overheating which spoils colour, appearance and texture.

Ginseng in Canada

In literature , we find that Korean Ginseng is highly spoken about and therefore I thought of writing about Ginseng in Canada. Fr Joseph Francois Lafitao read about Ginseng from a Jesuit priest who used it in China and Lafitao identified the soil and climate between Ottawa and Montreal suitable for growth and cultivation of Ginseng.

Wild Ginseng was very rampant in Canada a few years back. But of late 95% of cultivated Ginseng is grown in artificially shaded fields. Sites which are abundant in Maple trees are preferred for cultivation of Ginseng .southeast facing slopes with good air and water drainage soils with high levels of Calcium are required for good growth. Ginseng plants grow slowly and change in appearance over the years. Wild Ginseng is associated with herbaceous plants. Actea pachypoda, Aralia Racemosa, Arasema Triphyllum, Asarum Canadense and Dicentra Cucullaria.

Gypsum (calcium sulfate) is added annually to both wild and cultivated when soil calcium levels are below 2000 per acre. Gypsum adds calcium but does not change Ph. Any fertilizer including organic sources( manure and compost) predispose Ginseng to diseases.

Roots are dug out by hand to prevent damage . wild stimulated Ginseng is grown for a period of 8 years. Older the root, more the value. In Canada only in artificially propagated Ginseng is allowed to be sold. Dry roots are stored in warm Attics with good air circulation but never dried in oven or dehydrator.

A little about Ginseng alkaloids

Ginsenoside and gintonin are the 2 known alkaloids present in Ginseng plant. Gintonin , an active ingredient in Ginseng is known to induce Ca2+ according to a study Sung Hee Hwang et al. The journal of Ginseng Research in article on “ Hippocampus dependant cognitive enhancement induced by gintonin administration” by Sungmin Kim says that daily oral administration of Gintonin for 1 week significantly improved fear memory retention in contextual fear conditioning in Mice. systemic Gintonin administration could successfully improve contextual memory formation at molecular and synaptic level as well as behavioral level. A study was conducted by Shaojing Xu et al on “Profiling the Ginsenosides of 3 Ginseng products” and it was observed that although the morphological appearance and some constituents contained in the 3 Ginsengs are similar, their pharmacological activities are significantly different due to varied types and quantity of ginsenosides in each product.12 ginsenosides available are Rb1,Rb2,Rq3,Rh2,Rgl,Re, Rf,Rh1 and Rq2. . this study was done using rapid liquid chromatography. In another study done on Comparison of Ginsenoside contents in different parts of Korean Ginseng ( Panax Ginseng ) by C.A. Meyer shows that content of Ginsenoside of Panax Ginseng is higher In LEAF and ROOT HAIR and lower concentration in MAIN ROOT . A largely ignored part of the plant is the Ginseng Leaf. Components and pharmacological properties of leaf are not completely understood. Leaf is neglected commercially despite there being potential for its use.Leaf contained high amounts of ginsenosides Rb3 and Rh1 whereas main root contained high amount of Ginsenosides Rb1,Rc and Rh2.

Ginseng in Proving

Ginseng in Encyclopedia volume II by Indu Vaid and P.N Verma is the Korean Ginseng and Aralia Quinquefolia is the Ginseng grown in mid west U.S found in rich cool woods. Both the varieties of Ginseng are said to be a stimulant to secretory glands, especially salivary glands acts on lower part of spinal cord, lumbago,sciatica and rheumatism and paralytic weakness. But Korean Ginseng has hiccough, skin symptoms itching pimples on neck and chest in addition to the above symptoms.

Ginseng in Materia Medica

According to P.N Verma and Indu Vaid, W. Boericke is the ultimate authority on Ginseng . so I ventured upon to check Boericke Materia Medica wherein I found absolutely no mention of Aralia Quinquefolia or or American Ginseng separately . Both the varieties are mentioned under one name i.e; GINSENG and the symptoms mentioned under it are a combination of American Ginseng and Korean Ginseng.

Need to contemplate :

It deserves to be mentioned that when there are detailed studies of American and Korean Ginseng and a definite change is observed in the amount of active principle and also difference in concentration and types of ginsenosides in different parts of the plant Ginseng, the Homoeopathic material Medica does not give the plant its due recognition by way of a separate representation of its symptoms. Secondly the leaf which is seen to have a higher concentration of ginsenosides needs to be further studied in a more detailed manner so as to give it its due worth ……

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