You may have heard of the herb Ginseng before, and you may have also heard it being prefaced by a particular type, and wondered what exactly the difference was…
It’s true there are a few different varieties, generally working in a similar way but with their own particular nuances that are important to recognise. So we are here to clear up the confusion, and give you a clear-cut run-down of the various types of these amazing adaptogens.
It’s all in the Name!
Belonging to the genus Araliaceae, the name ginseng is a sum of two parts - ‘Gin’ referring to man, and ‘seng’ to essence in Chinese, which is incredibly appropriate, as the herbs donning this name have long been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine as general health tonics, and both physical and cognitive performance enhancers.
The common theme running through the different types of Ginseng is undoubtedly their adaptogenic actions, otherwise known as the ability to modulate the body’s stress response. This is due to a range of active constituents, most particularly its Ginsenosides, that are largely responsible for exerting pharmacological actions including anti-stress, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant.
However, although containing very similar constituent profiles, each Ginseng is unique – having its own time and place to be used alone, or even in combination to create a super Adaptogen elixir to support a range of conditions.
Think support energy; raising vitality; heightening performance
Also known as Korean ginseng, Panax is a powerful herb shown to increase resistance to a wide range of chemical, physical, and biological stressors through its influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
Its active constituent’s protopanaxadiol and proto-panaxatriol saponins may help to explain the anti-stress effects of Panax ginseng, but the herb is also well-known and has been used traditionally in Chinese medicine for millennia as a potent energy tonic.
This energy promoting trademark of Panax lends itself to many conditions requiring increased stamina, strength, and fatigue-resistance.
Think relieving weakness, exhaustion, and tiredness; aiding in convalescence
Known botanically as Eleutherococcus senticosus, Siberian ginseng is a wonderful herb that appears to alter levels of neurotransmitters and hormones involved in the stress response due to its mixture of triterpene saponins and eleutherosides, and has been used to prevent colds and to increase vitality for over 2000 years in China.
Differentiating itself from the invigorating force of Panax, the charm of Eleutherococcus lies in its ability to improve both physical and mental responses during convalescence through its ability to increase levels of noradrenaline, serotonin, adrenaline and cortisol; making it perfect for those with exhaustion or mild anxiety due to chronic stress exposure.
Think improving memory, focus, and concentration
Panax quinquefolius has a distinct ginsenoside profile from its Panax brother, but still promises very similar cognitive enhancing and energy stimulating properties. The ginsenosides contained within the herb have pharmacological effects on cognition through the stimulation of acetylcholine release – thus showing improvements in memory performance and concentration.
Think support for stress and anxiety; immunity boosting; hormone support
In essence, Withania somnifera or Ashwagandha is not a true member of the Ginseng family, but is sometimes referred to as such due to its potent adaptogenic properties, traditionally used in Ayurvedic medicine for mild anxiety.
Withania is used prolifically in the herbal medicine world due to its usefulness in so many conditions from thyroid function to states of stress and mild anxiety. It has been shown that Withania possesses anti-inflammatory, stress-modulating, antioxidant, anxiolytic, immunomodulatory and rejuvenating properties, which can positively influence all systems of the body including the endocrine, cardiovascular, and central nervous system.
If you are still unsure as to which Ginseng is the right fit for YOU, do not hesitate to talk to one of our Naturopath’s who can suggest which herb might be most useful for your particular needs…