Ginseng

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Chapter: Pharmacognosy and Phytochemistry : Drugs Containing Glycosides

It consists of dried roots of Panax ginseng C.A. Mey and other species of Panax like Panax japonicus (Japanese Ginseng), Panax pseudoginseng (Himalayan Ginseng), Panax quinque-folius (American Ginseng), Panax trifolius (Dwarf Ginseng) and Panax vietnamensis (Vietnamese Ginseng), belonging to family Araliaceae.


GINSENG

 

 

Synonyms

 

Panax, Asiatic Ginseng, Chinese Ginseng, Ginseng Root, Pannag, Ninjin.

 

Biological Source

 

It consists of dried roots of Panax ginseng C.A. Mey and other species of Panax like Panax japonicus (Japanese Ginseng), Panax pseudoginseng (Himalayan Ginseng), Panax quinque-folius (American Ginseng), Panax trifolius (Dwarf Ginseng) and Panax vietnamensis (Vietnamese Ginseng), belonging to family Araliaceae.

 

Geographical Source

 

It is mainly found in China, Russia, Korea, Japan, Canada and India.

 

History

 

Ancient healers in India, Russia, China and Japan all revered ginseng for its medicinal and health-enhancing properties. In traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), ginseng is used for many purposes, including normalizing blood pressure and blood sugar, as a sexual tonic for both men and women and to strengthen overall health when the body is debilitated.

 

The botanical name Panax comes from the Greek word panacea, meaning ‘cure all.’ The Chinese name for ginseng, ren shen, means ‘man root’ for its characteristic shape that resembles the trunk, arms and legs of a human being.

 


                                    Panax ginseng


Chemical Constituents

 

Several saponin glycosides belonging to triterpenoid group, ginsenoside, chikusetsusaponin, panxoside. More than 13 ginsenosides have been identified. Ginsenosides consists of aglycone dammarol where as panaxosides have oleanolic acid as aglycone. It also contains large amount of starch, gum, some resin and a very small amount of volatile oil.

 

 


 

Uses

 

The root is adaptogen, alterative, carminative, demulcent, emetic, expectorant, stimulant and tonic. The saponin glycosides, also known as ginsenosides or Panaxosides, are thought responsible for Panax ginseng’s effects. Gin-senosides have both stimulatory and inhibitory effects on the CNS, alter cardiovascular tone, increase humoral and cellular-dependent immunity, and may inhibit the growth of cancer in vitro. It encourages the secretion of hormones, improves stamina, lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels. It is used internally in the treatment of debility associated with old age or illness, lack of appetite, insomnia, stress, shock and chronic illness. Ginseng is not normally prescribed for pregnant women, or for patients under the age of 40, or those with depression, acute anxiety or acute inflammatory disease. It is normally only taken for a period of 3 weeks. Excess can cause headaches, restlessness, raised blood pressure and other side effects, especially if it is taken with caffeine, alcohol, turnips and bitter or spicy foods.

 

Substitutes

 

Codonopsis tangshen, a bell-flowered plant, used by the poor people in China as a substitute for the costly Ginseng.

 

Ginseng is sometimes accidentally collected with Senega Root (Polygala senega, Linn.) and with Virginian Snake Root (Aristolochia serpentaria, Linn.), but it is easily detected, being less wrinkled and twisted and yellower in colour.

 

Blue Cohosh (Caulophyllum thalictroides, Linn.) is often called locally in the United States ‘Blue’ or ‘Yellow Ginseng,’ and Fever Root (Triosteum perfoliatum, Linn.) also is sometimes given the name of Ginseng.

 

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