American ginseng is a bit different from its cousin Chinese ginseng. It is a slow growing perennial plant and the root, when coarsely chopped is what is used in herbal medicine. Quality root has first a sweet then a bitter flavor as it is chewed. It has a long history among Native Americans who used it for a variety of purposes.
The plant was used by Menominee hunters.When they chewed the root, it created a scent on their breath that would attract deer. The Pawnee also used ginseng roots in combination with certain other substances as a love charm. The Ojibwe tribe would carry the root in their pocket and considered it a good luck charm.
Considered an alternative to Chinese ginseng, American ginseng is used in people who have high blood pressure. It is primarily used for increased mental efficiency, stamina and energy. Ginsenosides stimulate the immune system and fight fatigue and stress by supporting the adrenal glands.
Unfortunately, American ginseng has been over harvested in the United States and certain states now have regulations on the growth and processing of the root. Other states allow digging only in the fall, after the seeds from the plant have dropped. It grows in shady wooded areas and is found in Minnesota, South Dakota down to Georgia, Louisiana and Oklahoma.
The largest commercial farms in the US are currently in Minnesota and Wisconsin. The plants take a full 3-4 years to mature and then are harvested for the roots. Many Wisconsin farmers try to get the seal from the Ginseng Growers of Wisconsin, which then certifies their crop as being genuine.
Trivia: did you know that the name "ginseng" comes from a Chinese word renshen? It literally means "mans legs" because of the shape of the root which usually looks like a mans legs.
Benefits of American Ginseng
If using capsules or tablets, take 1-2 grams per day. Tincture form, take 3-5 ml (tsp) 3 times per day. NOTE: ginseng found in sports drinks and teas is at subclinical doses and has not been shown to be beneficial.
Side effects have been reported. They included inability to sleep which is the most common. To aleviate this, take it in the morning or cut the dose back. Other SE (side effects) are headache, nosebleed, GI upset, diarhhea, high blood pressure and low blood pressure.
Available as a tincture, some people prefer the root to make tea. You should avoid this if you have trouble digesting. Since American gensing stimulates fertility, it should be avoided the first week of a new oral contraceptive. The effects may be even more pronounced when taking birth control pills with certain antibiotics.
People with a history of bipolar disorder taking anti-depressants should not take this herb as it may cause mania.
Although generally considered to be safe, you should avoid combining this with anti-inflammatories such as motrin or aleve.
Avoid taking American ginseng with Accutane for acne as getting pregnant on accutane may cause birth defects.
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