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erbal Medicine Materia Medica


© David L. Hoffmann BSc (Hons), MNIMH

Panax spp.

Habitat: Panax Ginseng is native to China and cultivated extensively in China, Korea, Japan and Russia.Panax quinquefolia is native to North America.
Part Used: Root.


  • Saponin glycosides. These are referred to as the ginsenosides by Japanese & panaxosides by Russian workers. At least l3 ginsenosides jave been isolated; these are designated ginsenosides Ra, Rb, Rg-l, Rg-2 etc.
  • Glycans; the panaxans A-E, isolated only so far from P. ginseng.
  • Volatile oil, containing b-elemene, a diene panaxynol, and two acetylenic compounds, panaxydol and panaxytriol, falcarinol and falcarintriol.
Actions: Adaptogen, Tonic, Stimulant, Hypoglycaemic.

Indications: Ginseng has an ancient history and as such has accumulated much folklore about its actions and uses. The genus name Panax derives from the latin panacea meaning `cure all'. Many of the claims that surround it are, unfortunately, exaggerated but it is clear that this is an important remedy. A powerful adaptogen, it has a wide range of possible therapeutic uses. For a more detailed discussion of adaptogens please refer to pages 3 - 113 to 3 - 118. The best therapeutic application is with weak or elderly people, where the adaptogenic and stimulating properties are can be profoundly useful. It should not be used indiscriminately as the stimulating properties can be contra-indicated in some pathologies, for example Chinese herbalism warns about Ginseng being used in acute inflammatory disease and bronchitis.

Ellingwood describes the eclectic use of Panax thus: "It is a mild sedative and tonic to the nerve centers, improving their tone, if persisted in, and increasing the capillary circulation of the brain. It is given in cerebral anaemia, and if combined with other tonics is capable of doing some good. It is also prescribed in the failure of digestion incident to nervous prostration and general nerve irritation."

Preparations & Dosage: The root is often chewed or a decoction may be made. Put l/2 teaspoonful of the powdered root in a cup of water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for l0 minutes. This should be drunk three times a day.

About The Author
Whilst working in conservation and lecturing in ecology and the eco-crisis for the University of Wales, David Hoffman became convinced that to heal the world, to embrace planetary......more
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