Ren Shen (Ginseng) is a Staple Herb for Chinese Medicine Practitioners
by Kai-Chang Chan
Ginseng is an important traditional Chinese herbal remedy. It is one of the most popular natural tonics and has been shown to possess many intriguing health properties including a protein anabolic effect, anti-tumor activities and an inhibitory effect on tumor angiogenesis and metastasis.
In traditional Chinese medicine, ginseng can tonify Yuan Qi (the source of Qi), increase energy in the lungs and spleen, promote the generation of bodily fluids, relieve thirst, calm the Shen (spirit) and even improve brain function.
Clinical research has shown that ginseng can promote cardiac function, treat hypertension, treat diabetes mellitus, promote CNS function, treat sexual dysfunction and treat cancer.
Ginseng is any one of 11 species of slow-growing perennial plants with fleshy roots, belonging to the genus Panax of the family Araliaceae. Ginseng is found only in the Northern Hemisphere, in the cooler climates of North America, and in East Asia (mostly Korea, northeastern China, Manchuria, and eastern Siberia). Panax vietnamensis is the southernmost known species of ginseng, which was discovered in Vietnam. The English word ginseng derives from the Chinese term rénshēn (人参). Rén means “man” and shēn means a kind of herb or root.
Ginseng is characterized by the presence of ginsenosides. Ginsenosides are glycosides containing an aglycone (protopanaxadiol or protopanaxatriol). They are the major effective components of ginseng and have been shown to have a wide variety of biological properties including immunomodulatory effects, antioxidant properties, anti-inflammatory and anti-tumor activity.
“Ren Shen has excellent therapeutic actions, few side effects and may be safely taken for a long period of time.”
Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing (Divine Husbandman’s Classic of Materia Medica) considers Ren Shen to be a superior grade herb, which means that Ren Shen has excellent therapeutic actions, few side effects and may be safely taken for a long period of time. Ren Shen is sweet and warm in nature and is not advisable for excessive conditions such as bleeding caused by heat in the blood, red eyes and dizziness due to liver yang rising, wheezing and cough because of lung heat or phlegm accumulation, constipation, parasites and internal accumulation of heat or fire condition.
While ginseng offers many benefits, it is possible to take too much. Symptoms of a gross overdose of Ren shen may include nausea, vomiting, irritability, restlessness, urinary and bowel incontinence, fever, increased blood pressure, increased respiration, decreased sensitivity and reaction to light, decreased heart rate, cyanotic (blue) facial complexion, red facial complexion, seizures, convulsions and delirium. For these reasons, always seek consultation from a Chinese medicine practitioner before seeking a prescription for ginseng.
Kai-Chang Chan, L. Ac., M.A.O.M, was born in Taiwan and teaches in the San Antonio classrooms of Texas Health and Science University and is a practitioner at the new Acupuncture Health Clinic, 9240 Guilbeau Rd., 210-901-1234, www.acupuncturehealthsa.com. For more information about THSU classes in San Antonio and Austin, visit www.thsu.edu.