Asian Ginseng

Asian Ginseng:
supporting your energy naturally

While I often recommend Asian ginseng to my patients when they are low on energy, I still find in my holistic medicine practice that it is not appropriate for everyone. Let me give you a little background on this wonder-root, and then we will discuss who might benefit the most.

This is also called Korean ginseng, or sometimes its Latin name, Panax ginseng. You will also see it labeled sometimes “white” ginseng, which is just the unprocessed root, and “red” ginseng which has been steamed. Though they are in the same plant family, and share the major effect of being a tonic (adaptogen), Asian ginseng differs in some important ways from American ginseng. The root of the plant is the part used medicinally, and it is the unusual shape of the root which first attracted our ancestors (we think) to use it as a medicine. The root often resembles a human form, with arms and legs as little rootlets.


Modern research on Asian ginseng has been a little lacking. But there are some data suggesting that it may help boost the immune system and perhaps control blood sugar. Centuries of traditional use however provide a rich database of oral history, based on the observations of generations of herbalists who had no other medicines to depend on but those they found in the earth.

Despite the fact that is seems to improve overall energy, it is not a stimulant (not like caffeine). Thinking in Chinese medicine terms, it is useful to boost Yang energy (as opposed to Yin). In modern medical thinking, this adaptogen works because it supports adrenal gland function. So someone who tends to be cold, has trouble getting moving, little initiative, and vulnerable to whatever is going around may be a good candidate for Panax ginseng. It may also improve libido in much the same way, which at least in part explains why these roots can fetch such a high price in the market. Think of it as good for boosting resistance to disease, but not for treating an acute infection. It is not an antibiotic. It is also not harmful to take for long periods of time, several months.

With those characteristics in mind, you perhaps could see how this is often a very appropriate herbal medication for older people who are frail. But because with any botanical medicine, interactions with other herbs and medications may occur, please consult a knowledgeable licensed health care provider before using.



To your health and wellness,




Robert Pendergrast, M.D. 

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