Ginseng : Chemical Constituents and Uses

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Ginseng roots in a market in Seoul, 2003

Ginseng roots

Biological Source and Distribution of Ginseng:

Ginseng is the dried root of several species of Panax, like Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng), Panax japonica (Japanese ginseng), Panax notoginseng (Chinese ginseng) and Panax quinquefolium (American ginseng) belonging to the family Araliaceae.

It is also known as ninjin, pannag and panax. Ginseng is cultivated commercially in Korea, China, Japan, Russia, Canada and USA. Ginseng is having importance because of its novel pharmacological actions.

An international symposium was conducted at Lugano in 1975 for discussing analytical, pharmacological and clinical aspects of Ginseng. It was sponsored by World Health Organisation. The shape of the root resembles human body. It is considered as a adaptogen and it increases non-specific resistance and defence mechanism of the body.

Chemical constituents of Ginseng:

Ginseng consists of several saponin glycosides like ginsenosides, panaxosides and chikusetsusaponin. Ginsenosides contain aglycone dammarol, panaxosides contain oleanolic acid as aglycone. Panaxosides gives oleanolic acid, panaxadiol and panaxatriol on decomposition.

Uses of Ginseng:

  • Immunomodulatory drug
  • Increases natural resistance (non specific resistance)
  • Enhances the power to overcome illness and exhaustion
  • Stimulating agent
  • Sedative
  • Aphrodisiac
  • Useful for thyroid dysfnctioning
  • Used for adrenal dysfunctioning
  • Cures giddiness
  • Prolongs life of elderly and diabetic persons
  • Used as demulcent
  • Used to treat gastritis
  • Useful for treating aneamia
  • These extracts are used externally in cosmetics.

Ginseng has low toxicity, but prolonged use leads to poisoning.

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