Ginseng for diabetes can control blood glucose but also help revert diabetes
Ginseng is one of the oldest medicinal plants known to man. There are two varieties mostly used for medicinal purposes: the American ginseng (Panax quinquefolius) and Asian or Korean ginseng (Panax ginseng), both have similar compounds called ginsenosides which are believed to be responsible for its anti diabetic properties. American ginseng is considered less potent by some from the Chinese medicinal camp. Both have similar compounds but may have different concentrations. Its possible to have different concentrations in the berries, leaves and roots. For best results try different parts of the plant and see what works.
American ginseng grows in the decidious forests of the United States from the Midwest to Maine and also eastern Canada. It was originally harvested and used by many different native American tribes. Ginseng roots are the most exported medical herb in the United States, most exports go to China. The roots is the part which is mostly known for medicinal purposes. Ginseng roots are what first come to mind when using ginseng but leaves, berries and root extracts can also be used for diabetic treatments.
Ginseng is a slow growing and small perennial herb with a large and fleshy root measuring 2 – 3 inches in length. The roots range from a pale yellow to brownish in color. The root have a gelatinous bitter sweet taste that resemble licorice but with no marked characteristic smell. The root is also well known for its shape which resemble a human body. The stems are about one foot high bearing three leaves. The fruits are a cluster of beautiful bright red berries.
Ginseng is a difficult plant to cultivate taking 5 -10 years to mature. Cuttings of the root are the most successful method of propagation but they can be also be started by seeds. It requires warm rich soil and lots of shade. Roots are harvested in the fall which helps them to retain its plump and picturesque human body form.
Ginseng for diabetes
The medicinal properties of ginseng are well known and approved by the scientific community. To date there are more than 2000 published papers reporting on its multiple compounds and its pharmacological properties.
Ginseng for diabetes treatment have also been documented extensively. In traditional medicinal records, references can be found of citations describing ginseng’s ability to “quench thirst”. This is a term known to be a reference to diabetes related issues in older texts. Research on ginseng for diabetes have started as early as 1921. Japanese scientists reported findings reduced baseline blood glucose in trials using ginseng.
The need to further explore the anti-diabetic properties of ginseng must continue in order to improve the efficacy of treatment. Even though the use of ginseng for diabetes have been used for centuries and perhaps for thousands of years; there is poor historical documentation of its users and ways in which people have used it to glucose control. Only recently have the mainstream public been more open to alternative treatments for diabetes. Many are looking for ways to substitute allophatic medicine. Ginseng can be a powerful substitute not only for temporary glucose control but also for permanently improving liver functions and stopping diabetes progression.
Oral anti-diabetic drugs are unable to maintain long term glucose control. These drugs often have side effects and require increasingly higher doses to achieve goals. Ginseng for diabetes provide not only improvement of baseline glucose but help the body achieve permanent diabetes control. Anti-hyperglycemic drugs such as glipizide and metformin fail to address the causes of the problem. Botanical remedies such as ginseng helps with the preservation of β cells and pancreatic deterioration by reducing oxidative stress, a chief cause of diabetes. β cells responsible for insulin production are destroyed by oxidative stress. Ginseng is a powerful antioxidant that can help with this problem.
Constituents and action of ginseng
The roots, leaves and berries of the ginseng plant have a several active compounds and substances:
- 90% organic substances
- 10% inorganic substances
- nitrogenous substances
- amino acids
- essential oils, organic acids
- vitamin and minerals
Hypoglycemic properties are attributed to the actions of ginsenosides and polysaccharides which is abundantly present in Panax species or the American ginseng. Anti diabetic properties are also found in the leaves, and berries. Ginseng leaves have the largest concentrations of ginsenosides. Berries and then roots have less concentration, in that order. There are six types of ginsenosides: (Rb1, Rb2, Rc, Rd, Re, and Rg1). These compounds are found in different amounts and qualities depending of what part of the plant they are extracted. Leaves, berries, and roots may all have slight different effects. Experimentation is key to a successful diabetic treatment.
[color-box]”Both American and Asian ginseng have anti-diabetic properties. Both provide the same benefits but may have different qualities and compounds. The part of the plant where compounds are extracted (i.e. leaves, berries, roots) may be more of a determinant to its potency and effects”[/color-box]
American ginseng is thought to have more anti diabetic properties and this may be duo in part to its high antioxidant properties and immune system boosting qualities. There is also studies showing high anti inflammatory properties. This might be a benefit since diabetes is known to set up inflammatory processes throughout the body affecting the nerves and vessels.
Herbs are generally safer then regular medication however, natural herbs can interact with other drugs and also have side effects. This is even more relevant when herb extracts are used since they can be a 100 times more potent then the plant used by itself.
Ginseng is first and foremost a stimulant . It will affect mood, sleep, heart rate, blood pressure. You should be careful when taking it along with other stimulants such as coffee, tea, or any other caffeinated drink (please stay away from Red Bull). Side effects are rare but they may include: nervousness, fast heart rate, high blood pressure, insomnia, restlessness, diarrhea, headache, anxiety, vomiting, breast pain, nosebleed, vaginal bleeding.
If you are not diabetic you should take ginseng with food to avoid hypoglycemia. People with high blood pressure should consult their physician. If your blood pressure is already high it should increase with ginseng use. If you have auto immune disease you should avoid ginseng because it my exacerbate your auto immune response. If you have bipolar disorder you should also stay away from ginseng since it could increase manic depressive episodes. You should not take ginseng if you are pregnant or breastfeeding since ginseng could cause vaginal bleeding. Your baby may become restless if your are breastfeeding. You should stop taking ginseng 7 days prior to surgery. Ginseng is a blood thinner and it can increase the risk for bleeding.
Possible medication interactions
- Blood pressure medications
- Blood thinner drugs
- Diabetes medications
- Immune systems boosting drugs
- Anti-depressants MAOIs (monoamine oxidase inhibitors) kind
- Morphine (may block the effects of morphine)
- Lasix (interfeeres with lasix action)
The History of American Ginseng
- Ginseng and Diabetes
- American ginseng modulates pancreatic beta cell activities
- Konjac-mannan and American ginseng: emerging alternative therapies for type 2 diabetes mellitus
- American ginseng (Panax quinquifolius L) reduces postprandial glycemia in nondiabetic subjects and subjects with type 2 diabetes mellitus
- A Randomized, Controlled Trial of Ginseng Consumption on the Immune Response to a Moderate Exercise Stress Protocol in Non-Athletic Women
- Comparison of the pharmacological effects of Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolium
- Effects of Panax ginseng extract in patients with fibromyalgia: a 12-week, randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial
- Ginseng modifies the diabetic phenotype and genes associated with diabetes in the male ZDF rat