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There are written records about its properties dating back to about 100 A. Traditional Chinese medical literature is an important resource for understanding ginseng because virtually all proponents of ginseng refer to its long history of use as a reason to recommend it as a health product. Any investigation of the origin of a fundamental Chinese concept, such as the meaning and value of ginseng, begins with a study of this period; the beginnings of ginseng use and the description of its effects can be traced by examining the written records.Scientific investigations of ginseng are usually aimed at attempting to confirm the validity of the traditional uses. Essential contributions included: development of a uniform writing system based on ideographic characters that are still recognized today; the philosophical systems derived from the trio of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism; solidification of the organizing principles of Yin and Yang and the Five Elements; the medical system incorporating acupuncture and herbal formulas; and institution of the Imperial government system. The oldest medical document of China, buried around 170 B.Based on the writing style and references to various cultural matters, this book was probably written between 100 B. Ginseng, despite its fame in years to come, is not mentioned.
A scroll listing herb formulas found at the burial site, which has been dubbed Wushier Bingfang (Prescriptions for 52 Diseases), reveals that the early Chinese herb formulas usually employed two to three ingredients, compared to the more complex formulas used later, typically containing from six to fifteen herbs.
Recent emphasis on standardized extracts, which might give the impression of being stronger than root powders or other extracts, may mask the fact that the products are often standardized to very low amounts of active components.
Modern research provides some support for use of ginseng for diabetes, hypertension, hyperlipidemia, and heart failure when administered in the doses recommended in Asia, but there is little viable evidence to support performance enhancing and energy boosting effects.
Key medical terms: diabetes, hypertension, heart failure, hyperlipidemia Key Chinese medical references: qi, five viscera, hun, po, shen, spleen/stomach Chinese herbs: ginseng, atractylodes, hoelen, licorice, codonopsis, platycodon, gynostemma, eleuthero, tien-chi, American ginseng Active constituents: ginsenosides, saponins, dammarane triterpenes, oleanolic acid Chinese formulas: Lizhong Wan, Guipi Tang, Buzhong Yiqi Tang, Shen Ling Baizhu Tang, Si Junzi Tang Traditional Chinese medical texts: Shennong Bencao Jing, Shanghan Lun, Hejiju Fang, Bencao Gangmu SUMMARY: Ginseng is a popular herb that is frequently misunderstood and usually provided in dosages that are too small to have the desired effects.
Medicinal use of ginseng can be traced back nearly 2,000 years, with reference to cooling and calming properties, treatment of poor nutritional status, and alleviation of digestive distress; quite different from today's recommendations to use it as an energy booster.