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5 Misunderstandings about Korean Red Ginseng

1. Korean ginseng is discouraged from taking during summer?

Definitely not. We are vulnerable to loss of physical strength during summer due to excessive sweating. Therefore, it is recommended to get enough nutrients during summer. Korean ginseng is known to stimulate the metabolism, thereby helping recovery of energy during summer.

Accordingly, Korean ginseng can be taken regardless of season. Increase in blood circulation was misunderstood as an increase in body temperature. Korean ginseng facilitates blood circulation, thereby increasing skin temperature but body core temperature does not change. Professor Fujimoto at the College of Medicine, Kyushu University, Japan and professor Sakata at the College of Medicine, Oita University, Japan demonstrated that Korean Red Ginseng powder alleviated physical disorders induced by high temperature. They also found that ginseng counteracts increase in body temperature induced by endogenous pyrogen, indicating buffering effect of ginseng on body temperature.

Koreans eat Samge-tang (ginseng-chicken soup, a favorite Korean traditional food) during summer to overcome the heat. Recently, Samge-tang is eaten regardless of season.

2. Korean Ginseng is effective only for the elderly and weak people?

Absolutely not. Many research articles support that Korean Red Ginseng and its active ingredients are effective in strengthening immune function and delaying the aging process. It might be true that ginseng exerts a more potent activity in abnormal subjects than in normal (healthy) persons. In light of thus far reported studies, the potency of ginseng depends more on the physical condition than on age of subjects.
Clinical study with healthy adults at the age of 20s suggests that ginseng is effective for the enhancement of physical exercise. For this reason, worldwide famous sportsmen take ginseng regularly.

Recently, a clinical study with 55 subjects was carried out in China-Japan Friendship Hospital. Korean Red Ginseng was given at a daily dose of 3 g for 1 month. Cardiac function was enhanced at the time of exercise.

In conclusion, Korean ginseng is relatively more effective in the elderly with decreased physical function or in weak subjects than in young healthy adults. However, young healthy adults are also encouraged to take ginseng for the prevention of disease.

3. Children and pregnant women are forbidden from taking Korean ginseng?

No. Children are recommended to take 1/3 of the adult's dose. Pregnant women can take ginseng but excessive dosage should be avoided and it is recommended to consult an herbal physician when necessary. Ginseng is effective for the control of weak constitution in children. It can play important role in growth and brain development. However, excessive doses are forbidden. It would be wise to give ginseng to children only under parent's guidance.

Use of ginseng by pregnant woman is not forbidden in Oriental medicinal books. It has been recognized that ginseng plays beneficial role in the health of mother and fetus. The effect of ginseng on 88 pairs of pregnant women with similar backgrounds in age and child delivery was investigated in a case control study. There was no significant difference in children in the two groups. However, the number of women suffering from preclampsia, a toxic response encountered in woman during late gestation period with symptoms of high blood pressure, edema, etc., was markedly decreased.

However, pregnant women should pay careful attention when taking medicine. It would be wiser for pregnant women not to take ginseng in high doses and to consult an Oriental physician when taking ginseng for excessive loss of physical strength.

Korean ginseng can be taken depending on physical constitution?

Korean ginseng exerts effective biological role in overall organs. Somebody says that his/her physiological constitution does not comply with Korean ginseng. However, this has no scientific ground. From the Oriental medicinal point of view, ginseng plays a medicinal role in the spleen and stomach. Therefore, it can be said that ginseng is more effective for the person with a small yin constitution, in other words people with weak digestive functions. The pharmacological effects of ginseng have been verified by various pharmacodynamic experiments, in which ginseng normalizes functions overall of internal organs in a non-specific manner. Healthy persons with abnormally high body temperatures (different from infection-derived fever) or who have adverse reactions when taking ginseng are recommended to adapt himself/herself over times by taking small amounts at the beginning.

Korean ginseng induces side effect of nasal bleeding?

In Oriental medicinal philosophy, ginseng is categorized as an upper medicine, an herb that induces no side effect, therefore can be taken for long periods of time.

Ginseng demonstrated no side effect in acute, sub acute and chronic toxicity tests. A great number of clinical experiments also support the safety of Korean ginseng. The Food and Drug Administration, USA classified ginseng as GRAS (generally recognized as safe). Furthermore, WHO (World Health Organization) monograph, German Commission E Monograph and British Herbal Compendium state that ginseng has no side effects or contraindications.

However, in light of our century-old experience we recommend persons with abnormally high body temperatures and who are vulnerable to nasal bleeding not take ginseng. Ginseng is not recommended for a person with a fever. In case of patients with influenza, they are encouraged to take ginseng for the recovery of physical strength when fever has gone.
Increase in blood pressure was misunderstood as one of the prominent side effect of ginseng. However, a multi-centric study encompassing 13 hospitals and 316 subjects demonstrated no significant abnormal change in blood pressure.

It is also said in some East Asian countries that Korean ginseng induces nasal rhinorrhagia (nose bleeding) and body weight increment. However, a clinical experiment conducted in China-Japan Friendship Hospital, Beijing, China confronts the misunderstanding. A total of 75 subjects were divided into placebo-treated (2o cases) and Korean Red Ginseng-treated groups (55 cases). Korean ginseng was given at a the dose of 3g/day for 1 month. No significant side effects were observed in the ginseng-treated group. However, hypersensitivity such as skin eruption, itching, headaches, flushing and diarrhea was observed in rare cases. There was no significant difference between those 2 groups in frequency of side effects.

From the Oriental medicinal viewpoint, this kind of mild side effect could be regarded to as adaptation response. It is encountered in the process of physical change to health. However, if this kind of discomfort continues for more than 10 days it is better to reduce dosage or to stop taking ginseng and consult a physician. Thus far, Korean Red Ginseng has induced no serious adverse reaction during the past 2 thousand years of medicinal history.

Yoshimatsu, H.,Professor, Department 1st Internal Medicine, College of Medici Kyushu University, Japan. Physiology & Behavior 53: 1-4 (1993).

Sakada, T., Professor, Department 1st Internal Medicine, College of Medicine, Oita University, Japan. Physiology Behavior 57 (2): 393-396 (1995)

Hirokawa, K., Department of Immunology and Pathology, Tokyo Metropolitan Institute of Gerontology.Proceedings of the 7th International Ginseng Symposium 281-288(1998)

Wang, L.C.H.,Department Biological Science, University of Albert, Canada. Planta Medica 66: 144-147(2000).

Bucci, L. R., Weider Nutrition International. American J. Clinical Nutrition 72 (suppll: 624s-636s (2000).

Jin, E. Y., Institute of Clinical Medicine, China-Japan Friendship Hospital, China. Annual Report of Korea Ginseng & Tobacco Research Institute (2000).

Q Chin, R.K.H., Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Caritas Medical Centre, Hong Kong. Asia-Oceania J. Obstetrics Gynecology 17: 379-380 (1991).

Nam, K. Y., Ph. D., Department of Ginseng Pharmacology Research, Korea Ginseng &Tobacco Research Institute. Korean Insam Seminar 2000, August 18, 2000, Hong Kong: 13-40(2000).

Carabin, I. G., Burdock and Associates Inc., Florida, U.S.A. International J. Toxicology 19: 293-301 (2000)

Yamamoto, M., Executive director, Department of the 3rd Internal Medicine, Nissei Hospital, Japan. The Ginseng Review 9: 15-20 (1990).

Nam, K. Y., Ph.D., Department of Ginseng Pharmacology Research, Korea Ginseng &Tobacco Research Institute. 2000 Korea Ginseng Seminar, August 18, 2000, Hong Kong:13-40 (2000).

World Health Organization (WHO): WHO Monographs on Selected Medicinal Plant Vol.1: 168-182 (1999).

Blumenthal, M., The Complete German Commission E Monographs. Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. American Botanical Counsil, Boston, USA (1998)





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