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The Panax Genus

Since the beginning of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), many herbs have been discovered and used to treat various bodily ailments. One well-known herb in TCM is Panax ginseng [1]. Within the Panax genus, we will discuss three main types of ginseng in this article, namely Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolium, and Panax notoginseng [2].



1. Panax ginseng

Panax ginseng is a well-known and extensively researched species of ginseng. For thousands of years, this species, which is native to China, Korea, and Russia, has been an important herbal remedy in traditional Chinese medicine, where it has primarily been used to treat weakness and fatigue. TCM theory recognizes Panax ginseng as having a warm nature and a sweet or slightly bitter flavor. It delivers to the spleen, lung, and heart meridians and is used to invigorate and strengthen "Qi" in the spleen and lung, as well as promote the production of body fluids to quench thirst, calm the mind, and improve intelligence [3,4].


Two main types of Panax ginseng are Korean Ginseng and Chinese Ginseng. Both types of ginseng have similar therapeutic effects, with the main difference being their countries of origin. The table below will provide a summary of their key properties.

​Type

Chinese Ginseng 人参

chinese ginseng

Korean Ginseng 高丽参

korean ginseng

Country of Origin

​Mainly from China, Russia, and Korea

​Mainly from Korea

Pharmacology

​The main active agents in Panax ginseng are ginsenosides, which are triterpene saponins [5].

Same as Chinese Ginseng

Physiologic Function

Improvement in cognitive performance, secondary memory performance, speed of performing memory tasks, and accuracy of attentional tasks [6].


It helps to improve the immune system of the body by lowering the incidence of influenza and colds, increasing antibody titers, and increasing natural killer cell activity levels [7].


For diabetic patients, this helps to improve fasting blood glucose levels, elevates mood, and improves psychophysical performance [8].

Same as Chinese Ginseng


2. Panax quinquefolium (西洋参)

Panax quinquefolium, also commonly known as American Ginseng, was first introduced in “Essential of Materia Medica” in 1694 in China [3]. As compared to Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolium has a sweet, slightly bitter flavor, but is cold in nature. When used as a supplement, "Qi" drives out body heat and promotes fluid production. The table below will provide a summary of its key properties.


american ginseng

Name

American Ginseng

​Country of Origin

Mainly from North America.

​Pharmacology

The main active agents in Panax quinquefolium are ginsenosides, which are triterpene saponins [5].

Physiologic Function

Maintain the body's resistance to stress and homeostasis, including improved physical and sexual functions, general vitality, anti-stress, and anti-aging [3].


Similar physiological effects as Panax ginseng as shown above.


function of ginseng

[9]


3. Panax notoginseng (田七)

Panax notoginseng is found in southwest China, Burma, and Nepal. It has been used by minority ethnic groups in Southwest China since the Ming Dynasty [10]. The root of this plant, known as notoginseng, has a long history of use as a remedy in TCM. Notoginseng extracts and compounds have been shown in recent studies to have a variety of physiological effects [11]. The table below will provide a summary of its key properties.


notoginseng, 三七

Name

Panax notoginseng

Country of Origin

Mainly from China.

Pharmacology

Sapogenins have been isolated from leaves, flower buds, fruit pedicels, and rootlets of Panax notoginseng [11].

Physiologic Function

Exerts protective effects on the central nervous and cardiovascular systems, partly by reducing free radical damage [12].


They also display hypoglycaemic, hypolipidaemic, immunostimulatory, anti-tumor, anti-inflammatory, analgesic, antioxidant, haemo-static,antithrombotic,anti-atherosclerotic,fibrinolytic,anti-arrhythmic,hypotensive,estrogen-like and sperm motility enhancing activity [11].


In conclusion, Panax ginseng, Panax quinquefolium, and Panax notoginseng are premium herbs that can help tonify the body. Despite being from the same genus, they originate from different countries and have different therapeutic effects. These herbs have been used in TCM treatment for a long time and are essential in the treatment. Although various mechanisms of action have been identified in recent years, there may still be unknown mechanisms that have yet to be discovered, which we hope to see in future studies.




References:


[1] Hsu, B. Y., Lu, T. J., Chen, C. H., Wang, S. J., & Hwang, L. S. (2013). Biotransformation of ginsenoside Rd in the ginseng extraction residue by fermentation with lingzhi (Ganoderma lucidum). Food chemistry, 141(4), 4186-4193.


[2] Kim, Y. J., Jeon, J. N., Jang, M. G., Oh, J. Y., Kwon, W. S., Jung, S. K., & Yang, D. C. (2014). Ginsenoside profiles and related gene expression during foliation in Panax ginseng Meyer. Journal of ginseng research, 38(1), 66-72.


[3] Chen, C. F., Chiou, W. F., & Zhang, J. T. (2008). Comparison of the pharmacological effects of Panax ginseng and Panax quinquefolium. Acta Pharmacologica Sinica, 29(9), 1103-1108.


[4] Mahady, G. B., Gyllenhaal, C., Fong, H. H., & Farnsworth, N. R. (2000). Ginsengs: a review of safety and efficacy. Nutrition in clinical care, 3(2), 90-101.


[5] Zheng, M., Xin, Y., Li, Y., Xu, F., Xi, X., Guo, H., ... & Han, C. (2018). Ginsenosides: a potential neuroprotective agent. BioMed Research International, 2018.


[6] Kennedy DO, Scholey AB, Wesnes KA. Modulation of cognition and mood following administration of single doses of Ginkgo biloba, ginseng, and a ginkgo/ginseng combination to healthy young adults. Physiol Behav. 2002;75:739-51.


[7] Scaglione F, Cattaneo G, Alessandria M, Cogo R. Efficacy and safety of the standardized Ginseng extract G115 for potentiating vaccination against the influenza syndrome and protection against the common cold [corrected]. Drugs Exp Clin Res. 1996;22:65-72.


[8] Sotaniemi EA, Haapakoski E, Rautio A. Ginseng therapy in non-insulin-dependent diabetic patients. Diabetes Care. 1995;18:1373-5.


[9] Szczuka, D., Nowak, A., Zakłos-Szyda, M., Kochan, E., Szymańska, G., Motyl, I., & Blasiak, J. (2019). American ginseng (Panax quinquefolium L.) as a source of bioactive phytochemicals with pro-health properties. Nutrients, 11(5), 1041.


[10] Zhang, J., Fang, X. Y. (2003) The historical condition in the spread of Sanqi (Panax notoginseng) in the Ming Dynasty.Zhonghua Yi Shi Za Zhi33: 16–20


[11] Wang, C. Z., McEntee, E., Wicks, S., Wu, J. A., & Yuan, C. S. (2006). Phytochemical and analytical studies of Panax notoginseng (Burk.) FH Chen. Journal of Natural Medicines, 60(2), 97-106.


[12] Kubo, M., Matsuda, R., Matsuda, H., Arichi, S. (1984) Effect of Panax notoginseng on experimental disseminated intravascular coagulation (DIC).Yakugaku Zasshi104: 757–762



Author

Chester Ng

Chong Hoe Healthcare

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